Here in San Francisco, we are fortunate to be surrounded by water. We can chase the waves at Ocean Beach; say hello to the seals on Pier 49; hop on a ferry; or spend the day at a community pool, all within reach of our beautiful city.
But being so close to the water can also come with some risks. In the United States, drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional injury death for children between the ages of one to 14. Children are also at a higher risk of drowning if they live close to open bodies of water, which is why at BGCSF, we believe it’s extremely important for every child in San Francisco to learn basic swimming skills and water safety.
Throughout the year, the Swim Academy at the Don Fisher Clubhouse hosts Learn-to-Swim classes to help kids of all ages move from taking their first step into the pool to swimming confidently in the deep end.
“Youth who are actively participating in our swim lessons are being taught how to become stronger swimmers and how to make good decisions to ensure their safety in the water,” said Joseph Hancock, Aquatics Program Manager at BGCSF’s Swim Academy.
Natalia, 11, and her twin brothers, Matthew and Nahom, ten, are all Club members who learned how to swim through the Swim Academy. Along with their older sister, Metu, these siblings cherish their ability to take advantage of the Don Fisher Clubhouse’s beautiful, competition-sized pool, which is just blocks from their house.
“They love the water,” said their mother, Hibra, while watching all four children bound off the diving blocks. “They want to be in the water all of the time. They’re like little fish!”
Swimming hasn’t always been a family pastime. Just a year ago, Natalia was afraid to dive underwater. Thanks to her coach, Claudia, Natalia slowly gained confidence in the water and discovered her love for swimming.
“Claudia is nice. She’s a good coach,” Natalia said. “She pushes us to get better. It’s a good thing.”
Natalia still remembers the first time she jumped off the diving block and how amazing it felt to conquer her fear.
“The first time I jumped in, I was scared,” Natalia said. “Now [swimming] is fun and good exercise!”
Matthew and Nahom have been swimming at the Don Fisher Clubhouse for four years and are now part of the BGCSF Aquatics Club, our competitive swim team that trains year-round and participates in swim meets across the Bay Area.
Today, all four siblings are confident swimmers who love jumping fearlessly into the pool, talking about their favorite swim stroke, and reminiscing about catching a lobster while swimming during a family vacation in Vancouver.
"It’s been a big help when we go on vacation,” said their father Getahun. “We don’t have to worry about them being in the water. We’re very happy about [the Club] being here and about our kids knowing how to swim."
When asked to give advice for other kids who are hesitant to learn how to swim, Nahom was quick to say, “Try it out and see if you like it!”
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Natalia added.
Enroll your child in the six-week Learn-to-Swim program in the fall before classes fill up! To start the enrollment process, please contact Jonathan Riley at firstname.lastname@example.org.