31 Jul First Week of Second Session S4B Reflections

As he did during First Session, Head of the Boys Camp Andrew Hano offers a reflection on the past week:

The boys at Camp Susquehannock learn a lot of skills each summer. Just today I observed campers practicing lay ups in basketball, forehands in tennis, and stick handling in street hockey; all valuable skills for an athlete. Despite its importance, there is one skill we teach that is dreaded by many campers: swimming.

We have a young camper here in his third summer. When he arrived three years ago he could not swim and was afraid of the water. The swim instructors worked tirelessly with him the past two and one half summers. First he learned to hold his breath and go under water. The he had to float on his back. Next, he was taught to glide, then a modified breast stroke. He was able to swim a few strokes with his face in the water, stand up, take a breath, and swim a few more strokes. He swam 25 yards with a kick board. He swam 25 yards without a kick board. Every step of the way his body was rigid with fear and anxiety. There were a lot of tears and there was a lot of tough love. Last week he passed the camp’s basic swimming test, the 500 yard swim.

Two days ago I watched him swim confidently across the free swim area to the floating dock which is anchored in 16 feet deep water. The smile on his face radiated pure joy. At that moment I paused to think about the significance of knowing how to swim. I feel as if I have known how to swim my entire life. I have taught countless children, including my own two, how to swim. Swimming provides hours of fun and exercise. Yet there are so many people who never learn to swim.

We say the Lake is the most fun place at camp and certainly the most dangerous. So we train many of our counselors to be lifeguards and we teach our campers to swim. Learning to swim is not a full guarantee to safety in the water just like a great jump shot is not a full guarantee to play professionally; however, the personal health and safety benefits of knowing how to swim are critical to living a well rounded life. A smooth lay up or powerful forehand may earn an athlete recognition and awards, but swimming saves lives.

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