Article image

by Daniel Paulling

April 27, 2018

Parents and children are learning how to swim with the help of Lisa Brown and her teammates

Barneeta Gupta spent a long time watching other parents and their children enjoying their time swimming together in a pool and wishing she could do the same with her son.

She’s getting closer to achieving her goal. Gupta and her son, Vivaan, 6, began taking swim lessons last year at the Zionsville (Ind.) Aquatic Center despite her having had a traumatizing experience in the water when she was younger in India and him not enjoying previous lessons.

“I look forward to playing with my kid in the pool and swimming together,” she says. “We can play basketball in the pool. I really want to [learn to swim] so we can together enjoy the pool.”

Her decision to take lessons serves as an important model for parents who can’t swim. Just 19 percent of children from a nonswimming household will learn how to swim, according to a study by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis, and between two and three children under the age of 14 in the U.S. drown every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The parent-child take on this is just so amazing,” says Lisa Brown, 55, whose club received a grant from the USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation to teach swim lessons for adults. The foundation has granted $430,000 since 2012 to adult swim-lessons providers as part of U.S. Masters Swimming’s adult learn-to-swim initiative.

“A lot of these folks that are [taking lessons] are folks that grew up in a different country that had no opportunities for swim lessons,” Brown continues. “They said, ‘Wow, I guess I better try it, too, so I can be safe when I take [children] to the pool or the lake or the ocean or whatever it is.’ It’s so exciting to see both generations trying to become safer in the water. Just having the support from U.S. Masters Swimming and the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, it’s just opening up so many more doors for adults and families to be safe.”

Gupta, 35, takes lessons from Brown and Edwina Henderson, members of Zionsville Aquatic Masters. The club is offering nine swim lessons for $10 this month as part of its April Is Adult Learn-to-Swim Month offering, which Brown says has drawn more than 30 people this year.

SSLF, the April awareness campaign, and USMS’s certification for adult learn-to-swim lessons providers are the three parts of USMS’s ALTS initiative. Brown teaches certification classes across the country as part of her role as an adult learn-to-swim lead instructor.

Gupta was afraid to put her face in the water when she started her lessons, but she now feels more comfortable while in the pool and can streamline and swim freestyle.

“[The lessons] are really helpful because they tell us why you have to do this, how your body has to streamline into the water, how your muscles need to be relaxed,” Gupta says. “All these things were things I didn’t know. I have been through a long way because, for me, a person who is very scared of putting her face in the water, now she can glide, it’s really helped me.

“Learning to swim is something that should always happen. Something or the other just keeps others lagging. I can see myself six months back, how I was scared. In the summer, I look forward to swimming regularly.”


  • Adult Learn-to-Swim


  • ALTS
  • SSLF