A federal stimulus package of nearly $800 billion is
well on its way to doing what it can to get the economy
back on track. It’s billed as a prescription to
not only get the economy moving today, but also build a
foundation for a more stable economic future. Your opinion
of this package no doubt depends on your political
leanings. But, certainly, we can all agree that investing
in technology and training now that will reap rewards in
the future is a smart idea.
So that got me thinking: What would an aquatics stimulus
look like? In other words, what should we be investing in
now to build a solid foundation for aquatics in the future?
I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I
encourage everyone to write in with their own stimulus
The first place I’d start is swim lessons.
It’s only by teaching everyone how to swim that
aquatics can hope to have a future. So I propose that
schools get back into the business of providing basic
aquatics education — no child would graduate
without first demonstrating an ability to swim.
Next, the service that youths must perform to gain
college vouchers (which the current bill calls for) would
include lifeguarding at community pools. What better way to
provide community service than through literal lifesaving?
This would create a whole new pool of guards for the staff-
I’d also raise their pay to the level of other
emergency first responders. When it comes to salary,
lifeguards currently are the equivalent of teachers in
larger society. It’s abhorrent that we pay
teachers, the people who mold and shape our youth, our very
future, so little for the important job they do.
It’s equally shameful that we compensate
lifeguards so little. After all, they are the ones who are
ensuring the future of the swimming public on the most
basic level — their existence. That kind of
responsibility deserves a commensurate pay.
Then I’d turn my attention to patrons.
Education is sorely lacking for the swimming public and the
result is a startling increase in recreational water
illnesses, especially crypto and needless injury
and death. (Part 2 of our crypto series is out
now, by the way.) I would leave it to a competent group of
experts to create a full curriculum. But each swimmer would
have to earn a license not unlike that of drivers before
being allowed entry to an aquatics facility.
Aquatics facilities themselves would get special
attention as well. The patchwork mess of local, municipal
and state codes would be replaced with a unified, carefully
thought-out national aquatic code. (The Model Aquatic
Health Code is a good start.) Funding would be in place for
adequate and thorough monitoring from local health
departments — preferably monthly. Health
inspectors would be well-educated in pool operations and
have the latest equipment to conduct their analyses of
facility safety. Facilities then would be graded on a
Sure, some of these are pie-in-the sky ideas, but
operators can take steps toward many of them today. Working
with local health departments would be a great way to help
ensure water quality. Participating in the Model Aquatic
Health Code provides a path for moving the industry toward
code unity and clarity. Educating patrons about prickly
issues such as diarrhea and hot, soapy showers is an
missing link in the chain of RWI prevention. I know
professionals could take many more steps now to stimulate
aquatics in the future. So go ahead, dream big about the
future. If nothing else, it will produce some stimulating