Monday, May 31, 2010

The weekend news was filled with drowning stories - Still after all our efforts the public does not understand that swimming well is important!

In the late spring and all through the summer there is a preponderance of drowning stories that I have to confront. Headlines like:

  • Teen dies after being pulled from pond

  • Teen Swimmer Drowns In Schuylkill River

  • Memorial Day weekend sees at least four deaths in Iowa waters

  • Two Swimmers Missing, Presumed Drowned

I wasn't even searching for drowning stories this weekend and these four stories have greeted me 4-days in a row.

Turns out a loaded gun in a home is less dangerous than a swimming pool:

Paraphrased from the book Freakonomics:
"... According to the most recent statistics, there are about six million residential pools, meaning that one young child drowns annually for every 11,000 pools.

About 175 children under the age of 10 died in 1998 as a result of guns. About two-thirds of those deaths were homicides. There are an estimated 200 million guns in the United States. Doing the math, there is roughly one child killed by guns for every one million guns.


Very depressing...

Every noticed that there are a lot of Jewish Olympic swimmers? Here is a list of seven off the top of my head: Mark Spitz, Jason Lezak, Dara Torres, Scott Goldblatt, Chris Jacobs, Ben Wildman-Tobriner, Garrett Weber-Gale, on ad infinitum.

There is that many because it is part of the Jewish culture to teach their kids how to swim.

Fred Pinn sent me this link:

"...The Talmud teaches that "a parent has the following obligation towards the child: to circumcise him, redeem the firstborn, teach them Torah, find them a life partner and teach them a profession. And there are some who say they must also teach them how to swim. ..."

There are that many Jewish Olympians because there is a cultural reference within Judaism and the demand that their children learn how to swim well. In my opinion America needs both a cultural reference and a demand that both adults and children learn how to swim.

If I was tasked with the job of inspiring people to swim via a Madison Avenue marketing campaign, I would position swimming as something both successful people and educated people know how to do, I would play the fear card with parents as well, and use the line from the Talmud as a de facto obligation referencing the Talmud in the fine print.


livefreeswimhard said...

The funny things is that you have all these swimmers complaining about how "our" sport never gets any attention. This is the true tragedy. Our sport will never grow if drowning keep happening like this.

Scott said...

I don't think that you can associate observing that many Jews participate in swimming with them simply being Jewish. For example Wikipedia describes Jewish culture so:

Secular Jewish culture embraces several related phenomena; above all, it is the culture of secular communities of Jewish people, but it can also include the cultural contributions of individuals who identify as secular Jews. The community of Jewish people is generally considered to be an ethnoreligious rather than solely a religious grouping; Judaism guides its adherents in both practice and belief, so that it has been called not only a religion, but also a "way of life".

Not surprising then that people who identify themselves as Jewish (a demographic noted for its high average intellect compared to the rest of the population) stresses learning key life skills such as swimming. Not to mention higher intelligence usually correlates with higher incomes, an advantage which proves crucial in participating in a relatively expensive activity. A couple of years back a thread on your blog was about Yale still requiring graduates to know how to swim - a skill which at one time was required by virtually all universities of note.

P.S. Interestingly this blog has touched on the very different way Germany handles swimming with your May 19th, 2010 post titled "TYR will Sponsor the Biggest Swimming Governing Body on the Planet".

Anonymous said...

Hey Tony:

Now here is a subject I think you could really investigate. IMO, if there was ever an organization that has a stranglehold on our sport, and has stifled the advancement of teaching swimming, it's the American Red Cross!!

Tony Austin said...

Fred Pinn is a Jewish friend of mine and he sent me the reference to the Talmud. If the News Testament had such a line in it, I bet we would see more swimmers.

It's not Yale that demands the students know how to swim but rather Colombia.

Tony Austin said...

Anonymous, how so? How has the Red Cross stifled swimming?

TedBaker said...

I think the Red Cross emphasizes how dangerous the water is. I've always said that the Red Cross doesn't teach kids how to swim; rather it teaches them how to avoid drowning.

Swim club - competitive swimming - even at the recreational level, teaches kids to swim.

Scott said...

Then again if people who profess to being Christians actually read the Bible we'd probably be seeing a lot more stonings of adulterous wives, polygamous marriage, and slave owners.

Tony Austin said...

Well that has to change! Avoiding drowning only means you can dog paddle maybe 15-20 yards.

Tony Austin said...

New Testament, dude, Version 2.0, not 1.0 with Mosses, Abraham and Liviticus.

livefreeswimhard said...

"The American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and guided by its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross Movement, will provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies." Im pretty sure thats mission statement of the Red Cross. No blame should be put on them, they've got some rather serious issues going on right now like that thing in Haiti. USA Swimming, the American Swim School Association, Speedo, TYR, FINIS and all the other companies should be talking about a way to implement aquatic education on a mass scale.

Anonymous said...

Watching swim classes for kids at one of the pools I swim at, it doesn't seem to me that the teaching methods have changed since I was a kid some 45 years ago. Too much emphasis on extremely vigorous kicking, which does little for propulsion and just creates fatigue. Not enough emphasis on relaxing in the water, floating, and staying horizontal and streamlined to minimize the workload.
I learned to swim - not very well - with these lessons, and pretty much had to re-learn as an adult. There has to be a better way.

Tony Austin said...

I wonder if USA Swimming has a manual? I hope so?

Anonymous said...

Hey Tony:

They have a monopoly on swimming, and teaching methods that are beyond outdated. Ever try to teach a swimming class that is not Red Cross approved at a community pool? It can't be done!!

Tony Austin said...

I am going to look into this.

Scott said...

The German Swimming Federation's comprehensive approach to swimming is starting to look like it has some significant advantages. You really should look and see if there is a better system than the "figure out your own way" decades old approach we're still using today.