How time flies!

Wow! Somehow a year has flown and I have severely neglected this site. Graduate school, marriage and life have absorbed my energy, and I have been working on other projects instead of cultivating this page.

SO ..that being said, I have a new idea to include in this blog. So much of my time is spent hunkered down reading endless research studies in multiple fields that directly and indirectly contribute to the advancement of our industry. I have HUNDREDS of studies saved in my laptop (because I know someday I will need that ONE! )

I figured instead of collecting virtual dust in my hard drive, I would share them with you. I designed this blog as a way to connect, network and educate all people interested in aquatics, but more importantly, to provide greater scientific proof to what we do.

So I will start posting studies every once in awhile with the sole purpose of simply sharing information.

So here you go:


I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Please let me know if you have a particular field of interest that you’d like to see. I’m sure I have something on it 🙂

Float on!

Angela W.


The Suit & Tie Stereotype

I write this blog with a sense of pride, awe, amazement a little bit of anger, and frankly, arrogance. I have been an aquatics professional for 10 years, and in that span, the biggest obstacle I overcome is peoples’ perception of what exactly an aquatics professional is.

My heart, love, drive and soul belongs in the “learn to swim” industry. It’s teaching little kids the basics of swimming. It’s watching a two year old overcome fear of submersion. It’s watching that three year old swim 25 yards for the first time unassisted and see the pride on their faces. It’s the confidence in the faces of the parents as they return from vacation, relaying stories of their children exhibiting confidence and competency in foreign aquatic environments to the envy and disbelief of onlookers.

I’ve been ‘in the trenches” for a very long time, and I still love every minute of it. A comforting thought is that there are hundreds of equally passionate people all over the country doing the same thing, not for the money, the glory or fame, but because we all have one very fundamental passion. That drowning is preventable. That we have the ability to teach your child a skill that will save their life. Additionally, I am a huge supporter of other activities such as ballet, gymnastics, baseball, but let’s be honest…. is learning how to do a hand-stand gonna save your kids life??? I don’t think so, so perhaps my passion isn’t misguided in the belief that ALL children need to learn how to swim. Even the kids in landlocked states. Sure, you are miles from the ocean or a lake, but do you know tha t hundreds of children die annually from drowning in buckets of water, toilets, hot-tubs, hotel pools, high school pools, rec centers, drainage ditches, etc.

That said, many people often present surprise upon learing of my occupation. The long-standing myth that swim teachers are spaced out college kids is perhaps a bit true on the smallest of scales, but if you investigate the people who have dedicated their lives to aquatics, you will not find a more passionate, educated, driven, creative and supportive groups of people. EVER.

I stress the term educated. Many swim school owners, aquatic facility managers, swim coaches, pool operators and other professionals need to have a solid understanding of the most diverse collection of subjects. For example, to properly maintain a pool’s water clarity, one must have a very solid knowledge of geometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, engineering and mathematics. People truly have no understanding of what goes into it. For those people who own swim schools and teach, the knowledge and continuing education rivals that of most respected professions ( doctor, lawyer). We have to run a business, know HR policies, manage people, run the pool chemicals, and need to have a strong background in the latest in teaching curriculum, which involves elements of child psychology, kinesiotherapy, child development, neuropsychology, motor learning and control, physical education, teaching/ pedagogy, physical therapy, physical education, biology, exercise physiology, anthropology, sports history, and other areas of study.

In fact, the inspiration for this blog came after I did a series of Google searches, which lead to YouTube searches and then looking at websites, which then sent me down a path of websites, emails and phone calls, looking into a topic related to drowning. Who knew that a swim instructor can benefit from areas of pediatric kinesiotherapy, neurobiology and exercise physiology. Just yesterday I was contacting a hyperbaric therapy center, as hyperbaric therapy is proven to help victims of near drownings regain neuromotor skills. Many aquatics professionals are Ph.D’s, medical doctors, lawyers and MBA’s.

One of the most well respected organizations, the American Red Cross, has their Scientific Advisory Council for First Aid, Aquatics, Safety and preparedness. Click here for a list of the people involved, their education, experience and current roles in the Council.

