Fifty-seven splashing bodies kicked with gusto this week in Lenexa in hopes of going down in the Guinness World Records as part of the world’s largest swimming lesson.
At 10 a.m. Tuesday, 75 Life Time Fitness centers across the country, including the Lenexa location, taught swimming lessons. The official tally won’t be final until the end of the month, but Alicia Kockler, the company’s national aquatics director, said more than 4,000 took part nationwide. The number to beat is 3,971.
The feat wasn’t attempted for infamy alone: The importance of swimming lessons was the real mission.
“We’re doing this to build awareness about teaching kids how to swim — to prevent drownings,” said Elizabeth Gibson, head of the Overland Park location’s aquatics department.
“Childhood drowning is the second leading cause of unintended death in ages 1 through 14,” Gibson said. “And research shows that if a child doesn’t swim before third grade, they likely won’t.”
In Lenexa, instructor and swim team coach Ann Sherlock taught swimmers about holding their breath underwater, floating and treading.
“Nothing is worse than seeing a kid who can’t swim or is afraid of the water,” she said.
Children can drown in any amount of water, even when parents and guardians are standing nearby. If swimming is part of your family’s summer plans, follow these safety precautions from the experts.
Keep a careful watch over youngsters at all times. In the minute it takes to check something on the stove, a drowning can occur.
If a child can’t swim more than 25 meters (about 27 yards), then a parent should be no more than 10 feet (or an arm’s reach) away, Gibson said.
•Alcohol and drugs:
Parents should abstain from substances that impair judgment while supervising young swimmers.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics approved swim classes for children as young as 12 months. Life Time Fitness offers “Splash Classes” starting at 9 months old. However, lessons are not a safeguard against drownings, and trained swimmers should still be watched.
Scope out pools and natural bodies of water before jumping in. Check out water depths and look for rocks, currents and other potential hazards. Don’t let shallow water fool you. Drownings have occurred in as little as 1 inch of water.
•Flotation devices: Replace foam or air-filled floaties with Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices ( www.uscg.mil
). Some pools have even banned water wings because they can easily deflate, and noodles, which don’t provide adequate flotation.
Take the kids out of the pool once an hour to cool off, re-hydrate, get snacks and prevent exhaustion.
to see a photo gallery of swimmers.