Swim lessons teach life-long skills

by Airman 1st Class Hailey Haux
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

He places his goggles over his eyes as he prepares to practice his kicking across the pool. He patiently waits his turn and watches as the other students in his class go ahead of him.

Sean Erickson is learning to swim.

Learning to swim for this 11 year old isn’t just about keeping afloat in the water; it is about learning valuable life lessons.

“Learning to swim with other kids involves learning social skills,” said Anna, Sean’s mother and spouse of Master Sgt. David Erickson, 3rd Air Force airfield manager. “Sean is in a class of five children, and being able to interact with them every day develops those skills.”

For most children, taking turns and learning patience isn’t an easy task, but at the pool it is taught in everything they do.

“Sean has had to wait his turn and let the other kids go first,” Anna said. “He knows that it’s important to practice patience if he isn’t good at a certain activity.”

Learning to swim not only teaches patience and social skills, it gives children confidence in their abilities.

“It’s nice to see them progress and go from being scared to being a good swimmer. And the confidence they have when they learn how to swim is great to see,” said Ben Blixt, a water safety instructor for the aquatics center on Ramstein.
The swim students learn something new at swim lessons every day, giving them more assurance.

“Sean has always enjoyed the water,” David said. “He understands a few swimming basics, but we wanted him to improve his swimming techniques, learn more strokes and improve his confidence when he’s in deeper water.”

“I can swim pretty fast,” Sean said. “I’ve learned some different strokes. When I use the fins, it makes me go faster.”

Water safety and rules are the first things taught to children who take swim lessons at the aquatics center.

“Water safety in general is a life-long skill that is important to learn early on,” Blixt said. “During swim lessons we teach safety topics, such as rules of the pool, dealing with lightning and how to recognize lifeguards. With the more advanced children, we teach them how to do reaching assists and technique work.”

By learning to swim and learning all the different safety rules, a person can potentially help save another’s life.

“It’s important to know overall water safety in or near any body of water,” Anna said. “It is good to know the basics to get yourself out of trouble or help someone else.”

The parents see huge improvements in their children and it makes being a swim instructor worth it, Blixt said.

“So far Anna and I have been pleased,” David said. “We’ve seen Sean improve and, most importantly, he’s enthusiastic about coming back and learning more.”

At the end of the day, Sean beams with pride as he celebrates with his classmates, giving everyone high-fives after another successful swim lesson.