Aquatics people, whether they be swim instructors, pool operators, swim school owners, lifeguards, or aquatic consultants, all share a common goal in life, and that is to save lives and promote healthier lives through aquatics. While we may be running around in shorts, bathing suits and flip-flops, realize that many of us are “professionals”. We just wear a different “suit and tie” to work everyday!

Float On!

VGB Act Recall?

From Ms. Judith Sperling at CPRS I simply cut and pasted this email. Please take action.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has proposed revocation of its interpretation of what constitutes an “unblockable drain” pursuant to the Virgina Graeme Baker Act. In April 2010 the CPSC issued a final regulation stating that all drains in public pools and spas which were smaller than 18″ x 23″ were required to be equipped with covers to render them unblockable. Under this regulation, if a drain was unblockable, a pool or spa was not required to be equipped with a secondary anti-entrapment system (i.e. safety vacuum release system, gravity drainage system, suction-limiting vent system, automatic pump shut-off, drain disablement system, or any other system deemed by the Commission to be effective.)

The CPSC Commissioners will meet this Wednesday to vote on a proposal whereby drain covers would no longer be deemed effective in making the drain an unblockable drain. The proposal being voted on by the CPSC means that if your pool or spa has a blockable drain it MUST have one of the secondary anti-entrapment systems noted above- even if you have equipped the drain with a drain cover. Note, you will in no way be penalized for having a cover, but a cover is no longer enough. If you have one of the systems noted above then that meets the compliance requirements.

Conversation with CPSC staff revealed that this initiative is being driven by a particular commissioner on the CPSC and that indications are that the votes are there to make the change. If you wish to submit comments on the proposed changes before Wednesday, September 21st at 9am, please send correspondence to the following individuals.

Troy Whitfield, Lead Compliance Officer
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814

Cheryl Falvey, General Counsel
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814

Ken Hinson, Executive Director
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814
Shown below is a list of the CPSC commissioners along with the e-mail addresses of their aides:
Inez Tenenbaum, Chairman

Robert Alder, Commissioner

Thomas Moore, Commissioner

Nancy Nord, Commissioner

Hon. Anne Northup, Commissioner

The Worlds Largest Swimming Lesson

 More than 10,000 children on 4 continents, will kick, float and dive their way into the record books as they participate in The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson™ (WLSL).  On Tuesday, June 14th, 2011, waterparks, pools and other aquatic facilities around the globe will host local WLSL lessons simultaneously at 8 am (11 am ET) in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record, as a way to build awareness about the vital importance of teaching children to swim, a key component in drowning prevention.

The event culminates National Drowning Prevention Awareness Month – a month long initiative that takes place in May to support ongoing public education on water safety.  Hundreds of aquatic facilities, from Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon near Orlando, Florida, to swim schools in San Diego, Ca, and far reaching as Zambia, Lebanon, Dubai, and the USAG Humphreys in South Korea are participating in the program to build awareness about the vital importance of teaching children to swim to help prevent drowning.

 The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson™ event is presented by a coalition of the nation’s leading water safety and training organizations, including:


The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals

The National Aquatic Safety Company

The National Recreation and Park Association

The United States Swim School Association 

 The Swim for Life Foundation

The United States Swim School Association

The World Waterpark Association

Starfish Aquatics Institute

Gold Medalists Rowdy Gaines and Janet Evans are championing the WLSL effort to help convey that drowning can be prevented through awareness and training “I’m thrilled to be working with WLSL to help spread the word that Swimming Lessons Save Lives™,” said Gaines. 

It’s tragic that drowning is the second leading cause of unintended, injury related death of children ages 1-14 in the US – with more than one in four fatal drowning victims being children 14 and younger. And, research shows if a child doesn’t learn to swim before the 3rd grade, they likely never will. So, we, as aquatics professionals,  have a limited window of opportunity to make the biggest impact. 

Summer is right around the corner, and aquatic professionals encourage everyone to have fun in the water this summer, and we want to also stress constant adult supervision, know CPR, and children should learn to swim.

Remember, being safe in and around the water requires more than just swimming lessons. But, learning to swim and the exposure to the water safety skills and messages that swimming lessons offer provides a lifelong foundation for drowning prevention.

Safe Swimming!

