Today’s blog is a response to a post on my against the use of Life jackets and Flotation devices.  Here are my thoughts:

First off, Life Jackets save lives. An absolute MUST for non-swimmers in residential pools and lakes, especially if they are not within arm’s reach of an adult.  I think most would agree that a child’s life itself is more precious than any philosophy or an unjustified concern about a child becoming dependent on the device.  I have been using various flotation devices since in 1982.  I have never witnessed a child a child not learn how to swim because of using a flotation device.  In fact, I learned to swim with a flotation device myself, as did my sisters and brother, as did hundreds of All Americans, World Class Swimmers, and yes–Olympians.   It didn’t stop them!

As Tom Griffiths, founder of the “Note ‘n Float” program said to me at the NDPA Conference in Pittsburgh last year, “With Iphones, Ipads, texting, etc., the supervision is getting worse.”

For instructional purposes, I have been using the progressive SwimWays Power Swimr since the early 90′s. Children learn independence in the water because they are not dependent on the teacher’s support, their confidence grows, and REAL practice time AND repetition of movements FAR EXCEEDS whatever the child would get without it.

Not only do I witness it first hand on a daily basis at The Swim Lessons Company, while obtaining my Master’s Degree in Physical Education and Motor Learning we studied skill acquisition in depth.  Study after study suggests that increased practice time leads to faster skill development.  In addition, because you can gradually decrease the flotation with this device, you can apply the progression principle naturally which also accelerates learning (a well known physiology principle).

With that said, I do respect other philosophies on learn to swim and I commend all those who teach children to swim and give them the lifetime gift of learning to swim.  There is no one way to achieve any one goal, but when it comes to safety for non-swimmers,–there’s no debate—LIFE JACKETS SAVE LIVES!

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Comment by Melon Dash on May 30, 2011 at 7:07pm

Make sure that if someone's within the reach of an adult, that adult can swim. In my opinion, that should be part of your message. In other words, is it assumed that adults can swim? Most, or almost most (!) can't.


And  yes, devices like lifejackets and all the toys kids and adults use to feel safer make learning come sooner. Devices don't necessarily create dependencies, especially if used in a guided learning progression. They make people feel safer. That's when they learn.

Comment by Jim Reiser on May 17, 2011 at 2:30pm
Thanks Gary!  I appreciate it!  I will post a link to your article on my facebook site as well.  If you have a second, I'd love for your comment on my FB page to help defend the truth:)
Comment by Gary Thill on May 17, 2011 at 2:25pm
Great blog, Jim! We've done a number of article in Aquatics International about effectiveness of lifejacket programs. It seems like there's no question that in a facility setting, lifejackets can save lives! Here's our latest article.

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