Fear of Drowning is Different than the Fear of Swimming

These two fears are something that must be understood for swim instructors to be able to help a student through either of these fears. And often their differences are muddled, students remain afraid and frustrated and learning to swim never happens.  First of all, people are fearful in water because they’re fearful of drowning.

If someone is afraid of water, simply learning to float, glide, tread and do strokes doesn’t help them. It isn’t true that if this person learns to swim that they will no longer be fearful in water. The fear is often born from frustration, disappointment, embarrassment, isolation and perhaps even anger that was felt when this person may have been “forced” to take swim lessons. This scenario is absolutely backwards because the first fear that must be overcome is the fear of drowning. The swimming part of the equation is never going to happen until this person is comfortable in the water.

So it makes sense that helping someone to overcome being fearful in water and fearful of drowning is completely different than helping someone overcome the fear of learning to swim.  In fact, the only thing that is common to the two is that they take place in the water.

A student will not benefit from traditional swim lessons if they have an unusually strong fear of water or drowning. They may exhibit these behaviors:

  1. They’re unable to stand, unassisted, in shallow water.
  2. They’re unable to submerge their face in shallow water.
  3. They’re unable to perform an assisted front and/or back float in shallow water.
  4. They’re unable to enter deep water with a flotation device.

They must have help developing coping and aquatic skills that will help them understand, manage and overcome their fear of water and drowning.

Read the complete article about Fear vs. Swimming in the April 2015 issue of Aquatics International and learn more about SOAP (Strategies Overcoming Aquatic Phobia) Program and Jeff Krieger (the organization’s founder and director).

Source: Aquatics International Magazine

Drowning in Silence

Click this link to a VERY interesting video.


A Minneapolis-St. Paul television station, FOX 9 News partnered with Foss Swim Schools to do a test to see if parents near a pool would notice a child drowning.

We have the wrong impression of what drowning is like. There is no loud splashing or calls for help – as drowning is often portrayed in mainstream media. But it only takes a couple of minutes for a child to loose buoyancy, slip under the water and drown or suffer oxygen depravation.

Those are a couple of silent minutes and take place more often than anyone would think. In fact in the twin cities area where this test was performed, 4 children drowned in 4 months – in plain sight.

As you watch this video, note that – even though they feel they are close enough to act in time – most parents at poolside aren’t even watching the water. These parents are incorrectly assuming that they will hear something that will signal danger. The video notes that the best lifeguard would probably be one that is deaf since this person would not depend on sound as an emergency alert.

You’ll probably watch this video more than once because there is lots of information packed into it – from the importance of our nose in keeping the buoyancy needed not to drown to examples of how quickly a drowning event can take place and how long even children in the pool close by take to notice something is wrong.

This video is sobering. A young man that had a near drowning experience and his father share how importance of gaining a better understanding of what drowning really is. Real footage of a child losing his struggle to stay above the water is shared.

Swim Schools are a perfect conduit for this information, for sharing this video, for posting the REAL warning signs of drowning and maybe even for performing this test for yourselves and your school’s parents.