Before Covid hit, my daughter was at the beautiful stage of just getting confident enough in the water on her own. It was amazing to see her at the tipping point of such a vital skill, and she was clearly pleased as punch. However during the various lockdowns and restrictions, pretty much all of this was reversed, and I was left with a child unable to swim.
A fear of swimming
I couldn’t believe that all her hard work had practically been erased thanks to the pandemic. Not only that, I realised she had become fearful of getting into the water unless she had me to grip on to. She was turning eight as the restrictions started to lift, and I just didn’t recognise my daughter. Not only was she unable to swim, but she had also become scared stiff of swimming.
And we were certainly not alone, because according to a study by LYCRA® and Slazenger – which have joined forces to create a great new swimwear range made with LYCRA® XTRA LIFETM fibre – 12 per cent of children are completely unable to swim, while another 20 per cent can only do so with the aid of floats or armbands.
The study also found 57 per cent of parents are worried their child’s swimming ability has suffered in the past year following pool closures and a pause on lessons due to lockdown. And 44 per cent fear their child won’t ever catch up on the time they missed in the pool as they can’t afford it. Despite 85 per cent believing it is important that their child is able to swim as it’s such as crucial – and lifesaving – skill.
The study, carried out via OnePoll, also found 38 per cent of parents with children who are not confident swimmers worry that it is getting too late for them to learn.
It’s a cost thing
But it’s not just fear that is getting in the way of children swimming – it’s also the cost too. While 21 per cent of those parents blame their child’s lack of swimming ability on being afraid of the water, 19 per cent can’t afford to have private lessons.
As many as four in 10 parents admit even the cost of swimwear stops them from heading to the pool more often with their kids, according to the study by LYCRA® and Slazenger. It emerged 51 per cent would struggle to pay for school swimming lessons if they weren’t subsidised. And 58 per cent would be more likely to take their children swimming if it was more affordable overall.
As a result, 55 per cent of mums and dads rely on schools to teach their child to swim, with 16 per cent admitting school swimming lessons are the only time their child gets in the pool. A further 29 per cent of youngsters only swim when they go on holiday.
Beyond school swimming
Former British Olympian, Commonwealth champion and World Champion swimmer, kids’ trainer and mother, Katy Sexton MBE comments on the research: “School swimming isn’t enough. Schools do the best they can, but it takes an average of 20h to learn to swim and there simply isn’t enough time within the school year to reach that level.”
This is something I completely agree with. Although my daughter will be starting swimming classes this year at school, I know that it just won’t be enough to get her up to the swimming level she should be at this age. Which is why we stumped up the cash for two crash courses over the summer holidays to get her back up to a reasonable level and then a weekly swimming lesson during term time at our local pool. I won’t lie – it all adds up, but I feel so strongly that she needs this that I’m willing to take the hit.
Learning swimming should be non-negotiable
Katy continues: “Swimming is an important and potentially life-saving skill to have and should be the only after-school activity that is non-negotiable – at least until your child is at a competent level.”
Virginie Moille LYCRA® Brand states, “Unfortunately, the cost can be a major barrier, with the price of swimming lessons both privately and in school, swimwear and accessories all adding up – especially for those who have more than one child. And this is likely to have worsened for many parents who are now worse off financially as a result of the pandemic.”
Alison Glenton, representing Slazenger swimwear, comments: “Worryingly, pool and school closures during the pandemic also mean millions of children have missed out on crucial time in the water learning to swim, with the cost of catching up on this likely to mean many simply won’t be able to do.”
“As parents get ready for children to return to school, they will be hoping for an uninterrupted year to help their children get back on track with their swimming and we want to do all we can to make it as easy as possible for children to get back in the pool.”
Is your child unable to swim? Read on for Katy Sexton’s tips for parents
- It’s never too late to learn to swim. Don’t worry if your child isn’t swimming at 6 months or 6 years, it’s a skill that they, or anyone, can pick up any time.
- The lockdown has certainly had an impact, but swimming is like riding a bike – if your child had the skills before lockdown, they would pick it up again. Kids are more resilient than we sometimes give them credit for.
- Many parents don’t think twice about buying the latest branded trainers at great expense, but if you buy good quality swimwear and kit, it should last a long time. Look out for durability qualities, such as chlorine resistant fabrics and adjustable goggles, and always rinse kit with fresh water after swimming.
- Swimming lesson waiting lists can be long. Don’t wait for a spot to become available before getting your child into the water. Try to and take them swimming yourself or with other parents and friends. If they see you or other kids in the pool, enjoying it, not feeling scared, it may help to boost their confidence.
Our thoughts on Slazenger’s new range with LYCRA® XTRA LIFETM
If you are looking for cost-effective swimwear that will actually last then Slazenger’s new range should be your first port of call. Think brilliant fit, wonderful comfort and spot-on shape retention thanks to the use of LYCRA® XTRA LIFETM meaning no more embarrassingly saggy swimsuits which have completely lost the will to live before your child has outgrown them.
What has been your children’s experience of swimming during the pandemic? Do share in a comment below.