Swim Schools are Vital to the Community

The United Nations recently declared July 25th at World Drowning Prevention Day, encouraging all countries to take action to prevent drowning, which has caused over 2.5 million deaths in the past ten years. The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Report from 2014 on Drowning stated that “every hour of every day more than 40 people lose their lives to drowning.” Drowning is a public health crisis.

Strategies to prevent drowning have been identified by many organizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) shared in their 2019 updated position statement on Drowning Prevention that “five major interventions are evidence based: 4-sided pool fencing, life jackets, swim lessons, supervision, and lifeguards.”

As identified by the AAP, learning to swim is an important layer of drowning prevention. Learning to swim has been shown to reduce the risk of drowning by 88% if children participate in formal swimming lessons between ages 1 – 4*. With learning to swim being an essential life skill, swim schools play a vital role to their community.

Swim schools offer dedicated services with instructors specifically trained in child development and learn to swim instruction. Many swim schools offer lessons in pools that have been designed specifically for teaching swim to young students. Pool designs include warm water temperatures, pool depths designed specifically for the purpose of swim lessons and facilities with a focus on everyone’s safety.

In addition to the benefits offered for drowning prevention, swim schools provide an opportunity for many other benefits to students and families in the community. Parent and baby participation in infant aquatic programs offer excellent parent bonding opportunities. Small class sizes allow for highly engaging activities in which the learner develops skills through fun, safe interactive programs. Swim lessons also offer a great social opportunity for young children, which for some starting at a young age may be their first group social experience. This social experience can further enhance wellbeing and offer better preparedness for other learning environments. Learning to swim has also been shown to increase cognitive and language development. Young students are exposed to important speech elements and useful concepts like shapes and colors. An as a student continues to work in swim lessons with new words, it can improve their own use of language.

Swimming offers the opportunity to exercise and use all parts of the body. It is an extremely low-impact activity, so its benefits are not just for the young. Swimmers at any age can enjoy stress release and improved quality of sleep. Swimming offers time away from screens and a chance to connect with family and friends, allowing for the development of social skills and meaningful relationships.

With the alarming data around drownings, there is an extreme global need for effective teaching of quality swimming and water safety. Swim schools are an important piece in the puzzle of drowning prevention, making them a vital and essential resource throughout the world and in your own community.

What to Look for When Visiting a Swim School

Learning to swim can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% if children participate in formal swimming lessons between ages 1 – 4*. It can also improve sleep quality, increase cognitive skills development and offer a healthy activity for growing bodies+.

Sounds great, but where do you start? It is important to find a swim school that fits the needs of the student and your family. Here are some things to look for as you search to find that fit.

Look for:

  • developmentally and age appropriate activities and learning
  • positive and fun environment that focuses on the needs of the learner
  • small class sizes for young children and beginners as well as shorter lessons in warm water for young children
  • progressive development with rewards along the way to keep your swimmer motivated and excited to learn, remember learning to swim is a process
  • friendly and helpful staff that is inclusive and strives to meet your family’s needs, one that includes parents in the process
  • safe environment with vigilant supervision by staff with completed background checks, proper use of equipment and water safety training included in lessons
  • well qualified staff with ongoing training
  • clean facility that includes clear, well sanitized water
  • professionalism, including participation in a national association such as the US Swim School Association

Here are some questions you can use to get you started as you visit swim schools in your area:

  1. What is your instructor to child ratio?
  2. How long is each lesson?
  3. How do you determine what level my child should start at?
  4. What tools do you use to keep students motivated and excited to learn?
  5. How often do you review water safety with students and with parents?
  6. What first aid and safety equipment do you have onsite?
  7. Can parents watch the lesson (or if a young child, do the parents participate with the child in the lesson)?
  8. Are all staff over 18 background checked?
  9. How often do instructors receive training? What certifications do instructors hold?
  10. How often is your pool water checked for proper levels to maintain clean water?
  11. What organizations does your swim school participate in?

