At Boy Scout camp one summer when I was 16, a group of us were training to become life guards.
One of the requirements for that as well as for a badge we all wanted to earn, was to swim a mile non-stop.
I think it took me and the rest of our group 45 minutes or so with lots of side stroke, resting back stroke and all kinds of labor saving methodologies to survive it. All accept Craig Bartlett. Craig was 12-13 and he finished in about 20 minutes, swimming free-style (crawl stroke) the whole way.
The adults beside the pool were all yelling at him to slow down so he wouldn't fail. He didn't slow down and he hopped out of the pool and strolled off to an ovation from astonished viewers.
The rest of us stayed in the water thrashing about for another 30 minutes. The difference between Craig and the rest of us was that he had been on a summer swim team since he was 6 years old. The rest of us had just had the usual local swimming lessons that are still taught today.
We all thought Craig was some kind of superman and he was held in awe from that day forward. Now that I am an adult, I know that Craig was not an anomoly.
I have seen many younger children swim that far in less time as well as see them swim backstroke, breast stroke and butterfly as well as the usual freestyle that we all have attempted to learn.
So, if you want your children or grandchildren to REALLY be able to swim well. Get them on a swim team. The usual requirements are generally that they be water safe. Meaning that they can tread water for a minute and swim one length of the pool one their belly and one on their back....however ugly in form and style :-)
Summer swim teams are a combination of advanced swimming lessons and introduction to competitive swimming. Here they will learn to swim like my childhood friend Craig Bartlett or better.
photos by swim dad David Yurashus