Swim week continues on NBC 5 Today, with stories aimed at keeping you and your family safe around the water this summer.
Swim lessons aren’t just for kids.
According to the American Red Cross, one in five adults in the United States can’t swim.
For many, it’s the fear of water. It’s powerful enough that people put off lessons for most of their lives.
But that can be a recipe for tragedy.
That’s why YMCA locations across North Texas offer adult swimming lessons to help people take the plunge and push past the fear.
Lessons include the basics you would see in a child’s swim lessons – blowing bubbles, floating and kicking. Dallas resident Nicole Rosales, 31, is doing a lot of these things for the very first time as part of adult swimming lessons offered at the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas.
“My parents didn’t really take me to the pool and they didn’t really swim as kids either,” she said. “So I think it’s a generational thing is the part of it.”
You’d be surprised at how many other adults share her experience, especially in minority communities, where a lack of access and affordability is a challenge.
“What we are seeing is a pattern – of course now the kids are doing swimming lessons, but in an emergency situation if a child going drowns then we got adults around the deck that they don’t know how to swim themselves,” said Madel Perez, aquatics director and a long time swim instructor for the YMCA of Metro Dallas. “I think it’s never too late.”
But the challenge is that fear.
“I think kind of once I get in about four or five feet deep, that’s when the fear starts kicking in,” said Rosales. “My senses are all muffled and that in itself is just terrifying.”
And it takes a lot to push past it.
“You may not be going to your pool or going on a cruise or going on a boat but you know, what if there’s a flood?” Rosales said. “You know those things happen in here in Texas.”
Over in Fort Worth, Suzana Delgado Gray knows what it’s like to finish those lessons. She finally took the plunge to learn how to swim at 46 years old.
“It’s a scary thing to face your fears,” she said.
She spent most of her life with a crippling fear of water after her brother playfully pushed her into a pool at 12 years old.
“I started sinking to the bottom and that’s when a lifeguard jumped in, brought me to the surface and got me to the edge,” she said. “I was coughing up water. And it was just such a scary experience. Breathing in that water, panicking and not knowing what to do.”
That trauma lived with her for decades. Even when she became a leader at the Grand Prairie YMCA, helping fellow Latinx families empower themselves with swim lessons, she still couldn’t overcome her own fear.
“I said, well, if I’m going to be talking to other people and encouraging mothers to teach their kids how to swim, I need to know how to swim,” Delgado Gray said.
It took a lot of time and patience but now she can save herself in deep water.
“I realized, wow, I have what it takes,” she said. “I just needed the instruction.”
YMCA locations across North Texas offers scholarships for both kids and adults who want to learn whether it’s for yourself or for someone else.
“Now that I’m older, I know how critical the skill that it is, especially now that I have a niece and nephew – I want to make sure that if they’re in a situation that I can help them,” Rosales said.
To bring lessons to those who need it most, the Dallas Y is launching a special pilot swim lesson program this summer – made possible through a grant from the national YMCA organization.
It specifically applies to adults who suffered some sort of trauma in the water and are dealing with fears to swim because of it.
Lessons start in June. If you would like to sign up, please email email@example.com.