June 11, 2024
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Waterwaze Swim Academy Gets You Ready for Summer

One of the benefits of living in Rockland County is how accessible pools are. Many of us have friends or neighbors who are willing to share. Maybe you’re not lucky enough to know the “right people,” but still get invited to pool parties or go to the bungalow colony for the weekend. Practically every camp offers swimming on a daily basis, and many have seasonal trips to waterparks. Swimming is a great activity that provides fun for the whole family. It offers numerous benefits, including sensory input, muscle tone and strengthening, and helps with focus. The problem is that drowning is the sixth leading cause of death worldwide for children aged 5-14 years. Statistically speaking, if you both own a gun and have a swimming pool in the backyard, the swimming pool is about 100 times more likely to kill a child than the gun is. Every year in the United States, there are over 4,000 fatal unintentional drownings. Having been in the industry for over 15 years, Waterwaze Swim Academy has made it our goal to train parents, therapists and educators in what to look for when hiring a swim instructor. Over the next few weeks, this column will address the 10 most commonly asked questions about swimming lessons.

What are some red flags of an instructor who might not be  qualified?

Swimming lessons are different from every other extracurricular activity in the sense that there is a real opportunity to cause lifelong damage. Art classes, dance lessons and gymnastics don’t come with the same high-risk. Therefore, it’s imperative you do proper research before signing your children up to learn how to swim.

Some red flags to look out for:

  • If a swim school “guarantees” the student will learn to swim in 10 lessons (or any other definitive number). This is especially concerning if they’ve never laid eyes on the child.
  • If the instructor doesn’t go in the pool or is obviously avoiding getting their face or hair wet they are obviously not committed to seeing your child learn in the most efficient way possible.
  • If you don’t see obvious progress in the first few sessions. I’ve had parents tell me it took their children months to learn to put their face in the water. Although there are those with extreme anxiety who may take more time, this is highly unusual.
  • If you don’t see progress and the instructor isn’t having an open discussion with you about the specific steps being taken towards achieving the swimmer’s goals. I go over my instructor’s clients with them on a weekly basis. If a student is “stuck” on any skill for more than two weeks, it means we need to take a different approach. Often, there’s a conversation that needs to be had with the parent. For example: Do you think this is a behavioral issue? Perhaps this is an OT concern? Do we need to discuss a better way to motivate the student? Remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
  • Be very wary of the use of kickboards, puddle jumpers or any flotation device in the context of a swim lesson. At Waterwaze we believe that swimmers must feel the water holding them up in order to progress. Noodles and life jackets give the student a false sense of how the water works, which can severely impede their progress and create a false sense of security in the water.
  • Any instructor who doesn’t spend time getting your child comfortable with their face in the water. You cannot swim correctly or comfortably with your face out of the water. Basic hydrodynamics dictates that anytime you take a limb or body part out of the water, it causes you to sink. With the rare exception of those with excess body fat to help keep them afloat, most people will have difficulty swimming with their head out of the water. You might be fooled into thinking progress is being made when your child is really being held back by skipping this critical first step.
  • Any instructor who throws a kid into the deep end without their consent or forces them to do anything that they can’t independently recover from should be banned from the industry.
  • If the instructor is teaching more than two children at once (assuming that they are not safe in deep water yet) and there’s no lifeguard on deck, I would be cautious. It’s sometimes difficult to keep track of students in a group lesson, and unfortunately, accidents do happen.

Over the years, I’ve heard more than my fair share of horror stories. Parents often tell me how they signed up for whatever was most convenient and then had to pay thousands of dollars to repair the damage done by inexperienced or uneducated instructors. When hiring a swim instructor, please don’t take the cheap and easy way out. Remember to think about the long-term big picture. What looks like a bargain today might end up being a costly mistake you can’t afford to make when it comes to your child’s future.

Next week we’ll go into more detail on the ongoing debate about puddle jumpers. Are they really safe?

Stay wet and stay safe!

Swimcerely yours,

Zahava

Zahava Shapiro is the owner of Waterwaze Swim Academy, which has locations in Monsey, Lakewood, and Israel. At Waterwaze, we teach swimming to all ages, from 4 months to 99 years old, using a gentle approach that prioritizes comfort over skill. Instructors are trained in Total Immersion, Infant Swim, and Swim Angelfish methods. Waterwaze swim instructors specialize in people who have been traumatized or affected by a negative experience with water. We believe every person is capable of learning how to swim. You can reach Waterwaze at 551-775-2745 or www.waterwazeswimacademy.com

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