Coaches helping kids learn to swim

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Reported by: Ron Terrell
Updated: 7/16/2013 9:21 pm Published: 7/16/2013 3:58 pm

The swimming pool is supposed to be a fun place for kids, but many children live in areas where access to pools and lessons are hard to come by.

A group of Tulsa coaches is trying to change that.

"Relax... point those toes... Head all the way back," instructed Gregory Patrick.

It's safe to say Patrick teaches swimming a little differently than the way he was taught.

"Back in the day, they'd throw you in the creek and they'd holler 'snake snake snake' and you learned how to paddle," he said.

Coach Patrick and several assistants are instructing 240 kids in the annual Red Cross learn-to-swim program over the next three weeks at Lacy Park, at 2134 N. Madison Place.

These kids live in ZIP codes that have high participation in free- or reduced-cost lunch programs, and this camp gives them a chance they might not normally have.

Statistics show 70 percent of African-American children don't know how to swim and African-American and Hispanic children are at a higher risk for drowning.

Patrick is hoping these kids are going to know how to swim, or perhaps even save a life.

"Our job here is to be nice. Build their confidence up. And when you see a kid come from one end of the pool to the other end? You can't buy that," he said.

Therone Williams has a son in the program and he's excited to see his progress when the three-week session is over.

"Right now he thinks he can swim, but I know he can't swim. Rather than taking a chance, letting him think he can swim, I'd rather him learn how to swim," said Williams.

Patrick also summoned a prominent assistant, former TU and NFL football player Al Humphrey, to help out.

"It gives the kids something to look forward to -- and not only does it give them something to look forward to, but it gives them some self-esteem," said Humphrey.

"If my mind can conceive it... And I believe it in my heart... Then I can achieve it... And that's our motto," said Patrick.

This year's camp is full, but the Red Cross website will have information about openings at next year's session soon.

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