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 ideas.
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- and budget-strapped.
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 letter system.
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 thoughts.