In fact, more than half of all drowning for age 6-14 occur in open water situations. Why? Because it takes more than an underwater swim to get out of harms ways in a river or lake where you have waves, moving water, and more challenging conditions. So isn't logical to keep your child in swimming lessons and make sure your son or daughter becomes an advanced swimmer in the off season so he or she will be safer in the summer when their around the water more?
I have three boys. Jeb 7, Nolan 2, and Rex 4 months. Jeb swims, plays soccer, plays basketball, and does some karate. Jeb will probably try baseball this spring. Swimming is just a seasonal sport now for Jeb, because he can swim all four competitive strokes, plus sidestroke, elementary backstroke, treads water, and could swim for a half hour non stop if he needed to. So Jeb only needs to swim 3 months a year, similar to the other sports he is doing, and that's appropriate for a youth sport. But before he could swim as well as he does now, I had him in the pool at least 6 months out of the year if not more, depending on where he was with our swimming benchmarks. I am now doing the same for Nolan and soon Rex.
At Swim Lessons University, I also developed a water safety and proficiency system that is color-coded. Each color has a safety component that communicates to parents, lifeguards, and swimming instructors a child's general swimming ability.
- RED: If the child's skills put him in our Swim 100 level course, the bracelet is red. Red stands for danger. The child should always be within arms reach of an adult. I watched a 2 year old this summer get in and out of a pool where the water was well over his head, no life jacket, while the father played carelessly with his other 4 children, barely even watching the 2 year old. A tragedy waiting to happen
- YELLOW: If the child skills put him in our Swim Strokes 200 level course, the bracelet is yellow. Yellow stands for caution. Even though this child can swim about 15 feet without assistance, constant eagle eye supervision is still 100% needed. I watched a mother this summer talk on her cell phone as her child (who I would classify as yellow) played in water well over her head and struggled to get back to the side of the pool several times. The mother never noticed because she was busy talking on the phone. Another tragedy waiting to happen.
- GREEN: If the child skills put him in our Advanced Swim Strokes 300 level course, then the bracelet is green meaning go. This child should still be under constant supervision, but is a competent swimmer. At the lake, I'd still have a life jacket on him.
- BLUE: When a child graduates, from our program they get a blue IM Swimmer bracelet. They are now at peace in the water and an exceptionally strong swimmer, capable of swimming 100 yards without stopping. Nevertheless, this child should never swim without the supervision of a lifeguard or adult. Why? Sometimes it doesn't matter how well you can swim, you can still drown.
The recent tragic death of Fran Crippen, an elite United States open water swimmer, should act as a stark reminder for all that there is no such thing as drown proofing your children, as even elite athletes who are among the strongest swimmers in the world can drown. As posted in the Samual Morris Foundation blog, this death also demonstrates the importance of being aware of the conditions in which you and your children are swimming and the need for constant supervision of people in the water. The conditions in which you are swimming can change your capabilities to maintain your safety and those of your children.
I like to think that no child shouldn't ever be in a situation where he has to save himself. But we all make mistakes and there are lapses or errors in supervision. According to Tom Griffiths, the inventor of the Note'n float program, he says "with the iphones and ipads and texting, supervision is getting worse, not better." Tom's program is simple: if a child can't swim, he should be wearing a coast guard approved lifejacket. I can't agree more.
Safer 3 from the Swim for Life FoundationAccording to Johnny Johnson of the Swim for Life Foundation, there is no single answer to drowning prevention, but rather, we must bring together as many safety elements as possible under a unifying message. I agree and personally endorse the Safer 3 model.
Notice that the model is not called the Safe 3, but the Safer 3. The "r" in safer stands for risk. Where there is water there is risk. The risk can never be eliminated, but it can be reduced and managed. So what does the Safer 3 stand for? Safer Water, Safer Kids, Safer Response.
- Safer Water is to make sure there is proper fencing around pools, which includes four sided fencing, self-closing gates, self-latching, alarms, motion detections devices, safety equipment, and additional layers of protection.
- Safer Kids is learning to swim, constant adult supervision, which includes always having a designated "water watcher." No child should be considered water safe, because this can cause a false sense of security and lack of supervision. By learning to swim children are safer, never 100% safe.
- Safer Response is to know CPR, first aid, and rescue techniques. Have an emergency action plan and phone by the pool at all times. Post emergency numbers such as 911.