Swimming a vital life skill

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July 19, 2013 - 12:00 AM

Kristy Sutherland has a hard time going to Kansas lakes and ponds.
The sight of unprotected swimmers makes Sutherland, a former swim instructor, so ill at ease it robs her of the chance to relax.
“Every situtation is different,” Sutherland said. “Any time you’re in an area where you don’t know the depth of the water don’t dive in. And always, have your children wear a life jacket.
A recent surge in deaths by drowning in both Kansas and Missouri has lifeguards on high alert.
“Every child should learn how to swim,” said Sutherland, Iola Recreation Department receptionist and former swimming lesson coordinator.
Iola offers swimming lessons for children from 3 to 13. This year Sutherland said there are 162 people enrolled in public lessons and 56 enrolled in private lessons.
Muffy Fehr is the swimming lesson coordinator this summer.
Swimming doesn’t come naturally. Beginner swimmers are typically hesitant when first starting out.
“Younger ones are hesitant because they don’t understand the new experience or they are afraid of the water,” she said.
Tyler Holloway, 16, a second-year swimming instructor said they teach younger kids the basics in the first lessons.
“It’s very important to get the kid comfortable,” Holloway said. “Once they get their bearings they can get comfortable.”
Holloway is one of nine instructors that taught swimming lessons this summer. Friday was the last day of lessons for the summer.
Holloway said they teach beginners things like how to push off the wall and how to float.
Not every person learns how to swim as a child but its not too late in life to learn.
“There’s always a good time to learn,” Holloway said.

THE DROWNINGS that have occured this summer have all been in lakes, rivers or ponds, not swimming pools. These bodies of water are usually not monitored by lifeguards and have a swim-at-your-own-risk policy. Sutherland said people should be cautious when near water.
“Anything could happen,” she said. “Any current could come up or a child could swallow water.”
Sutherland strongly advises parents to stay with their children when they are swimming at a lake or a home pool. Both Sutherland and Holloway suggests that people of all ages wear lifejackets.
If a swimming accident occurs and a drowning is taking place, Sutherland says to assess the situation, call 911 and be careful.
If on a boat try to extend an oar or something for the drowning swimmer to grab onto.
“I wish kids could learn more about water safety,” Sutherland said.

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