Water safe – we hear this term thrown around during lessons pretty often, and it seems pretty straight forward in regards to it being the goal for our young swimmers to achieve while in lessons, but what exactly does being water safe entail?
The simplest way to consider water safety is to understand that someone who is water safe is able to keep themselves afloat in the water and practice life saving skills that could potentially prevent harm to them and those around them. But how do we get to that point? First and foremost, to be considered water safe, a swimmer must be able to maneuver themselves back to the wall after either jumping or falling into a body of water. This seems redundant, but there’s an idea floating around that being water safe is simply understanding proper etiquette near a pool, and voids the main fact that swimmers have to be able to actually swim to have this coveted, independent title.
If a swimmer is unable to swim across the length of the pool they’re using, they are NOT water safe. All too often, I see parents try to finagle their way out of putting vests or life preservers on their swimmers because they feel that since they’re watching, nothing can go wrong. Lifeguards generally get involved at that point and an argument ensues about how their child is above the need for safety precaution. It’s mind boggling, I know! For a swimmer to be able to swim independently in any body of water, they NEED to be able to swim the full length of that space without support. This generally requires them to understand and be proficient in rolling from their stomach to their back or treading for up to 2 minutes without support.
Finally, having your swimmer understand how to navigate in a space with others is a vital step in being water safe. This includes being able to jump into the pool safely, interact with swimmers while knowing never to hold onto anyone in the water, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, how to act when they see something they’ve learned is unsafe! Teaching swimmers how to act under pressure is a vital, yet often untaught skill during lessons. Showing swimmers how to save a drowning person without entering the pool is one of many ways to ensure water safety to the highest degree.
Water safety as an idea seems pretty straightforward, but understanding the skills involved in ensuring our swimmers have achieved this status takes time, patience and most importantly, commitment to teaching them fully without oversight. Safety is the most important thing we can instill in our children around the pool and creates a foundation for how they can create love and excitement around the water.