Instructor stresses swimming knowledge before water-related activities

The approaching Memorial Day weekend means the start of swimming-related activities. The best way is to be safe in the water is to learn how to swim from a qualified instructor, said Rob Scott, assistant swim coach at the YMCA in Charleston.

“If you know how to swim you’re going to be a lot safer in the water,” Scott said. “Knowing how to swim allows kids to save themselves if they get into trouble.”

Scott said he’s heard stories of adults and children who get into public pools without any training.

“People think its easy, but it actually takes some work and some learning,” he said. “I started at public pool and worked there for three years. I probably saved more lives in those first three years than I have in my entire 23 years as an instructor.”

The YMCA offers several classes for infants, children and adults. Participants learn swimming basics like stroke techniques up to more advanced endurance training.

The biggest factor in swimming-related incidents is fear, Scott said. People without swimming knowledge can get into scary situations and panic, making the situation worse.

Scott recalled an incident over the weekend in which Shawn Jones Jr., 15, of Charleston, drowned in a Jackson County lake. Jones was kayaking in a man-made lake when his canoe took on water. He was not wearing a life vest.

“I always say that every kid should learn to swim because you never know when they are going to get into a situation where they have to save themselves,” he said.

According to data from the Centers for Disease control, approximately 353 West Virginians drowned from 1999 to 2010. Children and young adults make up the largest number of the state’s drowning deaths.

An American Red Cross survey recently showed that only 56 percent of adults can perform water-safety skills necessary to save lives. Fear of water is the most common cited barrier for learning how to swim, according to the survey.

To learn more about the YMCA’s private swimming lessons, visit

Reach Travis Crum at or 304-348-5163.

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