Let’s Take A Dip

The water was chilly as I dove head first into the crystal clear water. My arms outstretched in front acted as my guidance system as I pulled through the water. Breaking the surface for a breath of air, I felt the exhilaration of nearing the other side of the pool. Every muscle in my body strained to bring about the victory. And then, there it was. I had won the race.

As a young day camper at Oglebay Park, I learned to swim. More than that, I learned to love to swim, dive and compete against other campers my age.

All of my siblings learned to swim either through a day camp or just watching one another at the local pool. It started with learning to float. Then we would hold onto the side of the pool and learn how to kick — flutter kicks and scissors kicks. We were taught to put our faces in the water and turn our heads to catch a breath. Eventually all that splashing around calmed down to smooth arm strokes, coordinated leg kicks and rhythmic breathing.

We didn’t have a swimming pool in our backyard, but a few friends and neighbors did. We always treated those folks with respect so we would be invited back. If not, we would be banished to the backyard sprinkler and the washtub in which we bathed the family dogs.

Swimming has always had therapeutic value. Just being in water can calm a cranky baby and soothe aging limbs. A bucket full of water and plastic squirt bottles are all you need to keep a couple of toddlers busy and content. Just don’t let them have the hose or grandma is going to get wet.

Back in the1950s, too many young people drowned swimming in dangerous rivers and creeks in the Ohio Valley. That prompted a local newspaper editor to urge government leaders to establish municipal swimming pools. As a result of city pools in neighborhoods and lifeguards in place, fewer drownings happened in the local lakes, creeks and Ohio River.

The YMCA in Elm Grove and the Wheeling Recreation Department, too, have taught hundreds if not thousands of youngsters how to swim over the decades. They also have produced some of the area’s finest teen and adult swimmers who have done well in high school competition and beyond in their swimming careers.

I could not imagine my life without the ability to swim and the thrill of knowing I can make it to the other side of the pool. It just takes me a little longer to get there these days.

See you at the pool!

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at: hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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