Sink or swim

Our Position: LT should get rid of the gym swim requirement as it induces more unnecessary stress and anxiety for students.

Staff Editorial

Most LT students have experienced it: the terrible swim caps, the awkward bathing suits, and the nauseating smell of chlorine. Gym swim.

On its own, gym class is a stressor in many students’ lives. Then add in weeks spent floundering in a pool in front of one’s peers and this stress spirals into dread. While swimming is an important life skill, are a few weeks of lessons worth the shame, anxiety, and discomfort that follow?

Gym swim divides classes into swimmers and everyone else. While gym swim can be a fun time for strong swimmers to play pool games and practice their skills, this unit is a nightmare for students who can’t swim. The shame of being taken away from the rest of the class to learn the basics of swimming is unbearable. Moreover, the anxiety of just being in the pool dominates everything else for those few weeks. 

For students who can’t swim, the fear of drowning or being stuck in the pool with no means to get out is petrifying. Just looking at the deep end gets one’s stomach churning. Having to endure this fear and then face it in front of all your peers is humiliating and isolating. There already are enough stressors in school, like big tests and presentations in front of the whole class. Gym class should be a place where students can go to unwind and have fun, not add to the worry. 

Furthermore, there are fears surrounding gym swim that go beyond the swimming aspect. Most students take gym swim during their freshman year: a crucial developmental age when students are even more susceptible to diet culture and self-doubt. Having to wear a bathing suit in front of your peers can be triggering for students and prompt negative self-talk and body dysmorphia. Additionally, the trivial matter of body hair can make female students feel even more ashamed of their bodies and out of place solely due to something completely natural. Overall, the requirement of gym swim only adds to students’ insecurities and exacerbates the toxic body images plaguing student life.

While some may argue that gym swim is an invaluable course that provides students with necessary life skills, the truth is a lot less glamorous. With only a few weeks of lessons, students most likely won’t go from being unable to swim to a Michael Phelps level of expertise. The few basic skills learned may not be worth the fear and anxiety triggered by learning them. It’s time to stop “pushing students off the deep end” just so they can learn a skill that is likely to be forgotten in a few years. 

In general, the gym swim is not a bad idea; however, when it becomes a requirement for all students, that’s when a fun gym unit turns into a source of panic. Gym swim could be a great elective for students who love swimming to have fun and sharpen their skills or for other students to learn how to swim and become more comfortable in the pool. The important thing is that this is the student’s choice. No one should be forced into a situation where they feel unsafe at LT. Getting rid of the gym swim requirement but still offering swim as an elective provides students with an opportunity to grow as a swimmer on their own terms. 

Staff Vote: 18-7