NFL Player Teams Up With Kids to Learn to Swim

Here’s why water safety should be a top priority this summer: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is a leading cause of death in children and adults alike. In fact, drowning is the 2nd leading cause of unintentional death in kids ages 5 to 14.

If you don’t know how to swim, that’s a scary statistic. But it’s important to be honest about your swim skills when you’re around water. Honesty could be a lifesaver.

There’s no shame in not knowing how to swim, and it’s never too late to learn. That’s the message Ito Smith, an NFL running back, is helping us share.



Why did Ito want to take swim lessons? If you ask him, he wanted to keep a promise to his grandma. He’ll also talk about not missing out on big experiences because of his swim skills—things like going on vacation and his dream of swimming with dolphins.

But more than just missing out on experiences, Ito wanted to know he had the skills necessary to be safe in and around water. And isn’t that why most people want to learn how to swim?


In their swim lessons, a trained YMCA instructor helped Ito and his classmates learn important skills for drowning prevention.

Skills are broken down into 3 stages:

  • Get comfortable. Bob and go under water, float on your front and back for 10 seconds, glide to the wall for 5 feet, etc.
  • Learn how to move. Go under water to look at an object at the bottom of the pool, glide to the wall for 10 feet, float on front and back for 20 seconds, tread water for 10 seconds, etc.
  • Build stamina. Retrieve an object in chest-deep water, swim on your front and back for 15 yards, tread water for 1 minute, etc.

By taking swim lessons, Ito showed his classmates and his community that he wasn’t ashamed to admit he didn’t know how to swim. He was honest and open, and even excited to get in the water and learn life-saving skills. And, in the process, we know he had a lot of fun.

The whole class chatted like friends. Ito paid attention to each child’s one-on-one efforts in the pool, commenting on their form and telling them how good they were doing. He even gave his goggles to a classmate in need.

Ito raced the kids after lessons and proudly signed football gear at graduation. There’s no doubt these kids will always remember learning how to swim with an NFL star.


So, what’s next for this NFL running back? Ito plans to continue his swimming education. And, if we had to guess, he’s probably planning a trip to (safely) swim with the dolphins.

We hope Ito’s journey teaches people of all ages that it’s never too late to tackle the challenge of learning how to swim.

Anyone can learn how to swim at any age. If you are interested in swim lessons in the metro Atlanta area, consider registering for a class at the YMCA. There are classes available for all ages and skill levels.