He’s just 22, and he has a new job with big responsibilities. He’s set himself a big goal to match.

Jeremy Webb is the new aquatics director at the YMCA of the Palm Beaches in Florida. He’s very mindful of the drowning statistics in Palm Beach County – 44 accidental drownings in 2013, with 23 percent occurring in swimming pools.

He intends to change that.

He’s not alone in his determination to lower drowning statistics. Other YMCAs also have made progress in that direction. For example, YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities in Minnesota (“Land of 10,000 Lakes”) teamed up with drowning prevention and water safety groups to boost awareness and swim skills in the community. And the Pierson Road branch of the Flint, Mich. YMCA came up with creative ways to stretch its limited budget and teach local kids to swim.

Speaking of being creative, Jeremy Webb wants to teach 10,000 Floridians to swim this year using a tried-and-true method. He takes it slow, gradually building students’ confidence and handing out tons of encouragement and prizes – little toys, wristbands – along the way. It’s not how expensive they are, but the accomplishments they represent. “It’s all about baby steps with a lot of rewards,” Webb told the Palm Beach Post. “When they get into the pool, I make it seem like it’s the biggest thing in the world.” Read More