There are many swim schools that offer year-round lessons, so today is a great day to start your search and get signed up. You can find a list of schools in your area by visiting: https://www.usswimschools.org/find-a-school/

 

*Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine 2014
+Griffith Study 2013

COVID-19 Impact on Private Swim Schools

3-22-2021

It has been quite a year and as we reflect back, the United States Swim School Association took some time to learn from our members the impact this past year has had on their ability to teach swimming.

While about three months was the average time our member swim schools were closed, we still have a handful of schools that remain closed. Those still closed are located in California, Hawaii, Toronto, as well as Arizona, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Florida. Some closures are a result of the location of the pool space used by a member, in other words if the location where they held lessons is not open, they have not been able to resume lessons.

One of the most alarming numbers to come out of our survey is the fact that more than 77,500 kids are no longer getting swim lessons. With about 1/3 of our members completing the survey, the actual total is much higher. It does bring to question, what the future holds for drowning rates across the country. Drowning is already the number one cause of accidental death for children 1 to 4 and a leading cause for older youth.

Why are so many not back at lessons? Over 60 percent of schools are still operating at reduced capacities, meaning less lessons are available. We are also seeing a trend among swim schools trying to rebuild and hire new staff. Staff shortages will make it more challenging to rebuild back up to pre-COVID lesson levels.

Schools have also noticed over this last year a significant increase in newly enrolled swimmers. Over 40 percent are seeing 21 – 40 percent of their enrollments coming from new swimmers and nearly 20 percent are seeing 41 – 60 percent new swimmers. We can speculate that as parents looked to find a safer activity for their children, they learned about the safety measures in place at private swim schools, the CDC statement that the virus has not been spread in chlorinated pools and that the air ventilation rates are some of the best for indoor spaces.

Over this past year private swim schools needed to get creative with almost 15 percent offering shorter lessons, but only about half of them are planning to keep the change in place in the future. This year also found an increase in private lessons with nearly 93% offering private lessons. While more than half made no changes to their private lesson rates, a majority of those that did make a change had to increase their rates. Members also added new programs this past year including family swim, swim team, aqua fitness and home lessons. New technology was also added this year including Zoom meetings, check-in kiosks, an app for parents and SpotTV for lesson viewing outside the building.

There were a number of COVID-19 safety protocols added this year, the most popular right now is all staff wearing cloth masks outside the water, all staff wearing face shields in the water and all customers wearing cloth masks in the building. Staff temperature checks at the start of their shift also remains high on the list along with only allowing one adult in the building with the swimmer. We asked our members if there were any of these protocols they planned on keeping in the future, with the top choices being hand sanitizer used upon entry to the building and staggered start times for classes. There are also almost 23% that plan to continue use of the face shields in the water by instructors.

Consistent with earlier surveys, there continues to be almost ZERO cases of COVID-19 being traced to swim schools. With over 53,500 students, instructors and staff involved in weekly swim lessons there have been only 8 cases or 0.014% traced to a swim school.

Swim school owners are resourceful and passionate small business owners. They are working hard each day to serve their communities and offer the lifesaving skill of swimming. They will continue to learn and work to rebuild into an even better swim school than a year ago and USSSA is here to support them every step of the way.

You can review our full survey report here.

And if you are interested in starting a career in learn to swim, you can find our job board here.

Learning to Swim Deemed Essential in California

We are pleased to announce that drowning prevention classes, including swim lessons have been deemed essential by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

“Drowning prevention classes, including swim lessons with certified instructors, are permitted in indoor and outdoor swimming pools in all tiers, as they are deemed essential.” [1]

This designation will help greatly in the continued mission to prevent drownings in the state of California. Learning to swim, as part of a multilayer drowning prevention plan, is a critical tool as demonstrated by a study conducted in 2009 showing formal swim lessons between the ages of 1 and 4 can help reduce the risk of drowning by 88%.[2]

Each year in California literally hundreds of children suffer drowning incidents, and for every fatal drowning there are five other drowning incidents ending in resuscitation of the drowning victim that then results in brain injury due to hypoxia.

