Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Disservice of Swimmng Pools with Little Depth

About six months ago, before a workout I was changing in the locker room (I know, TMI). The regional head of the fitness facility (a national not-for-profit, everyone knows by name) who had finished his workout was getting ready for his day. He knows I'm a swimming nut and often asks me my opinion of how the pools are doing from a heavy-user perspective. Somehow that morning we got on the subject of pool depths. The organization had in recent years filled in a diving well for a new kiddie pool and raised the depth of a fifty-meter pool from a gradiated pool with a maximum seven feet to a flat four and a half. They'd also eliminated the swim meet diving blocks and removed a diving board at one of the facilities (they've left it at another - so this was perplexing to me). Today most of the pools in our area have signs posted saying people can't dive into the pools off the pool edge. I asked if these changes were due to insurance premiums. His reply was immediate. "Exactly," he said. This wasn't a surprise to me, but since then I've not felt comfortable with the answer - not his answer "exactly," but that they believe that they are doing their organization and the public a favor. I contend they are doing the public a disservice by taking away the opportunity to swim in pools with depth. I have a number of problems with this. First, how can people really learn to swim if they can always put their feet down? If they are really teaching people to swim as they contend in their lesson plans, why don't they realize that teaching people to swim in a shallow pool can lead many to believe they can swim in any depth. Sure, some will be able to. But others will be surprised when they most certainly one day find themselves in water over their heads someplace other than the protective confines of a facility with safeguards every twenty feet (poles, throw lines, guards, etc). This could lead to unnecessary drownings or, at a minimum, horrible scares. Next, what about other skill sets? The users will never learn to dive head first into water, much less dive down deep (as much fun, if not more fun than swimming around on top). I contend that this money saving decision - certainly not a system wide decision since some of the pools still have depth - is wrong and that it needs to be re-examined as pool renovations and new pool plans are developed. People need to know how to swim in depths. It could save their lives!

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