The aquatics team at the JCC of Greater Baltimore noticed something the last time it offered free swim lessons: At least 50% of participants were adults.
“I get a lot of different reasons,” said Shawnise Crawford, JCC’s assistant aquatics director.
Some want to learn because their kids learned. Some want to learn for a vacation or to be able to swim for fitness. Some might even want to learn a new skill after being cooped up so long during the pandemic, she said.
The JCC is offering free swim lessons for adults (16+), youth and teens from May 31-June 3.
Anyone in the community who has not taken a lesson at the JCC or received any formal swim lessons is eligible—no membership required.
Being able to provide those lessons falls right in line with the JCC’s values, as the Torah teaches, “It’s a mitzvah to teach your child how to swim,” Senior Aquatic Director Rebecca Chinsky said.
The aquatics team also hopes to reach a new audience outside of the JCC, she said. By opening up the lessons beyond membership—and especially in the county—they can give access to those who might not have had the financial means or opportunity to swim.
There are no public pools in Baltimore County where you can just go and pay $5 to swim for the day, Crawford said.
“The JCC is founded on universal Jewish values of showing respect for others, inclusivity for all and kindness to everyone,” wrote Chief Advancement Officer Esther Greenberg in a grant application to provide free and discounted lessons for adults.
USA Swimming, which holds the same values of diversity and inclusion, awarded the JCC $4,500 to provide the adult lessons. The JCC has a team, the Barracudas, that is affiliated with USA Swimming.
The free adult lesson is meant to be an introduction. The standard eight sessions of 40-minute lessons will also be offered for $50 versus the regular $130 for members and $180 for guests.
Since each free class must be capped at 3 people, adults will have more time with instructors.
Learning to swim is important, not just to be able to participate in activities, but also to have a sense of basic water safety, Crawford said.
USA Swimming cites drowning as the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children younger than 14. The highest rates are among children ages 1-4.
Many parents enrolling their young children in camp for the first time have heard horror stories such as, “They were at a pool party with friends, and someone accidentally pushed them into water and the water was over their head,” Crawford said.
But applying safety measures such as “reach and throw, don’t go” can saves lives.
It teaches children how to offer assistance with a pool noodle or other object without leaving or jumping in after them, Crawford said.
The JCC covers these general safety topics as well as survival tactics, such as how to roll over if you land face down in the water, in all their classes.
All lessons are taught according to instruction from the Red Cross.
And it’s helpful to adults, too, because they can lead by example and make sure they know how to keep their kids safe, Chinsky said.
For adults taking the lessons, there will also be a different approach than what instructors use for kids.
“They come with a lot more experience, they come [with] a lot more fears,” Crawford said, so their lessons are more about what they individually hope to achieve.
Chinsky said the aquatics team is in high need of more qualified instructors to meet demand. More and more parents have been requesting lessons to get their children back on track after pools and lessons were unavailable because of COVID-19.
“The demand right now for swim lessons is crazy” she said.
This article was originally published in the Baltimore Jewish Times.