Swimming Safely: Basic Water Competency

It is time to discuss basic water competency. This may seem like a simple concept, but you’d be surprised at how many people simply cannot navigate in the water. In fact, even floating can be a challenge for some.

Now, this is nothing to be ashamed about. After all, every single swimmer needed to start somewhere. What is important is for everyone to do what is needed to learn basic water competency. In a dangerous situation, these simple abilities can save your life.

What is Basic Water Competency?

First, let’s look at some disappointing statistics. According to the Red Cross, roughly half of Americans cannot swim well enough to save themselves from drowning. To make matters worse, only four in ten parents of children aged 4-17 report that their child can perform all five basic swimming skills.

Basic water competency is different from simply knowing how to swim. As the name implies, this training focuses on simple ways that both children and adults can be better prepared for being both in and near the water.

These skills focus on what to do when a person finds themselves in the water. At its core, competency means:

  • Understanding how to control your breathing in the water
  • Learning how to float on your back, keeping your nose and mouth above water
  • Knowing how to enter and exit a swimming pool

With practice, these easily learned skills can be very helpful to a person who finds themselves unexpectedly submerged in water.

Don’t Panic

Understanding basic water competency, while not the same as becoming a fully trained swimmer, can save your life. Panic is often a swimmer’s biggest enemy. Losing control is among the most life-threatening things that can happen in the water. With some basic training and a general familiarity with the water, you can think more clearly in case you suddenly find yourself in the water.

Plan Ahead

As a rule, it pays to plan ahead. For example, one of the basic water competency skills is knowing how to call for help. Beyond that, you should know your limits and not enter situations that you deem dangerous.

In fact, no one should ever be swimming or playing near water without a lifeguard on duty. If it can be avoided, don’t swim alone. Instead, use the buddy system. Having another person accountable for your safety (and you for theirs) can mean the difference between a fun time in the water and tragedy.

If you’re on a boat, always wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket. When swimming in cold water, be careful of cold water shock danger. Basically, water competency means planning ahead, avoiding panic and having a support system.

Now, we have a full blog post dedicated to learning how to swim on the off-season. It is quite helpful to find an instructor no matter the time of year. Learning to swim and keeping your skills sharp is essential for swimming safety, whether you are in your backyard pool or simply near the water.

To learn more about understanding basic water competency or finding swimming lessons in your area, contact the American Red Cross.