by Nanette D. Massey
Black children, as a group, are at the highest level of risk for drowning this time of year. Sadly, a study done by the USA Swimming Foundation, the University of Memphis, and the YMCA found that 64% of Black children don’t know how to swim.
Mike Switalksi, head of Buffalo City Swim Racers, tells the story of being a young life guard at a water park near his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There was a regular bus load of black children that came to the park weekly. He and the other lifeguards would place bets on the number of times they predicted they’d be in the water saving a kid. “Coach Mike” noticed this number was exponentially higher than at any other times at the park and vowed to do something about that.
BCSR offers free swim lessons to kids (and adults) at area pools around town to families that fall within income guidelines that might qualify them for school lunches or government housing assistance. The program trains the casual swimmer all the way up to those wishing to get serious at the competitive level.
The program, in fact, runs year round and offers classes and opportunities for practice five days a week. Of course, basic CPR mastery is a part of the program’s core. Coach Mike has trained four year olds who can do chest compressions with perfect timing and precision, significantly reducing the likelihood of swim fatalities.
Currently sessions are offered at the public pool in Cazenovia Park in South Buffalo, the William Emslie YMCA, and the pool at D’Youville College.
For times and more information, see www.TeamUnify.com or call Coach Mike directly at (716) 359-4729 .