Be cool in the pool
Derek Cooley, 4, will know how to swim by the end of this summer.
Father Fred Cooley, a Fort Myers firefighter who lives in Cape Coral with Derek, his 10-year-old daughter Nikki and wife Karen, knows how quickly a child can slip into the water and potentially become a drowning victim.
That’s why Cooley is determined to have Derek doggie-paddling before Cape Coral says farewell to the summer sun.
“He uses floaties now, and it’s time he needs to get out of them,” Cooley said of his son. “We’re always in the back yard somewhere near the pool, and I can’t always keep an eye on him.”
The Cooleys live near a canal, enjoy swimming in pools, at the beach or at Sun Splash Family Waterpark, and often go boating and camping near waterways.
“We’re around the water all the time,” Cooley said. “Whether it be the pool or the boat, if he falls in, basically he should be able to bring himself up and bring himself out and not be scared of the water.”
Cooley taught his daughter Nikki to swim when she was about the same age as Derek is now. But even though the entire Cooley family will soon be able to claim themselves water mammals, Cooley recognizes the importance of watching over his youngsters.
“You have to have supervision,” he said. “He knows that he can’t go in unless either with us out there or with his sister out there, and even at her age I like to be out there with them.”
According to information released by Lee County Public Safety spokesperson Diane Holm, “drowning is the second-leading cause of injury (and) death for children under age 15, and the leading cause of death for children ages 1-5 in Florida.”
The information also states that, “Most pre-school age drownings occur in the backyard swimming pool. Seventy-five percent of children who drown were last seen by their parents within five minutes of the incident.”
Because of the increased possibility of water-related injuries or death around this time of year, termed by many as “drowning season,” the Lee County Red Cross has partnered with various Lee County swimming locales to host classes from certified instructors, emphasizing water safety while incorporating new techniques and biomechanics from USA Diving and USA Swimming. The program also provides lifeguard training.
“That’s absolutely fantastic, especially for the kids that don’t have pools or wouldn’t be subjected to the water that often,” Cooley said when told about the swimming classes. “If I didn’t have the opportunity I’d make sure that (Derek) got the skills from a program like that.”
“The main emphasis is on water safety and drowning prevention as a basis for swimming and water recreation,” said Lee County Health and Safety Coordinator Karen Prohaska. “We also do parent and child aquatics, preschool aquatics and six levels of learn-to-swim that introduces anybody whatever age to water all the way through to diving techniques and lifeguarding.”
Classes are held at various locations, including the Florida Gulf Coast University Aquatic Center, the Lee County YMCA, Sanibel Island Recreation Department and Lee County Parks and Recreation Department.
Additional information on the locations are available by visiting www.arclcc.org/training/lifeguard.htm and following the links to each.
Classes provide a plethora of information about subjects such as water parks, home pool safety, boat safety, recreational water illnesses and sun safety, among others.
“I think that anybody taking swimming lessons, at every step of the way during those lessons, that they are learning ways to keep themselves and others safe in and around water, including at home as well as recreational areas and at the beach,” Prohaska added.
On Sanibel, the 16-month-old Recreation Center offers several levels of swimming instruction, including youth, masters and private swimming instruction. According to Aquatics Manager Andrea Miller, the biggest fear for non-swimmers – children and adults alike – is putting their faces under water.
“When we’re teaching the kids, first we start with the chin, then the nose, then the eyes, until they feel comfortable putting their heads under water,” said Miller. “Whether it’s an adult or a child, it’s important not to push them too hard. They’ll progress at their own comfort level. It’s better to have them work at their own pace than to possibly create new fears of the water. Swimming is a lifelong activity that everyone should enjoy.”
Private swim instruction for all ages is offered at the Rec Center on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Instruction is tailored to each participant’s goals and needs, from basic swim tutoring to improving stroke efficiency and endurance. Cost for members is $20 for each half hour session; non-members is $25 per session.
Also, an American Red Cross Lifeguard Course will be taught at the Rec Center on Friday, May 15 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, May 16 and 17 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The three-day course will provide training as professional rescuers in lifeguarding, first aid and adult, child and infant CPR/AED use. Participants must be at least 15 years old.
For more information about additional swimming classes or programs offered at the Sanibel Recreation Center, located at 3880 Sanibel-Captiva Road, call 472-0345.
(Executive Editor Jeff Lysiak contributed to this report.)