Tom Griffiths has a lot of wishes. “I wish people would question water-safety textbooks and training agencies,” he says. “I would really like it if, when they hear a statement, to ask why. I would like to see the aquatics professionals use a true inter-disciplinary approach to aquatics.”
And though the 56-year-old Griffiths is looking forward to retiring in four years, he does not plan to stop wishing — and working. In fact, upon retirement from Penn State University, where he serves as aquatics director, he plans to do more reading and writing on the subject of aquatic safety and operations.
A big focus: the disconnect between science and aquatic safety. “I’m going to sound overly critical and cynical,” he warns. “While we’ve done many good things in the last hundred years, we fail to look to science. When someone does bring up a medical fact or a scientific discovery that may shed light on water safety … the water safety community questions it.”
He vocalizes his message through teaching courses at conferences and taking posts such as president of the National Park & Recreation Association’s Aquatic Branch. He serves as an aquatics consultant and expert for lawsuits involving drownings and injuries. He has also written numerous articles and published six books.
But regardless of whether it’s a coffee-table book or a technical treatise, his focus remains the same.
“Aquatics professionals need to spend more time reading in other areas,” he says. “What we have is so limited and it’s based on experiences, not on science. It’s very frustrating.”
So Griffiths takes it upon himself to change that. “I’m hoping, hoping, hoping that when I’m dead and gone, someone will look back and say, ‘He had a pretty good idea to look at the psychology and the physiology of what’s going on there.’” — Rin-rin Yu