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Milwaukee YMCA & County Parks Team Up to Teach Kids (and Adults) Basic Swim Skills

Aedo Pultrone

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14.

Shockingly, 61 percent of children cannot perform basic swim safety skills according to a recent Red Cross survey. For adults who often supervise these children, eighteen percent of them fail to be competent swimmers themselves.

With these statistics in mind, the Milwaukee YMCA has partnered with several Milwaukee County Park pools to teach swim lessons. The Milwaukee Swims program helps non-swimmers, both children and adults, learn basic swim skills and water safety.

Milwaukee YMCA Aquatics Product Director Jacob Byrne says necessary swimming safety skills include the ability to step or jump into the water over your head, return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute, turn around in a full circle and find and exit, swim 25 yards to the exit and exit from the water.

"A lack of swimming knowledge is something that's very increased in urban areas," explains Byrne. "So we're trying to provide that as best we can and increase basic water skills for the community."

During the warm summer months, swimming at the local pool is a popular low-cost activity for many families. However, an issue that arises at crowded public pools is a heavy reliance on lifeguards to supervise children. Byrne stresses that lifeguards are not "glorified babysitters."

"What we need to do is appreciate what the lifeguards are there to do. They're there to save lives and...to protect lives," he explains. "But parents, as well as children, need to take accountability and responsibility for what they're doing in the water.

Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.