Words by Terrell Manasco | Images by Ashley Wilkes
You’re fishing on the lake. Suddenly another boat speeds by, creating a massive wake that capsizes your boat, throwing you overboard.
Can you swim?
According to a 2014 American Red Cross survey, almost half of adults in the United States can’t. If you’re among that group, there’s hope. Since receiving a grant in 2017, the Jasper Natatorium is now offering the Adult Learn to Swim program. Natatorium Manager/Aquatic Director Stacy Smothers says classes are geared toward any adult, age 18 and up.
“We start with true beginners who are fearful of the water, maybe they’ve had some trauma in the past,” Stacy says, “to those who want to improve strokes to go on to swim in triathlons or even in competitions. We usually do six to eight classes in a session, mostly in the mornings, a couple of days a week for three or four weeks. When it starts getting warmer, we will do Saturday classes.”
The program is the brainchild of Danny Arnold, U.S. Masters Swim Coach for the Jasper Masters Swim Team. Stacy says Arnold also organized the 35-mile Swim the Smith event last summer. “He sought this grant through the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation,” she says. “They do a special certification for instructors. Danny, his wife Brenda, Lisa Barnett, and I all got trained. Each year we can get one more instructor trained, so we sent Whitney Dyer, who was a track runner in college. Whitney took the class and is now actually doing swimming competitions.”
Stacy estimates around 180 people have learned to swim through the program. On this day a group of special-needs adults from the ARC of Walker County gather around instructor Lisa Barnett, their faces beaming with excitement. “This group has been a special class,” Stacy says. “These guys come once a week to play, and some do our Dream Team swim in the summer. They were all interested in getting in there and learning to blow bubbles and use their arms and legs.”
If you’re considering learning to swim, now is a great time to get your feet wet. “Just come to one of our advertised sessions,” Stacy says. “You get a T-shirt, a swim cap, and goggles with your $10 fee for the entire session. The instructors will start you on the bleachers and see where you are individually.”
To find out more about the Adult Learn to Swim program, call the Jasper Natatorium at 205-384-9617. 78