YMCA Firsts: First Indoor Community Pools, Filtration Systems and Formal Group Swimming Lessons

By: Billy Adams
| Published 08/09/2021


THE WOODLANDS, TX - Even though the summer activities have ended as we begin a new school year, access to swim lessons, lap swimming and water exercise classes are available year-round at The Woodlands Family YMCA. It is a fun and effective form of exercise. Did you know that it was at a YMCA that public pools, pool filtration systems and formal group swimming lessons were introduced to the community? Because pools are so prevalent today, we forget that many years ago access to things like clean community pools was something unheard of. The YMCA is always looking for ways to help address issues in their communities. From new sports to new ways to keep the community safe, the YMCA is always there.

Click here to view video on The Woodlands YMCA Swimming Programs

The First Community Swimming Pool

In 1885, Brooklyn Central YMCA in Brooklyn, New York introduced the first public indoor swimming pool to the community. Back then, swimming pools were called “swimming baths”. Their new pool measured 14’ by 45’ and was only 5 foot deep. The following year, the Detroit YMCA opened their own pool. It was reported that in 1885 17 new YMCA pools were introduced. The new YMCA concept was well received by the community and by 1900, over 100 YMCAs had their own “swimming baths”.

The First Indoor Pool Filtration System

An issue that YMCA had to deal with was the cleanliness of the new indoor pools. With so many people using the pools and with the YMCA having no way to filter the out the dirt, the pools became dirty very quickly. The wheels of YMCA ingenuity started turning and by the early 1900s YMCA in Salem, Massachusetts introduced the first indoor pool filtration system. Addressing this issue was important since the pool water was considered a danger by medical professionals.

Combating Drowning Deaths with Formal Group Swimming Lessons

YMCA is known for pioneering swimming and water safety. They are always up for a challenge in protecting and improving the community and the next issue they faced back in the early 1900s was even more important than the pool itself. One of the big issues that YMCAs around the country had to face was an increase in deaths due to drowning. In 1909, George Corson developed the first formal group swimming lessons at the YMCA in the Detroit, Michigan. His program was adopted by other YMCAs around the country. YMCA started an initiative “to teach every man and boy in North America” to swim. Swimming lesson eventually was extended to women and girls as well.

YMCA has the top swim programs in the country

Swimming/Drowning Facts

- Drowning is 100% Preventable
- 60% of kids who drown are within 10 feet of safety
- The Greater Houston YMCAs have 1 Million Swim Students Every Year
- 88% of Boating victims were not wearing life jackets
- According to the Center for Disease Control, formal swim lessons can reduce drowning by 88%

“The YMCA has long been America’s favorite swimming instructor. In Y swim lessons, students learn water safety skills, build stroke technique, develop skills that prevent chronic disease, decrease high blood pressure, increase cognitive well-being and foster a lifetime of physical activity.”

About the local Woodlands area YMCAs

The YMCA has been a vital part of South Montgomery County for over thirty five years. The YMCA is the leading provider of family-oriented fitness and recreation in this community and serves as a hub of community activity, providing physical, recreational, social and educational programs and services for all ages. The YMCA serves over 40,000 people annually. In a time of increasing family fragmentation, the YMCA is committed to enriching family life and strengthening the quality of life for those in our service area.

The YMCA's programs are 'mission-driven' and give full meaning to helping people grow in spirit, mind and body. The Y is a cause-driven organization that is for youth development, for healthy living and for social responsibility. A strong community can only be achieved when we invest in our kids, our health and our neighbors.

The Y is community-centered listening and responding to our communities throughout the Greater Houston Area. The Y brings people together. All ages and backgrounds connect to bridge the gaps in community needs. The Y nurtures potential. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. The Y has local presence and global reach. We mobilize local communities to effect lasting, meaningful change.

Click here to learn more about swimming programs at YMCA

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