Drownings show need for lessons
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.