Drown­ings show need for lessons

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JU­LIAN RAETHEL

It’s been a long, hot sum­mer with beach­go­ers on the sand and pools in full use.

But news from around the coun­try of drown­ings has been dev­as­tat­ingly high.

Jan­uary’s toll has al­most dou­bled from the pre­vi­ous year, with 18 wa­ter-re­lated deaths.

It’s a tragedy Ainsley Cot­ton is work­ing to avoid at all costs.

The mother-of-two from Green Bay at­tends Wai swim classes with her daugh­ter Sarah, 5, at YMCA Cameron Pool and Leisure Cen­tre.

Learn­ing to swim from a young age is im­per­a­tive for any­one grow­ing up in New Zealand, Cot­ton says.

‘‘We’re a coun­try sur­rounded by wa­ter, so they need to learn to swim.’’

The cour­ses teach in­fants how to swim out of a tricky sit­u­a­tion, by turn­ing around, float­ing on their back and find­ing the side of the pool. And their par­ents are in the wa­ter with them.

‘‘There’s an em­pha­sis on hes­i­ta­tion and wa­ter safety.

‘‘You need to know how to swim com­pe­tently,’’ Cot­ton says.

The method takes el­e­ments from In­fant Swim­ming Res­cue, taught in the United States, although in a more su­per­vised en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘It’s help­ing to teach the par­ents to learn those skills,’’ Cameron Pool cen­tre manager Sarah Clarke says.

‘‘We don’t want to point fin­gers be­cause drown­ing is a hor­rific thing to go through.

‘‘It’s about cre­at­ing bar­ri­ers, a lay­ered ap­proach to pre­vent drown­ings.’’

Con­tro­versy has sur­rounded the ISR tech­nique in the US which sees in­fants put in the pool to largely fend for them­selves.

For­mer Olympic swim­mer Dean Kent is very skep­ti­cal about how it’s taught.

He is a swim teacher at North­ern Arena and says this coun­try would never fully em­brace it.

‘‘The goals are the same: Roll on to their backs and reach the side,’’ Kent says.

‘‘But with ISR they were get­ting kids com­ing out of th­ese pro­grammes and hat­ing the wa­ter.

‘‘You ei­ther pass or

fail th­ese re­ally grammes.

‘‘I’m 100 per cent cer­tain that’s not the way New Zealand wants to go.’’

Tim­ing the start of swim lessons can be quite dif­fi­cult for par­ents, but Kent says the ear­lier the bet­ter.

‘‘Most peo­ple wait three months.

‘‘But [in­fants] will never know if they won’t like wa­ter be­cause they start early,’’ he says.

‘‘They learn th­ese much more eas­ily.

‘‘There are some big chal­lenges in teach­ing those kids that have built up a fear of wa­ter.’’






Swim­ming skills: Dean Kent says New Zealand has a good ap­proach to teach­ing wa­ter safety.

Swim school: Sarah, left, with mum Ainsley Cot­ton from the YMCA swim school pro­gramme.

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