Army-Navy swim lessons anyone?

You’ve heard of the big Army/Navy game; the 111-year tradition the boys from West Point and Annapolis played at the Link on Saturday.

But how about the Army/Navy swim meet?

 

It’s understandable if you missed that one – it’s never been held on neutral territory until Philadelphia’s Salvation Army Kroc Center and La Salle University played host late last week.

But best of all, once the cadets got through playing rivals, they jumped back in the pool at the Kroc’s indoor water park Friday and helped the center’s coach Jim Ellis conduct a free swim clinic for area children.

For Ellis, who has devoted his life to inner city swimming, it’s not just about sports or summer fun.

“Ten people drown every day and people of color drown 3.1 times higher than anyone else,” Ellis said. “Bottom line is we’re here to save someone’s life.”

Competitive swimmers from the Army and Navy teams gave one-on-one attention to those in attendance while parents watched from outside the pool.

Germantown resident Jessica Becker brought her two children, five-year-old Caleb and 19-month-old Maggie, to the clinic.

“This is an amazing place,” she said. “It’s three minutes from my house, and to be able to support something so local is great. There has never been a neighborhood pool close to us or easily accessible like this.”

Parents were not the only ones excited. The Army and Navy swimmers were all smiles as they worked with the children.

“It’s really inspiring what they’re doing here with the kids,” 20-year-old Army Cadet Brody Bickle said.

Another mother from Germantown, Taheerah Abdur-Rahim laughed as her five-year-old son Quran paddled on a kick board with two Navy swimmers by his side.

“He’s having such a good time,” Abdur-Rahim said.

Becker’s son Caleb had a little more difficulty when it came to getting in the water. Seeing a good amount of girls in their swimsuits was a bit overwhelming for the five-year-old.

“It took me about a half hour to get him in the water because of all the gorgeous girls,” Becker said.

But it was worth it. Becker believed that her children were learning a lot more than just swimming at the clinic that day.

“I think swimming builds confidence,” she said. “Plus these are college kids teaching my kids to swim, and we need that kind of impression in our neighborhood.”

The Kroc Center at 4200 Wissahickon Avenue offers a full array of recreational and educational activities to all members of the community. For information check out their website SalvationArmyKrocCenter.org.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.