SARASOTA, Florida, March 12. U.S. Masters Swimming, boasting one of the largest memberships of any aquatic sport with more than 60,000 members, is looking to get more adults into the sport with a new foundation that is gaining support in the political arena.
Through the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, USMS is looking to offer more learn-to-swim classes to adults. Many of the current classes around the country focus mostly on children, but this initiative will make sure adults are welcomed to the pool.
Every major program needs a spokesperson, and USMS found one within its community. Siphiwe Baleka drives trucks across the country for a living, a career that often results in overweight and out-of-shape adults. But Baleka, a former swimmer at Yale, finds time to exercise whenever he can, often competing in triathlons that occur along his routes. He competed at the 2011 U.S. Masters nationals, winning two events in the 40-44 age group, and plans to race again at this spring’s short course nationals in Santa Clara.
His work to get more adults into an active lifestyle extends beyond USMS. He’s recently said goodbye to the road for a desk job with trucking company Prime Leasing to provide training programs and motivational tools for the company’s full-time drivers.
Watch this interview with Baleka from May 2011 on “The Morning Swim Show” to learn more about how he fits an active lifestyle with long hours on the road:
Full press release from U.S. Masters Swimming below:
The Swimming Saves Lives Foundation has launched a nationwide campaign to reduce the number of adult drownings, declaring the month of April “Adult Learn-to-Swim Month.” The governors of Florida, Nebraska, Indiana, Washington and Maine have issued declarations in support, and other states are processing proclamation applications.
“If we can convince water-shy adults to learn to swim in April, we hope to save lives when people gather at pools and beaches for summer recreation,” says Rob Butcher, executive director of U.S. Masters Swimming.
Alarmingly, 37 percent of American adults cannot swim the length of a 25-yard pool, according to the Centers for Disease Control, putting them at risk for becoming one of the 10 people who drown every day in the U.S. When adults can’t swim, they often pass their fears and water avoidance behaviors on to their children, thus perpetuating the risk of drowning in another generation.
To reduce accidental drowning deaths, which the CDC cites as the fifth leading cause of unintentional deaths, it’s recommended that children and adults learn to swim.
Chris Pompi, a civil engineer from Adams, Mass., was 38 years old when he learned to swim. He spent time at the Jersey Shore as a young adult, but couldn’t join his friends in the water.
“I stayed on the beach, soaking up the sun,” he says. And family boat trips were fun for everyone but him. When Pompi had kids, he realized that if something happened to them in the water, he wouldn’t be of any help. “Somehow, my 5-year-old had picked up on my fears, and I didn’t want him to be afraid like I was, so I knew it was time to learn.” Now Pompi and his three children enjoy swimming for fun and exercise.
In addition to helping to prevent drowning, swimming skills provide long-term health and fitness benefits. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, more people aspire to use swimming for exercise over all other fitness activities.
“Through our Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, which is supported by contributions from our 60,000 Masters Swimming members, we provide grants to our local partners for adult learn-to-swim classes in their communities,” Butcher says. “Once adults learn the lifesaving skill of swimming, our 1500 local programs are there to encourage them to keep swimming and enjoy the lifetime health, fitness, and social benefits of swimming.”
To find out more information or search for an adult learn-to-swim program in your area, go to usms.org/learntoswim.