Colorado Springs, CO - As the summer season begins and pools and beaches are open across the country, a recent study commissioned by USA Swimming and conducted by the University of Memphis exposes some alarming statistics. TheConstraints Impacting Minority Swimming Participation, Phase II study found that nearly 70% of African American children have low or no swim ability, compared to 40% of Caucasians, putting them at risk for drowning. According to the study, parental fear is a major contributor impacting a child’s swimming ability.
Fear Trumps Finance as a Major Factor
The “fear of drowning” was found to be the strongest overall predictor of swim ability. Other issues impacting African American families included lack of parental encouragement and personal appearance issues, more specifically the notion that chlorine is bad for African American skin and hair. Other issues reported (but to a lesser degree) included financial constraints and access to pools.
While the study revealed children from lower income families* were more inclined to agree that “family budget doesn’t include money for me to take swim lessons,” focus group research found that many parents wouldn’t let kids swim even if lessons were free, a theme that was tested four times in different focus groups. Overall, fear trumped financial concerns across all respondents from low-income families.
40% of All Children Surveyed Said They Are Able to Swim While Only 18% of Total Respondents Have Taken Lesson From Certified Instructor
Results from the study show that while 40% of all children surveyed report they are able to swim, only 18% have ever taken a swim lesson from a certified instructor. When asked how they learned to swim, 26% of African American children responded, “I taught myself.” This false sense of confidence can lead to tragedy, as 60% of children with low or now swim ability plan to be in and around the water this summer at least once a month.
The Constraints Impacting Minority Swimming Participation, Phase II study was conducted by the University of Memphis between February 1, 2010 and May 26, 2010 and surveyed more than 2,000 children and parents in six cities across the U.S, including Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Memphis, Minneapolis and San Diego. The study is a follow up to Phase I conducted in 2008, which exposed the issues and served as a catalyst for widespread awareness of minority children’s low swimming ability. The purpose of the current study was to more clearly understand children’s true swim abilities and determine which factors most impact whether or not a child learns to swim.
The end goal is to create real solutions designed to ensure children are water safe, especially minority youth who are at a higher risk for drowning. The USA Swimming Foundation, African American Olympic gold medalist swimmer Cullen Jones and Make a Splash are teaming up again this summer to educate parents and kids about the importance of learning to swim and the resources available for families in need, and will utilize the information from the findings as they travel the country as part of a six city event series. Make a Splash is the national water safety initiative created by the USA Swimming Foundation in an effort to provide access to swim lessons at low or no cost for children across the country.
“I didn’t learn how to swim to become an Olympic champion,” said Jones. “I learned how to swim, because when I was five years old, I almost drowned. The findings from this study reinforce the importance of why I’m traveling the country this summer to talk to parents and kids about the importance of learning to swim as a life-saving skill. I really believe we can make a difference in the statistics and save lives.”
To review the complete study and its findings please visit: http://www.usaswimming.org/_Rainbow/Documents/121d4497-c4be-44a6-8b28-12bf64f36036/2010 Swim Report-USA Swimming-5-26-10.pdf
*low income qualified as those who reported free lunch or reduced lunch program status
Data collection sites were identified in collaboration with representatives from USA Swimming and comprised of six (6) urban markets (Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA; Denver, CO; Memphis, TN; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; AND, San Diego, CA. Within each market the research team worked with representatives from the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) to identify appropriate data collection venues. The YMCA was chosen as the primary data collection source due to the organization’s access to diverse youth populations (swimmers and non-swimmers), keen interest in the topic under investigation, and previous assistance with the 2008 study. Site visits were scheduled for data collection and staff training between February 1 and March 31, 2010. A mixed method approach involving quantitative (survey) and qualitative (focus group interviews) measures was used.
About USA Swimming
As the National Governing Body for competitive swimming in the United States, USA Swimming formulates the rules, implements policies and procedures, conducts national championships, disseminates safety and sports medicine information and selects athletes to represent the United States in international competition. USA Swimming has more than 300,000 members nationwide and sanctions more than 7,000 events each year. For more information, visit usaswimming.org.
About Make a Splash
Make a Splash is a national child-focused anti-drowning initiative created by The USA Swimming Foundation, which operates by aligning the nation’s top learn-to-swim resources in an effort to save lives. Make a Splash educates parents through a national awareness campaign, saves lives by joining forces with grassroots learn-to-swim programs and reaches thousands of children across the country. The program exists because nine people drown each day in the U.S., and in ethnically-diverse communities the youth drowning rate is 2-3 times higher. For more information, visit makeasplash.org.
About the USA Swimming Foundation
The USA Swimming Foundation was established in 2004 with the purpose of using the sport of swimming to improve lives and make communities stronger. The Foundation focuses its resources in three main areas: making children safer in and around the water to reduce drowning; encouraging diversity in the sport of swimming; and using swimming to promote a healthy lifestyle to combat issues such as childhood obesity. The USA Swimming Foundation is the premier charitable organization that supports the sport of swimming in the United States from grassroots to gold medals and is recognized as a national leadership organization for promoting water safety. It is the Foundation’s ongoing goal to teach every child in America how to swim. To help, to donate or for information: www.swimfoundation.org.
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