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!