My eyes have seen thousands of swimmers at various venues around the world. My first experience as a lifeguard was in 1950 at the French Creek State Park (Pennsylvania). Since then, I have served as Camp Waterfront Director, swimming pro, Pool Manager, Aquatic Director at YMCA’s , etc and I learned many lessons about aquatics programming and administration. Three incidents that I have experienced formed my thinking about teaching swimming and lifeguarding: (1) When I was 6, I almost drowned. The pool was at a luxurious country estate. There was, of course, no lifeguard but my friend and I went in the pool. I didn’t know there was a “drop-off” and I stepped off the ledge. After a long time, my friend, who was also a non-swimmer, pulled me to safety. (2) When I had my first full-time job as Aquatics Director at the Reading (PA) YMCA, I had no aquatic staff. If there was a program in the pool, I ran it. I taught swimming a class of 30 boys. One of them was disruptive during the first 3 classes. So, I kicked him out and told him never to come back. A few weeks later, I had a call from the State Police asking me to come down to the Schuylkil River where two boys had drown. I rushed down to the river and dove into the water to find the boys. When I recovered the first boy and took him to the bank of the river, I took a quick look. He was the kid that I kicked out of the swimming class! (3) One day during an “open swim” at the YMCA, we had about 30 kids in the pool. I was lucky that I had just formed a Junior Leaders Group consisting of about 25 kids, ages 8-14. The Junior Leaders were stationed around the pool and had been educated regarding what to do in an emergency. One of the boys discovered a boy on the bottom of the pool. I dove in and pulled the boy out and performed resuscitation (back pressure-arm lift). A fireman got to the pool with a resuscitator. As he got it all set-up, the kid began to vomit and regained consciousness. Action Steps to Reduce Drowning: (1) Recognize that we have 2 types of water: Protected, that have at least a basic number of lifeguards on duty every hour that the facility is open. Unprotected, that include all types of aquatic environments. They don’t provide adequate lifeguard services and normal operating procedures. (2) Develop emergency plans for every aquatic facility. (3) Extension of traditional learn to swim efforts. Develop continuing programs beyond basic swimming classes that will educate participants to provide land-based rescues. (4) Develop worldwide Junior Aquatic Leaders programs in cooperation with related organizations. Produce a program to educate aquatic directors, staff members, parents, etc. This should stress the importance of extending children’s watermanship beyond the lower level swimming skills. This education would include near-drowning education. Suggested Administration of the Above Ideas: Have ISHOF develop and conduct the above-mentioned program, including the establishment of a Lifeguard Hall of Fame. Develop a lifeguard display area in the ISHOF Museum. Have a staff member responsible for this specialization area. Get organizations or aquatic industry companies to sponsor this program.
Citation: Spannuth, J. (2017). Accounts that Demonstrate the Importance of Swimming and Lifeguard Lessons. In: Avramidis, S. (Ed.). Conference on Near-Death Experiences while Drowning (p. 14). Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA: International Swimming Hall of Fame.