The mission of seeing every child learn to swim may receive a legislative boost around the country, if certain pool/spa industry organizations and an industry corporation have their way.
Last year, Florida passed the Every Child a Swimmer Law, the first of its kind. This legislation requires schools to provide parents with information explaining the importance of learning to swim, and list available resources for lessons and help for children in lower-income families to gain access to lessons. It takes effect this summer.
Now, the abovementioned coalition have begun coordinating efforts and resources to see similar laws passed throughout the U.S., one state at a time, among other missions under the "Every Child a Swimmer" banner.
The non-profit foundations for both the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance and the Florida Swimming Pool Association have agreed to collaborate, not only to promote legislation, but also distribute scholarships and use other means to bring swim lessons to children.
To facilitate this, Team Horner, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has hired long-time safety advocate Casey McGovern as its Every Child a Swimmer program manager. Though employed by Horner, she also provides assistance to Rowdy Gaines, the Olympic swimmer who now runs PHTA’s Step Into Swim program.
“My goal is to create this spiritual mission for the swimming pool industry, teaching kids to swim,” said Horner CEO Bill Kent, who also serves as chairman of the board for the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
The team plans to help organizations and individuals around the country to advocate for the legislation. A lobbyist will offer free guidance, and five states have been identified as relatively friendly to such legislation. The dream would be to see bills passed in those states next year, but they realize that’s a high bar, McGovern said.
But they believe two factors will work in their favor. One has to do with the messaging.
“Teaching kids to swim is really where people are getting engaged, because it’s such a positive,” Kent said. “There’s universal agreement that every child should learn to swim. So rather than talking about drownings ... this has really got a lot of traction.”
Additionally, McGovern credits the Florida bill's success with its fiscal conservatism. Schools can refer families to the Every Child a Swimmer website, and the organizations may help find funding for paper brochures to convey the information. “It’s not going to cost the taxpayers anything,” McGovern said. “And there aren't a lot of legalities that could have a lot of pushback.”