As the winter months approach, the lack of children attending swimming lessons has prompted a warning from swimming teachers.
Kirby Swim Melville program manager Calvin Krook and Fremantle Leisure Centre swim instructor Isabel Jones said they had seen a reduction in the number of children attending lessons.
Mr Krook urged parents not to take their children out of swimming lessons during winter because stopping them would affect their child’s progress and ability.
“It’s not one of those skills that you do for a little while and it’s retained at a perfect level like riding a bike – you have to work hard on it every week,” he said.
“If kids take a few months off over winter, you see a huge drop in performance and they don’t retain the skills they’ve learnt over summer and it’s really difficult to start them up again each season.”
Ms Jones said children often stopped attending lessons on a regular basis, which disrupted her classes and was harmful to the child’s progress.
“It’s very disruptive when kids are still enrolled but only come once every three weeks or so, which is quite common in winter,” she said.
“If there’s no repetition of the skills they learn, the kids are unable to master those skills and when they come irregularly they have less repetition and they often regress.”
Mr Krook said cold weather was the main reason for reduced numbers, but the perception of swimming being a summer sport was also a factor.
“In terms of numbers, our outdoor pools have gone down massively over winter because it is a lot cooler and it just takes one bad day with the rain and the wind hitting the pool and that’s when you’ll see a big drop off,” he said.
“We also see a drop off with our older kids because they pick up winter sports and swimming is certainly seen as a summer sport, not a year-round sport.”
The Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report found 29 children under five drowned and 12 children under 14 years old drowned last year, and only 39 per cent of all drowning deaths occurred during summer.
Despite these high drowning rates, children were still removed from swimming lessons during the winter months.
Mr Krook said the importance of swimming all year couldn’t be underestimated.
“It’s super important to teach kids year-round because of the close proximity to water here in Australia and swimming all year-round combats sickness, so it’s actually more beneficial swimming through winter and you’re going to end up with a healthier child,” he said.
“Parents’ expectations of swim lessons are changing for sure, but at the moment as soon as the kid can move through the water comfortably in any way, shape or form, that’s viewed as a successful swimming skill.
“A lot of parents see their kids swim five metres, but if you get the kid to swim 10 or 15 metres they can get in trouble so I normally talk to them about what the consequences are and hopefully we can get them onside and swimming all year.”
Reduced attendance and enrolments also have an impact on teachers because classes become empty and shifts are cut.
Kirby Swim Melville pool supervisor and swim instructor Emily Sawyer said swim teaching was a seasonal industry and it was natural to expect numbers to drop, but teachers were affected.
“With class numbers decreasing, this can often mean our classes are merged into one or even cancelled,” she said.
“This means our shifts get shorter, work gets harder to come by and many of us end up with smaller classes and shorter days.”
Hear more about the importance of year-round swimming from Calvin Krook and see why continued swimming can be helpful to a child’s progress below.
*Emily Garbett is a part-time swimming instructor.