Fifty years ago, Dr. Jane Katz was a pioneering member of the U.S. synchronized swimming performance team in the 1964 Olympics, helping to promote the aquatic competition involving nose clips, coordinated moves, and big smiles that eventually became an official Olympic sport in Los Angeles in 1984.
Now Dr. Katz is using her years of experience in the water to rehabilitate veterans.
Katz, who teaches at John Jay College in New York City, developed her own swimming rehabilitation program after she suffered injuries in a 1979 car accident, eventually publishing many books and videos that teach her methods to others. For years, she also has been teaching swimming to NYC policemen and firefighters through her college’s Department of Physical Education and Athletics. And most recently, she decided to expand her WET (water exercise technique) classes to specifically appeal to veterans.
“I have found that many of the vets, regardless of age, have joint pain and as a result they stopped working out…Water is always great for healing,” she told Swimming World. Which is why in WETs for Vets, Dr. Katz engages veterans in exercises designed to help their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
“I don’t think the public has enough of an appreciation for what these vets go through when they return to civilian life,” she said. “It’s a very difficult adjustment, mostly from a psychological standpoint as many suffer from various degrees of post traumatic stress. The WETs for Vets program helps them in several ways. The workouts help relieve stress, and there’s a real camaraderie among the students because they share a common bond that those of us who have not been in combat cannot really understand. ”
Marine Corps veteran Marc MacNaughton told Swimming World that Dr. Katz’s class has been invaluable to him. “As I and others can attest getting in the pool makes coming home from war easier for our military service members, veterans, and their families…The unique program that Dr. Katz has designed has given us increased confidence, family and social connections, and to some, learning how to live with a new physical adaption. It has improved mental health for some of our veterans, and a few have shared with me even recovery from addiction. ”
FINA, the international governing body for swimming and aquatic events, recently presented Dr. Katz with a certificate of merit, which the deserving recipient can add to her many other rewards.