Empowering Safety: The Role of Swimming Programs

Empowering Safety: The Role of Swimming Programs in Protecting Children Out of the Water

Ensuring the safety and well-being of children is a paramount concern for parents and communities alike. Swimming lessons are an obvious choice for protecting children from the dangers of water, but what about other safety concerns? While there are various measures in place to safeguard children, one avenue that often goes overlooked is the positive impact of swimming programs. Here we’ll explore how a well-structured swimming program for kids like Pikes Peak Athletics plays a crucial role in protecting children from sexual abuse.

Building Confidence and Self-Esteem

Swimming programs contribute significantly to the development of a child’s confidence and self-esteem. By mastering swimming skills, children gain a sense of accomplishment, which can empower them to assert themselves in various situations. This newfound confidence acts as a protective factor against potential abuse, as children are more likely to communicate confidently about any uncomfortable experiences.

Enhancing Body Awareness

Participating in a swimming program fosters a heightened awareness of one’s body. Children learn about their physical boundaries and become more attuned to inappropriate touching. This increased body awareness equips them with the ability to recognize and report any instances of inappropriate behavior, creating a proactive approach to preventing sexual abuse.

At Pikes Peak Athletics, we conduct specific training with our instructors on asking children for permission every time we’re physically engaging with them – this can be as simple as asking if they want our help or wish to do a skill alone! We also learn about appropriate hand placement that ensures the safety and comfort of all swimmers.

Promoting Open Communication

Swimming programs create a supportive environment where open communication is encouraged. Instructors emphasize the importance of expressing concerns and reporting any discomfort. This culture of communication establishes trust between children, instructors, and parents, making it easier for children to share their experiences and for adults to address any issues promptly. This is why we ask for permission every single time we physically engage a swimmer, not just the first time we swim with them, and we continuously give them opportunities to let us know when they no longer want our help.

Supervised Environments

Our swimming programs are all conducted in supervised environments, ensuring that there are responsible adults present during lessons – to include parents whom we ask to always be present and watching their swimmers succeed! This reduces the risk of potential predators gaining access to children in unsupervised settings. The presence of vigilant instructors, lifeguards, and supervisors helps create a safe space where children can focus on learning without fear.

During our swim camps, where parents are not present, we ensure Camp Leads are present to support both instructors and swimmers maintaining a safe adult for swimmers to go to. We also ensure children are taken to the restroom for breaks as a group and that instructors stay outside of the locker room/bathroom when swimmers need to use the restroom outside of breaks.

Educating on Personal Boundaries

A well-designed swimming program includes educational components on personal boundaries and appropriate behavior. Children are taught to recognize when their personal space is being invaded and are equipped with the language to express discomfort with peers and instructors alike! This education extends beyond the pool, empowering children to set and enforce boundaries in various aspects of their lives.

Parental Involvement

Successful swimming programs actively involve parents in their children’s aquatic education. At Pikes Peak Athletics, parents are informed about our program’s safety measures, invited to observe their child’s program at all times, and given regular updates on their child’s progress all to foster a sense of partnership between instructors and families. This collaboration ensures that parents are aware of their child’s experiences and can address any concerns promptly.

Ongoing Awareness Training

Not only do our instructors receive specific, ongoing training about engaging with swimmers safely and being a part of empowering them, but so does our management team. A part of improving our programs and their safety is ensuring we’re making well-informed hiring decisions, being keenly aware of inappropriate behaviors, and how to address concerns swiftly. We participate in annual Abuse Trainings that help us keep these vital skills top of mind and share our knowledge with each of our teams.

Additionally, the U.S. Center for Safesport produces abuse awareness and prevention courses for all sports across the country. Their courses include how to take preventive action within your sport, recognize abuse in all forms, and how to respond including reporting and intervening. The national governing body of USA Swimming requires all coaches, officials and administrators to take a yearly SafeSport course to be in good standing and participate in USA Swimming events.

While it’s something no parent wants to think about, when considering the quest to protect children from sexual abuse, it is essential to consider diverse avenues that contribute to their overall well-being. Carefully crafted swimming programs, with their focus on confidence-building, body awareness, open communication, supervision, and ongoing education, play a vital role in creating an environment that safeguards children. At Pikes Peak Athletics, we recognize the potential of swimming programs beyond the development of aquatic skills and know we play an essential part in empowering children to navigate the world with confidence and resilience.

Jaecie Montgomery | Program Operations Manager

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