Learning to swim saves lives

Local leisure centre offers subsidized life saving swim classes

Believe it or not, summer is truly just around the corner. And along with the privileges it affords, it also comes certain responsibilities.

“Drowning is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of five and 24,” said SEAPARC Aquatics Programmer Elizabeth Olsen. (The leading cause, according to BC’s Ministry of Health, is motor vehicle crashes.) Living on a seashore town on Vancouver Island adds to our vulnerability. “We’re surrounded by water all the time.”

Knowledge — and its application through skills acquisition — is still one of the best means of empowering the younger members of society. Drowning deaths can be prevented by giving kids the skills that can save their lives.

This is where SEAPARC comes in. They offer Red Cross swim lessons, which are specifically designed to be fun, engaging, and meaningful. These courses, according Olsen, are based on progressive skills building.

“It’s not pass or fail; it’s complete or incomplete,” said Olsen.

Once a skill set is mastered, the student moves on to the next. It’s a subtle difference from the pass/fail approach, in that a student takes as long (or as little) time as they need to establish a base and then move on to the next.

Besides the obvious disaster-prevention benefit of swim lessons, there’s also a list of other life-long advantages. These include fitness benefits, developing confidence, and establishing a lifestyle that includes physical activity. Indeed, Olsen finds families that swim together connect in a very wholesome way.

A key contributor to their teaching success is directly correlated to SEAPARC’s success in employing and retaining instructors.

Their staff is highly qualified and well trained, and most importantly, extremely skilled in what they do, and extremely connected to why they do it.

“We have an extremely strong team here,” said Olsen. “The staff are staying, they are happy, they’re wanting more hours.”

In aquatics, she explains, it’s a revolving door. The current staff retention with the swimming instructors at SEAPARC is unusual. And, in watching Olsen speak about her team, it’s obvious the instructor team at SEAPARC is a visible source of pride.

“Sometimes I wish I could mic what the instructors are saying … to the parents sitting out there,” said Olsen, proud of the calibre the instructors’ team brings to the pool. “Because when I walk by and I hear the way they are talking to the kids and (see) the engagement” she is delightfully impressed.

Safety begins with knowledge; knowledge dominos into confidence and ability. And that knowledge can be acquired at SEAPARC, for kids as young as four-months-old. In addition, in the classes that mandate adult participation (like the Starfish class), there is also accidental learning by the adults, intentionally incorporated by the Red Cross program.

Water safety is one of the main reasons for taking swimming lessons.

For adults, it’s about recognizing the inherent risks of combining drinking and foolish bravado with water activities.

For parents, it’s about practicing the behaviour you want your children to learn, recognizing the signs of drowning, and knowing what you can do to help.

For children, it’s about knowing how to keep your head out of the water, be it through swimming, floating, or wearing a life jacket. And since most children don’t own credit cards and are not old enough to sign off on their activities — adult engagement is required.

According to Olsen, these classes fill up quickly. With the number of students steadily increasing, the team of swim instructors are currently helping 703 students master a range of water-based skills.

If you wish to guarantee a spot for you and/or your child(ren), book early. The Spring season begins the week after Spring Break, but by then it may be too late. Consider committing to the summer season, which begins in May. And, if you really want to beat the rush, think about registering in April.

SEAPARC offers a LIFE (Leisure Involvement for Everyone) Program, which offers free or reduced fee options for a range of activities. It is designed to provide no cost and low-cost recreation opportunities for individuals and families on limited incomes. Individuals and families who live in Sooke or Juan de Fuca Electoral Area whose combined gross family income per household falls within or below the “Low Income” levels recognized by Statistics Canada may apply.

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