All of us have fears and often those fears become extreme fears or phobias. Fear of water is a common fear and the scientific term for it is aqua phobia or hydrophobia, and I suffered from fear of water for twenty one years. After experiencing a non-fatal drowning incident as a child I had a subconscious fear of water and deep seated memories of what slow suffocation by swallowing water feels like. I finally learned how to swim at the age of twenty seven, and conquered my biggest fear.
I had the pleasure of meeting Shaun Anderson at the International Swimming Hall Of Fame last week when I attended a strategic planning meeting for the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. Members of the board of directors and select guests gathered to discuss a wide variety of topics regarding drowning prevention.
During the meeting Shaun was discussing the benefits of bringing drowning prevention activities to schools and allowing the students to spread drowning prevention and water safety information to one another. Older students can mentor younger students, which is a wonderful way to spread the word of water safety.
At lunchtime we were invited to a presentation that reviewed the history of swimming, specifically the advent of competitive swimming in the United States amongst African Americans. One of the women at the table where I was seated was discussing a program she has started to teach African American children how to swim in Broward County Florida. She was relating how the parents fear the swimming lessons more than the children because fear of water has become a cultural issue due to the lack of opportunity for lessons in the African American community. We agreed there is no reason why this fear needs to perpetuate, and no reason why children of any color, creed or religion need to drown. It is my hope that through making a wide variety of water safety and drowning prevention programs available that any child can learn lifesaving water safety techniques.
After watching the video Shaun had posted on Diversity in Aquatics about thinking differently I am proud to be considered "different" in terms of someone who thinks outside the box. I can tell you from personal experience that if I can learn how to swim anyone can learn how to swim. All children should have the opportunity to be safer in or near water, and all children should have the opportunity to learn how to swim.