Freestyle is swimming but swimming is not freestyle.
If you were a boat captain with a group on your boat and a storm came up and the boat tipped over, you'd be thinking, "How many of these people can swim?" Who do I need to worry about most and rescue first?" You would not be thinking, "How many can do freestyle to shore?" You would not be thinking, "Who has their rhythmic breathing down?" You'd want to know, "Who can remain in control?" The ones who can't are the ones you'd go after first.
This is the basic situation the swimming industries need most to prepare for today: people finding themselves unexpectedly in deep water. The skills people need most are:
- to float
- to prevent panic.
This should be the goal of swimming instruction for the rest of the 21st Century: get everyone
trained in these two skills. The inevitable
result is that people will be able to propel themselves from here to there in some fashion. Does it matter how efficiently? Not at all.
Then, if people want to swim for exercise or swim efficiently, they can learn strokes. In other words, people should be taught freestyle after
they have learned to swim. And they will want to learn and they'll succeed because they feel safe. Knowing how to swim must first mean being able to take care of yourself in deep water. Knowing how to do freestyle is a more advanced stage of knowing how to swim. It can't be learned if people don't know water. First they must know how their body and the water work together.
We should have swimming lessons, stroke lessons, racing lessons, pool safety lessons, lifeguarding lessons, lake safety lessons, boating lessons, ocean safety lessons, ocean play lessons, etc. Each of these programs could be taught at every pool and body of water. We could set the bar at "knowing how to swim" means reliability in deep water; and being a good swimmer is mastery of all of these.
Let's teach people to swim so we can end drowning. Once they can swim, then let's teach them freestyle and the other strokes.