Program helps older swimmers overcome fear of water


Marty Gordon

Linda and Harry Mott are two of the individuals that have taken advantage of adult swim classes at the Christiansburg Aquatics Center. They now feel more confident in and around the water after learning basic swimming skills.

Over nine million adults are unable to swim. According to statistics from the American Red Cross, most Americans think they can swim just fine, but a survey reveals that almost half don’t know basic water safety skills.

Additionally, the statistics show an average of 10 people in the United States die from drowning each day.

Last year, Red Cross officials launched a national campaign to reduce the drowning rate by 50 percent.

“We’re asking every family to make sure that both adults and children can swim,” said Connie Harvey, the director of the Red Cross Centennial Initiative.

That survey found nearly half of Americans (46 percent) reported they have had an experience in the water where they were afraid they might drown. Also, one in five said they knew someone who had drowned and 20 percent knew someone who nearly drowned.

In most cases, it’s the fear of water that keeps many adults out of the pool or even having a chance at learning to swim.

Linda Mott was one of those statistical numbers. She simply had a fear of water after seeing a cousin drown at Fairy Stone Park when she was a youngster.

“Because of that, I have been afraid of water all my life,” she said.

Now at the age of 65, she knew there would be some physical problem when she did get back into the water.

But all of this changed this past year when Mott decided to take adult swim classes at the Christiansburg Aquatics Center.

“I needed to conquer my fear and really had never learned to swim,” she said.

At first she held onto her husband, Harry, or to the edge of the pool. But gradually she got more confident and ventured into the water. From there, she learned some basics and how to float.

“I do feel like now I can handle the water, and can swim a little. But there’s still more I would like to learn,” she said.

Harry Mott, who has never been an avid swimmer, took the course to support his wife, but he realized there was a lot he didn’t know.

“It taught us not to panic, know how to swim and how to breath. It’s very beneficial,” he said.

Those basic steps are commonly known as “water competency” and include jumping or stepping into water over one’s head, returning to the surface to tread water or float for one minute, circling around and identifying an exit, swimming 25 yards to that point and then exiting the water.

This is the second year of the program at the aquatic center with over 55 participants coming through so far.

This past fall, the Christiansburg Aquatic Center received a $1,500 grant from the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation to help support the Adult Learn-to-Swim program.

Chrystal Jones is the program director at the CAC.

“This grant is huge and will allow us to make a positive impact in the community,” she said.

Both of the Motts highly recommend the instruction. They hope to take a third class this spring to continue to build upon their swimming skills.

Linda has faced her fears and hopes others will follow as she serves as an example for others.

The Adult Learn-to-Swim program offers adult swimming lessons at a significantly reduced rate. The program aims to assist anyone 18 years or older in becoming comfortable in the water, learning to swim or improving swimming techniques.

Evening classes will be offered in January, February, March and April beginning at 7 p.m. A special three-week Saturday morning session, beginning at 10 a.m., will be offered in April in honor of Adult Learn-to-Swim Month.

Registration can be done over the phone, in person at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center or online at An annual membership to U.S. Masters Swimming is required to participate in these lessons. Annual membership with U.S. Masters Swimming costs $52. However, a one-time 30-day free trial membership is available.

Membership fees cover insurance to participate in this program, a subscription to Swimmer Magazine, access to online workouts and much more.

If you have any questions or would like more information about this program, contact Jones at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center, 381-7665, or visit their website at

If you are a registered member of U.S. Masters Swimming and would like to volunteer to teach other adults to swim, please send an email to Jones at

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