Swimming Related Fun Facts

  • An hour of vigorous swimming will burn up to 650 calories. It burns off more calories than walking or biking.
  • Swimming strengthens the heart and lungs
  • Swimming works out all of the body’s major muscles  
  • Swimming help reduce stress
  • Water’s buoyancy make swimming the ideal exercise for physical therapy and rehabilitation or for anyone seeking a low-impact exercise.
  • Swimming is a great cardiovascular exercise because you are moving against the water’s resistance, which is over ten times that of the air
  • Over 50% of world-class swimmers suffer from shoulder pain.
  • At the second modern Olympic Games contested in Paris in 1900, the most unusual event to be held was underwater swimming. It was decided prior to the competition that two points would be awarded for each metre swum underwater. In addition, one point was added to the scoring of each individual for every second he stayed below the surface. Much to the delight of the locals, Frenchman Charles de Venderville won the event swimming 60 metres and staying submerged for 1min 8.4sec. Denmark’s Peder Lykkeberg stayed underwater for a longer period, one and a half minutes, but only managed to travel 28.5 metres. This was the first and only time underwater swimming was held at the Olympic Games.
  • Egyptians made a picture or symbol for swimming as far back as 2500

Flip the Script: How Would Kids Compare Their Parents?

Much like a bartender listens to their patrons complaints at the bar, as a swim instructor, I typically overhear my parents talking among each other about the typical issues: teething, developmental milestones, getting into a good preschool, etc.  My experience tells me that at some point during these pleasant exchanges, the conversations always take a slightly “competitive” tone, and parents ( mostly mothers) begin sharing the extensive list of their childs accomplishments, awards, activities and milestones.It is not uncommon to hear this type of conversation on the deck:

“Oh, I would love to meet for lunch, but we are so busy, we have ballet, music, swim, gym and art class. Maybe we can squeeze it in between spanish class and yoga on Friday?” ( Her daughter is 2 years old) “Oh , Friday we have baseball in the afternoon, and  a play- group in morning, and we might get in a karate class after we finish the French homework.”

When did parenting become the most competitive sport in the world? I remember the day when going to the playground, soccer field or swimming pool was a great time to see your friends, and a time for the parents to reconnect. Today, parents congregate and compare what preschool their kids are in, who’s infant walked the earliest, whose child is the superstar in their class, or who is generally the GREATEST CHILD EVER.  Todays competitive parents shuttle their children between sports, music, art, language classes and any other extra curricular activity that could get their child that “edge”. What is that?

Imagine a world where the children engaged in the same type catty banter on the playground. Can you see 4 year old Susie, 5 year old Matt, and 4 year old Beth sitting on the swing set, engaged in this conversation:

 Beth: ” So, guess what! My mom finally got that job she’s been wanting. She is so happy to be returning to work.”  

Susie: “Really?  You mother doesn’t already have a job? My mother has a full time career. She works as the Vice President of Sales, AND still makes time to take me to all my activities.” “

Beth: “Well, my mom hasn’t been in the work force much, so she is happy to go back and is hoping to work her way back up”

Susie: ” Goodness, well, with only a Bachelors degree, what can she expect? My mommy has two degrees, a BA and an MBA. What degree does your mommy have, Matt?

Matt: “My mommy doesn’t have a degree, she stays at home to take care of me”

Beth: “Really, that’s all she does? Why doesn’t she go and volunteer somewhere,or help out in your classroom. MY mommy was the class helper for 2 years. She made everyone’s costumes and helped with all the bake-sales”

Susie: ” Yes, Matt, my mommy is the HEAD of the PTA, as well as PRESIDENT of the Parents for Kids organization. Really, how can your mother just take care of you? Doesn’t she want something better for herself?

Matt: ” I think my mommy really likes being just a mommy. My daddy takes care of us too”

Beth: ” Oh yes, my daddy is so great. He is my softball coach. He was named Coach of the Year. He also owns a big company, and makes lots of money. Susie, what does your daddy do?”

