There seems to be a trend across the country at the moment for parents to pull their children out of swimming lessons once they feel the children have mastered the basics. The basics, being able to swim twenty five or sometimes fifteen metres in the beginnings of either front crawl or back crawl. This is causing headaches on two fronts for swim schools, one from a business point of view and secondly from a water safety point of view.
Like all business, swim schools have to adapt to demand and currently the market for teaching competitive strokes and all the extras that goes with them is dwindling. The Saturday classes that I take used to offer the whole range of stages from STAnley to Shark, but we now have spread the STAnley series over the majority of the morning and left the last lesson for the Goldfish series and up. The numbers attending the sessions are still healthy, thus making Saturdays viable from a monetary aspect, but from a teaching point of view, it eventually could be hugely problematic. Teaching roughly two levels of STAnley per class, makes for straight forward teaching and nothing too challenging, but having to mix up Goldfish, Angelfish and Shark series together in one lesson? I would rather pass! Luckily my teaching assistant has her level 1, so can take the Goldfish and from September, I won’t have any Shark levels; so that leaves me with the Angelfish. It just means those swimmers will travel through the majority of the lessons (they are graded on ability) very quickly and then spend an extremely long time in the last lesson if they decide to stay on. I just hope they don’t get despondent.
From a swimming point of view, to only get up to a STAnley 6 / 7 and then to leave is not only a shame, but a dangerous decision to make. These swimmers can only just about manage thirty metres maximum (two lengths) of a barely decent stroke. Admittedly, I do prefer it if my swimmers look fairly comfortable when swimming and front crawl is with arms recovering over the water rather than in it, so they should pass these stages with no concerns. But thirty metres of a swimming pool is nothing and the relatively safe confines of the swimming pool is nothing compared to the dangers that accidently falling into open water can bring. Firstly, the swimmer will be leaving without knowledge of open water, such as rip tides and what to do. They won’t know how to rescue themselves or anyone else comfortably and safely. Ask yourself, what would you do to save yourself or anyone else? Do you really know the answer? Every year, you hear of someone drowning because they have gone into dangerous open water to save their dog and yet the dog has survived. As much as you love your pet (I am a dog owner and Amber does get treated like my fourth child), you cannot enter that water. Never enter open water, unless you really know what you are doing.
What would your child do, if they accidentally got into a rip tide? They would probably try and swim back to shore and even for a strong swimmer this would be an impossible feat (a typical rip tide will flow at 0.5 metres a second, but can have a top speed of 2.5 metres per second). Their thirty metres swimming distance will mean absolutely nothing in a rip tide, their lack of stamina will quickly peter out and they will very quickly be dragged out to sea. Do they have an awareness of hypothermia (another dangerous aspect of open water swimming) or the possible hidden dangers that quarries, lakes, rivers all contain? If the answer is no, then they are not ready to give up swimming lesson by a long shot.
Until you are a competent swimmer, swimming teacher or knowledgeable on UK’s waters, you do not fully appreciate the dangers that swimming and water has to offer and that is why drowning is such a huge problem in the UK. With this in mind, please reconsider pulling your child out of swimming lessons too early.