Successful Swim Lessons at Your Community Pool

swim lessons community pool

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy fun times with family, friends and neighbors around the community pool! But what if not everyone knows how to swim? You might wonder: “Wouldn’t it be great if my kids and the neighbors’ kids could learn to swim at our neighborhood pool? The convenience factor alone is fantastic! Plus the kids are already familiar with the pool, so they won’t be nervous about getting in. My friend says she knows an instructor; maybe the instructor she knows could come teach in our pool.”

After all, swimming is an important life skill that everyone should have, so you would think any effort to teach children how to swim is a good idea. But be careful. As the age old saying goes, “the road to H-E-double-hockey sticks is paved with good intentions.”

Hosting swim lessons at your community pool can be a wonderful idea under the right conditions. However, it can just as easily lead to liability and even tragedy under the wrong conditions. Let’s examine what factors make the difference, and what steps to follow to ensure your learn-to-swim program is safe and successful.

The first step in planning successful swimming lessons at your community pool is obtaining permission from your community’s board of directors. The board may have questions about scheduling and how it will affect other community activities. Find out what questions and concerns the board will want answered so you can put together a thorough proposal. Also take into consideration when your instructor and your prospective students are available to conduct the lessons. Everyone’s availability may not line up initially, so this may take some coordination.

In general, it’s best to avoid the middle of the day for little ones, as the UV rays can be intense and harmful for tender skin, and the pool is often busier then. Also consider water temperature and back up plans for inclement weather. It is easier to learn to swim when the water is a comfortable temperature. However, most community pools do not have a heater, so you are at nature’s mercy. Pool water is typically very cold at the beginning of pool season and warms up gradually during the summer.

The second step is selecting an instructor or program. The National Drowning Prevention Alliance provides a handy checklist to reference when evaluating swim lesson programs, much of which can also be adapted for individual instructors. You can find it here: Click here

The third step, which should probably be done simultaneously with step two, is to do a thorough vetting of the instructor or program you are strongly considering. If you decide to use individual instructors, ask about their qualifications (experience and certifications) as well as a copy of their insurance coverage and some references. Is the individual a certified lifeguard or does he or she have a certified lifeguard who will be responsible for overseeing the class? What is their instructor to student ratio in the classes? Programs or instructors who allow instructor to student ratios in excess of 1:6 are not following industry best practices, and have an increased risk of drowning or injury during class; that is too many kids for one instructor to effectively oversee and teach at the same time. Communities should make sure the program or instructor is qualified by asking for references and insured to protect your association in the event of an incident or allegation of an incident.

In 2023, Georgia passed a new law referred to as Izzy’s Law that affects swim lesson instructors and programs. Sadly, the law was proposed due to the tragic drowning of Israel “Izzy” Scott in 2022, who was taking lessons from an instructor who did not follow proper safety protocols or best industry practices. During class, Izzy found his way to the deep end of the pool when the instructor wasn’t looking, and no one was supervising his oversized group lesson. Making matters worse, parents were not allowed to watch the lesson. Tragically he was not discovered in time.

Izzy’s Law requires anyone conducting swim lessons in Georgia to have an “aquatic safety plan” that follows industry best practices and safety standards. This includes a proper instructor:student ratio, allowing caregivers to be present during lessons, CPR certification for instructors, and safety equipment at the facility. Failure to adopt and follow an aquatic safety plan can result in a misdemeanor charge and fine of up to $1,000.

In the end, after evaluating the necessary steps to ensure an industry best learn-to-swim program, you might come to the conclusion that it’s easier to find a nearby swim school than to coordinate lessons at your community pool. The NDPA checklist works for evaluating swim schools too.

Conclusión

Whichever option you choose, teaching more people to swim is always a good idea when you follow the three steps we discussed. For more information on water safety and learn to swim initiatives, contact your local NDPA partner and non-profit, the Greater Atlanta Water Safety Alliance, at [email protected]

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