Susie: ” My daddy not only owns his company too, he coaches too. He coaches my soccer team, AND my brothers team. They are the best team in the league. My daddy says it’s because all the kids come from good schools. That’s why we go to Exeter Academy. Where do you go to school, Matt”

Matt: ” I just go to Sunflower Preschool. I really like it there. We learn reading, and writing and sing songs”

Susie: ” What! You don’t learn French, or learn to play the piano, or look at Van Gogh paintings? Really, Matt, don’t you think you should speak to your parents about the importance of a good education.  Our school is so fantastic, it’s really helping us get a head start on life”

 Peter N. Stearns, a social historian at George Mason University, and the author of “Anxious Parents: A History of Modern Childrearing in America”  said it quite eloquently; “In our society now, a child’s success in school has become emblematic of your success as a parent.”

Why do parents obsess over their children’s success? Is it good for the child, or the parent. Isn’t the first priority to raise responsible, independent children? And where is the breaking point where children should simply allowed to be kids, complete with their own personal timelines.

At the pool, I see highly competitive parents often lose sight of what is really important: their childs happiness and enjoyment of the activity. Countless times I have shared in a small but significant accomplishment with my student, only to have the parent either dismiss it, or critique it. Conversely, many parents feel they can teach better than their childs instructor, and attempt to coach their child during the lesson,  often with incorrect information or  inappropriate skills. The frequent corrections, critiques and interruptions are not only disrespectful of the class, the instructor and the overall class environment, but can lead to a student becoming  overwhelmed and unhappy.  Spending energy on comparing your childs rate of progression to that of children of the same age is simply unfair to both the instructor and the student.

With respect to swim lessons,at the end of the day, it is the professionals  who know the most about the lesson and your childs capabilities, and they will often know what is best for the children in their care. They will have a better idea of their strengths, weaknesses and limitations.   Simply sitting and observing lessons  can be frustrating for a competitive parent who has the desire for their two year old to swim like Michael Phelps in 8 weeks.

Do you think you are a competitive parent? Ask yourself this: Do I find myself succumbing to the pressure of involving my child in numerous activities for the sake of their emotional, cognitive or social development? Do you find yourself contributing to the conversations where comparisons are made? ( Well, my daughter started walking at 6 months old…when did your daughter start walking”) Do you concentrate on what they can’t do, instead of what they can? Do you pretend to be the professional or the parent? Do you try to do the jobs of your child’s teachers and coaches or do you simply play the role of a caring parent that focuses on the important aspects of life?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of your child’s accomplishments, however, avoid the comparison game. It’s always best to remember that every child develops differently and at different rates. If you find that you are a competitive parent, work on ways to curb the habit, encourage your children’s uniqueness, and work to help other parents avoid the same trap.

What is the Virginia Graeme-Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act?

Who was Virginia Graeme-Baker? The seven- year- old daughter of James Baker, son of  former Secretary of State James Baker III. In early summer of 2002, Graeme become stuck in a faulty spa drain.  The force of the suction was so great, it took two men to pull Graeme free. After her death, her mother Kathy Baker joined forced with Safe Kids USA and lobbied Congress in support for new anti-entrapment drain covers. Supported by US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz of Florida, the statute was signed into law in December of 2007. 

When did this law sign into effect? On December 19th, 2007

Who enforces this law? The Consumer Product Safety Commision. To carry out the requirements of the VGB act, the CPSC launched Pool Safely: Simple Steps Saves Lives,an national campaign to raise public awareness of entrapment prevention and drowning.

By December 2008, all pool and spa drain covers must be in compliance with ANSI/ASME A112.19.8-2007 standards. A complete list of drain cover manufactures can be found here. 

On March 1st, 2010, the CPSC decided on the implementation, administration and enforcement of the act.

What is this law intended to do?

  • Enhance the safety of public and private pools and spas.
  • Reduce the number of suction entrapment injuries or deaths.
  • Reduce child drownings in pool & spas
  • Encourage multiple safety steps
  • Educate the public on the importance of constant supervision of children in and around water.

How does this act affect you? The VGB Act applies to all public pools,including hotel pools, community pools, apartment buildings, condominium complexes and multi-family residentail complexes.

It also applies to pools and spas of health clubs, resorts and government pool facilities. It does not cover water fountains, therapy pools or baptismal pools.

The next time you visit a hotel resort, the local gym or the pool at your friends apartment complex, don’t hesitate to find out whether the pool has been brought up to VGB compliance. A few moments of prevention can save a lifetime of heartache.