The Importance of Learning How to Swim


Statistics show that one in five people under the age of 14 are involved in drowning-related deaths, and African-American children ages 5-19 drown in swimming pools at rates 5 ½ times higher than those of Caucasian children.

Such statistics are astounding and probably surprising to some, and at Emerald Youth Foundation, we are committed to changing those numbers for the better.

We recognize the importance of teaching water safety to young people in the heart of our city, and in 2011, implemented a Learn-to-Swim program that teaches the American Red Cross curriculum on water safety and swimming skills. 

Since its inception, over 800 children have come through our Learn-to-Swim program, ultimately increasing their knowledge of water safety, as well as basic swimming and survival skills. In partnership with the City of Knoxville, Emerald Youth re-opened the E.V. Davidson Recreation Center pool in 2014 and is home of our aquatics program. We offer Learn-to-Swim for children in Emerald Youth’s after-school ministry, as well as private lessons and community swims sessions. 

In the past year, we have seen a significant increase in the skill levels of our students. In the fall 2017, 48% of our swimmers progressed by five or more skills, whereas 44% completed between one and four skills. That brings the percentage of improvement to 92%.

In spring 2018, we saw an even bigger increase with 57% of swimmers improving their skills by five or more and 36% improving between one and four skills. Our total increase for the spring semester was 93%. 

These percentages speak for themselves, and we are well on our way to achieving even higher increases. However, it’s not about the numbers; it’s about the lives we are blessed to impact daily.

Over the past year, we have seen a confidence in many of our young people that wasn’t there before. Those who were once terrified of even entering the water are now swimming halfway across the pool and practicing their water safety skills.

We have young people who are eager to learn new skills and put forth the effort needed to move up a skill level. We have children wanting to teach the even younger ones to be comfortable in the water and help them improve basic skills.

We also have youth who realize that swimming is something they’re good at and want to move forward with joining the competitive swim team. This season alone, we had 21 children from our after-school ministry, JustLead, join our swim team, eager to see what they can accomplish.

Saturday, May 19, is National Learn-to-Swim Day. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the importance of water safety and learning how to swim. We are thankful that there are days like this that can shed light on drowning statistics and help break the stereotypes.

We are even more thankful, however, that we get to participate in Learn-to-Swim Day every day by working diligently with our children on improving skills, increasing awareness and developing Christ-honoring healthy habits.

Marlee Sanders