Children in Shreveport were joined by a special guest during a four-day swim safety course at the Broadmoor YMCA, located at 215 Carroll St., beginning July 25. Alana Beard, Shreveport native and a member of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, participated with the class each morning.
Beard was there for more than just inspiration, however – she also was learning to swim.
“This event has been six years in the making,” says Beard. “In 2010, following the Red River tragedy that happened here where six teens drowned trying to save each other, I remember thinking that could be me, or my niece, my sister or my brother. None of us learned how to swim.”
Beard wanted to use her position as a professional athlete to motivate the community to embrace swim safety. Unfortunately, her training schedule never permitted her the time to fully commit to the project.
A window of opportunity finally swung open this summer thanks to a league reprieve for the 2016 Olympic Games. Beard was finally able to return home and organize the event, aimed at children ages 7 – 12, with the aid of the American Red Cross, the YMCA of Northwest Louisiana and the USA Swimming Foundation.
One would think a professional athlete would be able to master the mechanics of swimming quicker than most. However, Beard assures that success on the court does not necessarily translate to prowess in the pool.
“You would think being an athlete it would come easy to you, but it doesn’t,” she says of her first swim lesson on Monday. “It is very difficult.”
Beard received a break-out swim tutorial at the end for the first day’s class from event instructor Lori Murphy, a Red Cross volunteer and certified swim instructor of more than 15 years. Throughout the hour-long course, Beard guided students through proper swim techniques, as well as safety precautions and procedures.
“The most common mistake I hear is when I ask new swimmers what to do if they see someone struggling in the water,” says Murphy. “Ninety percent say they would swim to them – this scenario puts both swimmers in danger.”
In fact, the best way to help someone struggling in the water is to reach out to them, or toss out a nearby object they can grab on to, and pull the person in.
One of the most proven ways to prevent a situation such is this is to ensure that one has mastered the five skills of water competency. These include the ability to:
- Step or jump into the water over one’s head.
- Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute.
- Turn around in a full circle and find an exit.
- Swim 25 yards to an exit without stopping.
- Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.
Only 56 percent of Americans can perform all five of these basic skills according to a Red Cross survey. The organization cites that everyday an average of 10 people die in the U.S. from unintentional drowning.
Additional water safety tips are available through the Red Cross website here.
Register for a Red Cross learn-to-swim course here.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.