Dr. John Doherty knows first-hand how dangerous the water can be if you can’t swim. At age 11 he witnessed it firsthand, rescuing a young boy from a crowded and lively community pool during the middle of the day.
“It was a public pool with lifeguards and everything,” Doherty said. “He got pushed in, no one saw it, and when I looked for him a few moments after, he was on the bottom of the pool with his eyes wide open.”
No one even noticed what was going on. Luckily, Doherty received swimming lessons at an early age, which was important because he grew up walking distance from the Atlantic Ocean. Doherty jumped in and rescued the child.
This life event was eye-opening for Doherty, as he knew if that boy had received swimming lessons he wouldn’t have almost died that day.
Dr. John D. is the current Vice President of Therapy Services of Sports Medicine and Occupational Health at Community Care Systems in Northern Indiana and has been one of the leading voices in supporting children’s swim lessons.
Doherty, who is also an athletic trainer at a nearby high school, writes a weekly sports medicine column for his local paper and uses that outlet as a way to voice his support for children undergoing swim lessons at an early age.
“Drowning is the leading cause of death from children aged 1-4,” said Doherty. “It’s imperative your child learns to swim early.”
Doherty believes children should receive swimming lessons as early as age 2-3. However, he also brings up the argument that swimming lessons should really be given once a child learns how to walk.
“Once they can start walking they should start swimming,” says Doherty. “Once they walk, they can wander away pretty fast and get into any body of water.”
Doherty also mentioned that kids are naturally curious and drawn to water. When you mix in those two things, it could spell trouble if your child isn’t able to swim. It’s an issue that isn’t highlighted as much as it should be.
“HBO had a documentary on high-school football players dying of heat strokes,” said Doherty. “Two kids die a year and I agree, while a tragedy, it’s not anywhere in relation to the 1,000 kids a year drowning in America and it’s an issue we are not too concerned about it seems.”
Doherty believes swimming lessons and the importance of them should be documented more. He says programs for lessons are out there and many of them are free or at a reduced cost.
“You can teach your child to swim at any YMCA or community center,” said Doherty. “Even municipal centers with pools sometimes offer free swimming lessons.”
Even if your child has learned to swim, it’s still important to brush up on pool safety.
“Make sure your pool is secure at all times,” says Doherty. “Even if you’re a skilled swimmer you should be swimming with a partner.”
Once your child learns how to swim, it may even have an impact on future generations of your family. Many swimming parents teach their children how to swim early on because they realize the importance of it Doherty pointed out.
You also never know, it may provide to be a fun and healthy hobby for your child if they end up liking to swim.
“Swimming has tremendous long-term health benefits,” says Doherty. “Swimming is a lot better on your knees and joints than a lot of other activities.”
The Florida Swims Foundation will continue to pair with key advocates in children swim safety in hopes to bring awareness to the importance of youth swimming lessons. To find local swim lessons for your child, call a near-by YMCA or community center.
By: Mike Madry, Florida Swims Foundation.