The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Health & Family

May 24, 2012

Pool prep: Make sure kids are ready to swim before visiting a swimming pool

JOPLIN, Mo. — Paul Bloomberg’s staff of lifeguards is ready.

“We finished up the last of our certifications last weekend,” said the recreation events manager for the Joplin Parks and Recreation Department. “Our lifeguards are ready to go.”

The pools are painted and patched, the concession stands are stocked. Joplin’s three aquatic centers, at Cunningham, Ewert and Schifferdecker parks, will host the first swimmers of the year Saturday.

Swimming officials are asking parents to do a bit of preparation with their children. Not every child may be ready to hit the pool, after all.

Leave lifeguards alone

Bloomberg said that lifeguards get a bad rap for being rude. Not true Ñ they are just focused, he said.

“Our lifeguards aren’t allowed to talk to patrons,” he said. “When they are on the stand, they are supposed to watch the water. Unfortunately, they get the perception that they are rude.”

Lifeguards go through at least an hour of in-service training per week. They must be recertified every year, regardless of past experience.

And they are trained to always have an eye on the water, he said. He asks parents to remind kids that they should leave lifeguards alone.

Another thing to tell kids: Don’t yell the word “help.”

“That word should only be used in an emergency,” said Jason Holly, training officer for the Joplin Family Y. “Even in those games where friends grab each other. The word is for when they really need help.”

Pool school

Swimming lessons also help ensure kids’ safety, Holly said.

“We like parents to put their children through swim lessons,” Holly said. “Teach them at least how to float on their back and make it to the wall, until they get a little more experienced.”

The Y offers swimming lessons all year; lessons are also available at Joplin pools throughout the summer.

It’s important that kids know how to swim well for their own safety Ñ enough to warrant repeated swim lessons, Bloomberg said. The more lessons kids have, the better.

“We have kids come back year after year,” Bloomberg said about participants in the center’s swim lessons. “It depends on how old they are, but there are even adults who take swim lessons.”

Bloomberg said that some features, including a new, large water slide at Cunningham Park, will require some swimmers to show their stuff before riding on it.

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