Back in the mid-1980s, I was asked to develop and implement a K-12
swim lessons program for the school system.
Because it was a new program, school personnel and parents stopped
by regularly to observe lessons from the bleachers at the shallow
end. Being a young, inexperienced aquatics professional, it never
dawned on me to place a barrier between the bleachers and the pool
— an oversight I’d soon come to regret.
One cold morning, a group of parents showed up to watch their first
graders. Several Board of Education members also were there. It was
our program’s chance to shine.
Suddenly, one of the mothers, who was dressed to the nines, came
flying out of the bleachers and jumped in the pool — heels,
skirt and all. As I stood trying to figure out what she was doing,
I saw my top instructor with a horrified look on his face helping a
youngster to the wall. As it turned out, the instructor was helping
his class learn to bob. The mother interpreted this as her child
Though the situation turned out well (the mother never showed her
face at the pool again, however), a simple barrier and a little
education could have gone a long way in preventing this
embarrassing and potentially dangerous incident.
My staff and I now speak to parents prior to every lesson, and
explain that they should stay in the bleachers so we can do our
jobs uninterrupted. This is made much easier in the facility where
I currently work because the bleachers are raised 7 feet off the
deck and surrounded by a stainless steel railing. Some wise person
before me even had the foresight to have additional balusters
installed in the railing so that rather than a yard between
balusters (which met the building codes at the time the pool was
built) we now have 12 inches.
Recently, we had another group of parents in the bleachers
observing lessons, videotaping and taking pictures as the last
lesson of the session came to an end. While the instructors were
getting their classes out of the water and we were preparing to
hand out cards, we heard a scream. Several of my staff members and
I observed a woman tumble down the flight of cement steps all
the way from the top and land against the balusters.
Once the incident had been managed and everyone was OK, I discussed
it with the staff. One of the crew observed that if we hadn’t
had the additional balusters in the railing, the woman most likely
would have fallen through and landed on the pool deck with serious
This got me thinking, what else could I do to make the facility
safer? Because my focus had been on the pool deck area, I had never
given much thought to the bleacher space or other adjoining areas.
With the pool maintenance person in tow, we performed a safety
inspection of the entire area and ended up making several upgrades
to improve safety.