We understand and accept the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic requires the state and local health departments to be vigilant for all of us, to flatten the curve and prevent the continuation of COVID’s hold on the landscape. Leaders and partners in the drowning prevention community, including the California Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health (CCCSH) leadership agree that drowning prevention is just as important and can be done safely, even during this pandemic. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for the one to four-year-old population, and one of the leading causes of unintentional death for the teen and youth population.[3]

As we work together to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we must also continue to carry out public health activities that prevent children from dying or being permanently harmed by preventable unintentional injuries such as drowning. We cannot and should not ignore the importance of drowning prevention as an essential public health need and we applaud leadership at the CADPH for recognizing this and deeming drowning prevention, including swim lessons as essential.

Our plan is to work with our volunteers and experts to continue to educate leadership in other states to follow suit, make drowning prevention, including learning to swim, essential in every state in the country.

USSSA has developed tools and resources to make learning to swim as safe as possible during COVID-19, including:

  • Creation of a uniform manual, USSSA Action Plan 2.1, based on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) protocols to provide guidance for swim schools to open and continue to provide critical water safety and drowning prevention for children while maintaining everyone’s health and safety.
  • Surveys of USSSA member swim schools operating across the country, with our most recent survey showing nearly 44,600 students and staff participating in swim lessons for an average of three months with no COVID-19 transmissions to students in the facility, thus demonstrating that the numerous health and safety measures put in place by swim schools are working.
  • Uncovering important information from industry experts on the ways ventilation for indoor pools are far superior at minimizing virus transmission than most indoor spaces.

 

[1] https://covid19.ca.gov/stay-home-except-for-essential-needs/

[2] Association Between Swimming Lessons and Drowning in Childhood, A Case-Control Study: Ruth Brenner, et al., 2009 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4151293/

[3] https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/campaigns/drowning-prevention/Pages/default.aspx

 

Full Press Release from USSSA: https://www.usswimschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/California-Essentail-12-2020-FINAL.pdf

Learning to Swim is Essential

Learning to swim is a life-or-death skill, essential for every child.  Formal swim lessons between ages 1 and 4 can help reduce the risk of drowning by 88% according to a study conducted in 2015.[1] Drowning is the number one cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 4 and a leading cause for young people up to 14 years of age.[2]  A young child can drown in less than 2 inches of water.[3]

The risk of drowning is a public health risk and childhood established swimming skills are one of the integral drowning prevention strategies identified by national drowning prevention communities and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that ALL children learn to swim as early as age 1. [4] Removing access to water safety and swimming lessons inherently puts children more at risk of drowning.

Furthermore, private indoor swim school businesses that are operating are doing so without a single outbreak of COVID (or any other respiratory pathogen).[5] According to the CDC, a properly maintained swimming pool should inactivate the virus.[6] Indoor swimming pools are required to have a very high ventilation rate to assist in removing the byproducts of the chlorine that is added to the pool water, which means an indoor pool area will have the highest air turn-over and most fresh air of any other space within that building. Additionally reducing air velocity is important in indoor pools to reduce evaporation, however it turns out that reducing air velocity also helps minimize the spread of airborne pathogens.

USSSA member swim schools are following the USSSA COVID Action Plan based on CDC guidelines to even further reduce the risk of COVID transmission while attending lessons at a swim school and working to create the safest environment possible.

This infographic (with photo pre-COVID) explains the facts of drowning and the benefits of learning to swim. Learning to swim is a lifesaving skill, essential to the health and development of children.

   

 

[1] Association Between Swimming Lessons and Drowning in Childhood, A Case-Control Study: Ruth Brenner, et al., 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4151293/

[2] https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/campaigns/drowning-prevention/Pages/default.aspx

[3] https://downloads.aap.org/DOPA/Drowning-Prevention/is_your_baby_crawling_english.pdf

[4] https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/Updated-Recommendations-to-Prevent-Drowning-in-Children.aspx

[5] https://www.usswimschools.org/2020/07/early-data-shows-swim-school-safety-precautions-working/

[6] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/parks-rec/aquatic-venues.html