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Letters to the Editor

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January 31, 2018

Further water safety skills essential

As a swimming teacher and coach, one refrain I often hear from parents is ‘my child can swim – we have a backyard pool and they are always in it’.
It is very common, I find, for parents to over-estimate the swimming skills and water safety knowledge their children have – perhaps because in some cases the parents don’t have it either? While a backyard pool is an asset for learning basic strokes and for fun and cooling off, it isn’t going to give children the sort of skills needed to keep them safe in most emergency situations around water such as those experienced by the Osborne family on their beach holiday two weeks ago (as reported in the Corowa Free Press last week).
What they (and adults) need for that is extensive water safety knowledge and the ability to swim consistently over a distance and for an extended time.
No backyard pool experience can adequately prepare us for that.
NSW Sport and Recreation, the YMCA Victoria, many schools, Vicswim and various independent organisations run intensive swim school and water safety programs to supplement their continuing swimming lessons over the summer months in rural areas.
These programs focus on water safety including theory, rescue protocols and techniques, survival techniques – including in rips and currents, and facilitate emergency simulations including swimming and treading water for an extended period of time - sometimes wearing clothing.
I participate as a swim teacher in the first three of these.
What one finds is that after the first week of lessons those children who do not have backyard pools tend to reach the same level of competence that those who do have them (with the exception of a small number of school-age children who display an extreme fear of the water or of putting their head underwater – these are the high risk group who most need some extra special attention from trained swimming teachers outside school hours).
This doesn’t say much for the likelihood that the backyard pool will prepare one for an emergency situation.
Swim Club or extensive swim training generally does not entail survival techniques or strokes but it does give the swimmer the fitness, endurance and technique to be able to swim or tread water for an extended period of time.
A swim coach has the additional knowledge above and beyond that of learn-to-swim instructors that can help people develop potential life-saving skills.
Phoebe and Finn Osborne both have a good measure of these skills and I’ve no doubt that kept them out of trouble two weeks ago.
In my view school swimming lessons should be mandatory and I would encourage parents to lobby for them, support them, and to add extra swimming lessons and/or training or coaching outside school hours – perhaps even for themselves as well as their children.
Local Swim Clubs do take adult registrations and good technique helps one to swim further with far less effort, so doing laps by oneself may not always be the best option (although certainly better than no swimming at all!).
I often hear adults say ‘I can’t swim a length – I could never do 100 meters or 500 metres!’.
What rubbish! You didn’t learn to walk, drive a car or play a musical instrument in a day and you won’t learn to swim, or swim more easily or swim faster without a bit of effort.
Bottom line: having such skills and extra water safety knowledge could actually help save your life, or your child’s life.
Good swimming or water skills requires much more than just basic swimming lessons, or access to a backyard pool (access to a 50 metre pool would definitely help, though!)

Sharon Letchford

Repair pool and be thankful

I have a long association with the Corowa Pool and have been on two of the pool committees in the past.
Last week my grandchildren (aged 8 and 4) stayed with us and the ‘thing’ they wanted to do most was go to the pool. These visits made me start thinking about the pool from a different perspective.
Why did they love it so much?
*We have a deep end, which is really deep and a little bit scary, not only for that age.
For so many of the kids who go to the pool, and have gone to the pool in the past, the deep end is where they feel challenged.
Can I jump in from the edge?
Can I jump in from the starting blocks?
Can I dive in now?
Can I touch the bottom with my toe, my feet, my hand?
Can I pick up something from the bottom?
Even looking to the bottom over 3 metres down is scary.
How deep are pools now? I bet not challenging or scary.
*We have sides, so kids can feel a sense of height when they jump in, not just fall off the edge as in the newer pools. These are skills needed to be better swimmers, or not be scared in difficult situations if they arise.
They are great places to sit to supervise, for a swimming teacher to have a better view over the pool or to lie on your tummy and warm up when the water is a bit chilly.
*We have starting blocks.
My 8-year-old granddaughter asked what they are because in all the pools now they can be packed away when not in use.
When teaching swimming I used to challenge the kids to jump in from the low diving board. Now that has gone the starting blocks are the challenge. I will never forget the faces of kids when they have finally overcome their fear and jumped in.
Surely they are an asset for our Swimming Club. Do all other clubs put them up at their pools for training each time?
*It is outside so we can enjoy the fresh air. My grandchildren loved being outside, not in a noisy building where you have no idea what the weather is like. Inside pools are rarely refreshing.
*We can see the bottom. One thing that is difficult about river swimming is not being able to see your feet in the water, and all the problems that can bring.
*It is 50metres long. There were quite a number of people in the ‘big’ pool each time we went, and we all had space to ourselves. Nobody was annoying anyone else. Had it been a 25m pool it would have been quite squashy with lap swimmers competing for space with kids jumping in and others just relaxing.
*We have the BEST ‘other pools’.
The ‘baby’ pool is ideal for the young ones. The steps on both sides enable supervising adults to be with their children. It is a graduating depth to develop skills, not just ankle depth like a splash pool.
I have no idea how many hours I have spent sitting on those steps watching the kids learn, have fun, socialise with friends and keep cool.
The ‘middle sized’ pool is superb for the pre-schoolers to play, and older ones who want to play games in shallower water. Again there are steps for supervising adults who might just like to get ‘half’ wet to cool down. It is the best option to teach kids who aren’t tall enough to stand in the big pool. It is a wonderful alternative for all ages if the big pool is closed for a carnival.
Having said that, if anything, this pool should be bigger so it could be used as a cool down pool when carnivals are held in Corowa.
*We provide noodles and balls. Not only are they great fun to have, they are there to help if a person gets into trouble. How easy would it be to grab a noodle and throw one so you don’t endanger yourself? The noodles also gave my grandchildren a feeling of security so they could ‘go down the deep end’ or swim in the ‘big pool’ even if my grandson wasn’t tall enough this year.
*Why I like it too?
We chose not to have a pool in our backyard. Instead our children had fun meeting friends and learning to swim at Corowa Pool from an early age, and then joined the Swimming Club.
They became very strong swimmers and some of their best friends are those from the club (some of whom didn’t live in Corowa] and others they swam against in competition.
It was a social, fun family time and quite inexpensive.
Because it was an outdoor pool training began when it was still too cold to get in, and finished at the end of the summer season. Our children had a break from swimming and played other sports, refreshed and ready to hit the water the next season.
Swimming in the pool at 10am last weekend it was hard to find a bit of space. Many people, locals and tourists, doing laps or exercising for special issues they are having – legs, backs etc. It was wonderful to see the pool being supported so well.
The grounds are being kept in tip top condition thanks to the team of young local people working there. All the pools look so clean and inviting.
The water was warm (for free), in fact one swimmer would have preferred a bit cooler.
I hope all the people who asked for a hydrotherapy pool have been down there exercising for $5 a time during summer.
We are not a big town. We can have high expectations but these have to be mellowed with reality.
I would like to hear the full rationale for the splash park at another location. At the moment I think it bizarre that it wouldn’t be within the pool area. I can understand it would be a private business within a council owned facility but to make people choose one over the other at separate sites when the pool has so much to offer all ages already is very disappointing.
I think we should look at what we have now and repair it (eg stop it leaking, replace the pumps), say how lucky we are to have such a wonderful facility in a beautiful location, not waste money building something that everyone else has – and make the most of it while the weather is warm.

Maryann Herbert
Corowa

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