There’s nothing like hearing that your work is saving lives.
Lindsay Mondick enjoyed that experience recently when someone explained how at least one toddler was saved by the drowning-prevention program she leads. A 3-year-old girl attended a party, where there was an all-too-tempting inground pool. She wandered alone toward it, but then wisely came back to ask her mom for permission to swim — just as she’d been instructed via the YMCA’s Safety Around Water program.
“To know that we possibly saved that child’s life ... is exactly why we’re doing what we’re doing,” says Mondick, senior manager of aquatics at the YMCA of the USA.
The organization recently launched SAW, part of whose mission is to drill into kids the importance of notifying a supervising adult before taking dip.
But it goes much further than that.
SAW was developed after Mondick, working alongside other aquatics professionals, conducted months of research into drowning statistics, with the goal of finding ways to improve the YMCA’s learn-to-swim program. Along the way, the team made a key discovery: No one in the entire aquatics industry could agree what basic swim competency looks like. Is it a technical freestyle up to 25 meters? Or is it simply keeping your head above water for a certain period of time? Definitions vary across the board.
So the Y took it upon itself to establish a benchmark, or the bare minimum of skill a child would need to stay safe around water. Now several YMCA branches throughout the U.S. are deploying mobile teams to deliver free swimming lessons where they are needed the most: HOA and apartment swimming pools.
The program equips children with two sets of skills to use if they find themselves in over their heads. One module centers on the jump-push-turn-and-grab technique: Students jump into the pool and learn to push up from the bottom, orient themselves sideways and reach for the wall. Another lesson focuses on swim-float-swim. This teaches students to swim a ways, then turn onto their backs for rest. After regaining strength, they continue swimming. This repeats until they reach the edge of the pool.
The lessons are formulated to curb a startling statistic: Mondick and her team found that the majority of drownings occur within 10 feet of safety and under some form of supervision.
“That solidified our call to action,” says Mondick, who has more than 20 years of experience in the aquatics industry.
SAW launched in April 2015, sending teams to provide two weeks of free lessons at semi-private pools. Donations help make this possible, such as two custom-wrapped SUVs used by the YMCA of South Florida.
In September, 2016, SAW was integrated into the Y’s learn-to-swim curriculum for members. So far, 850 locations have pledged to offer the program. It targets youths 4- to 14, but many YMCAs take preschoolers, older teens and even adults.
“Obviously many kids come in at various levels, but the ultimate objective is that they can come out and do those two skills at the end of an eight-week session,” Mondick says.
Then they can safely be around pools — as long as they ask permission first.