In the middle of a Fourth of July family party, 6-year-old Beckett fell into the pool headfirst. Panic flashed across his face for just a moment, while his relatives watched cautiously before intervening, waiting to see if he’d know what to do.
He did. Beckett was able to right himself while underwater, get himself across the pool, and climb out. Afterwards, he told his mom that in swim lessons, he’d been taught to always look for the exit before getting in the pool. “I found the ladder!” he declared.
For Beckett’s mom, Lauren Cootes, the situation was reassurance that all the skills he’d learned in YMCA swim lessons just weeks before had truly stuck with him. “I was so happy,” she says. “Because I was really nervous of him being around water before that.”
Leading up to this summer, Beckett was terrified to get in the pool without his puddle jumper life jacket, Lauren says. “When I told him I was going to put him in swim lessons, the first thing he asked was, ‘Can I wear my floaties?”
On day one of lessons, Beckett quickly discovered he’d need to give up his floaties in order to learn. And since then, he’s been paddling toward greater independence in the water.
“By the end of the four weeks, he was really confident,” Lauren says.
Celebrating achievements, measuring progress
Beckett’s first experience in swim lessons coincides with the YMCA of Middle Tennessee’s first summer of an updated curriculum that places swimmers in classes based on skill level rather than age using this interactive swim lesson finder. Children advance to the next stage only when they’ve mastered every skill corresponding to their level, which further ensures their safety and makes clear to parents exactly what their kids can and cannot do. It's the same attentive, caring swim instruction as before—just with clearer indicators of a child's progress.
“I like that because it’s very specific and it actually gives me stuff to work on with him at home,” says Lauren.
Beckett began the summer at stage 2 (see graphic, left) and is still progressing through the level. Though he’s not swimming independently just yet, his small achievements—and the milestones any kid hits on the way to swimming on their own—are worth celebrating.
“He was really excited once he was able to open his eyes under the water and go all the way down,” Lauren says. “He was really pleased with himself.”
Saving lives through expert swim instruction
Far beyond building confidence and encouraging physical activity among our community’s kids, YMCA swim lessons are the Y’s response to the serious problem of drowning—the second leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-14. The very real threat of drowning means the skills children learn in a lesson—like those Beckett mastered—can literally save their lives. According to the CDC, starting kids in formal swim lessons early (1 to 4 years old) can reduce their risk of drowning by as much as 88%.
This summer, nearly 3,000 children like Beckett received life-saving lessons from the YMCA of Middle Tennessee’s trusted swim instructors. Discover more about the Y’s leading role in water safety.