The Adult Learn-to-Swim Instructor Certification course was held this past Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. The course drew 16 people from all over the Pacific Northwest. The main focus of this course is to instruct swimmers on how to teach swimming to adults who have never learned to swim or have a fear of being in the water. It was interesting to hear the personal stories from participants, a few of whom have had family members who were involved in drowning incidents. Their motivation was to offer free adult swimming lessons to their communities. The main benefits instructors were seeking from taking the ALTS were:
- Standardized curriculum
- Certified Professional instructors
- Enhanced Adult Programming
- Increased membership and member retention
- A program that provides a community service
- Recognition on the USMS website as a USMS certified ALTS location
- Grants and fundraising opportunities.
Sandi Rousseau from Columbia Gorge Masters provided the following information on how the Hood River Valley Aquatic Center made their Adult Learn-to-Swim program possible.
I was motivated to apply for the ALTS grant from the SSL Foundation because Hood River is a community centered around water…the Columbia River, high alpine lakes, and mountain streams. Learning to swim in this area is so important because of our direct exposure to water. In addition, the Columbia Gorge has a large Hispanic population which, historically, has not had much exposure to water safety. Because we live in a recreational area with multiple opportunities for water sports, there are many adults who would benefit from learning basic water safety, as well as becoming stronger swimmers.
The Hood River Valley Aquatic Center personnel are also very motivated to make people water safe, and the Aquatics Director is a Masters swimmer. So we jointly applied for a grant to USMS and received $3000.
April has been declared Adult Learn-to-Swim month by the Oregon governor, so we are planning to offer classes to any interested adult for free during April. Our plans are to offer five sessions of which we hope everyone who signs up will be able to attend all of them. We will offer these on Wednesdays, April 13, 20, and 27 (three 45 minute sessions) and Saturdays, April 16 and 23 (one 45 minute session each day).
We have solicited Columbia Gorge Masters swimmers as volunteers to teach as well as some employee/instructors from the Aquatic Center. We have made a brochure in both English and Spanish to distribute in the community; are writing articles for the local newspaper; and will be receiving a banner from USMS that advertises the program, to hang at the pool. Information will also be posted on the websites of the Aquatic Center, Hood River Valley Swim Team, and the Columbia Gorge Masters.
Every student will receive a cap from USMS, and we are giving each student goggles. We expect three levels of students…the non-swimmer with possible fear of the water, the swimmer who has not mastered breathing in the water, and the swimmer who would like some assistance with stroke technique. We will have 1:1 ratios of student to instructor for the non-swimmers and from 1:1 to 1:3 ratios for the other groups. The teaching will be very personalized to the student’s comfort and ability level.
We hope that by offering this free swim instruction, it will allow every student to have some degree of comfort in the water and able to execute a strategy to rescue themselves, if ever presented with an unexpected water exposure.
Marlys Cappaert, from Oregon State University received an SSL grant for the ALTS program. The program is being run through the Faculty Staff Fitness (FSF) program at Oregon State University. This year there will be five sessions on Tues/Thurs April 5-19. The program is open to all and free. The goal is to make adults water-safe. In addition to all the obvious reasons we like this program (i.e. saving lives), there are few things more exciting than watching someone figure out how to blow bubbles out their nose for the first time. Helping someone through that stage of being fearful of water to thinking water could be a nice place to be is a wonderful thing to share. Last year I had 5-10 participants and this year I am targeting 20. A few of the students in my ALTS class from last year are now in my swimming classes…and enjoying swimming.
The SSL grants program really offers wonderful support and makes it possible to host these programs all over the state.
Mike Hamm from Idaho, and Bill Brenner from USMS, were responsible for putting on this certification course. Instructor Mike Hamm was very dynamic in his presentation. I remember when Bill Meier, founder of the ALTS program, introduced this idea at United States Aquatic Sports convention a few years ago. Bill Meier and Mike Hamm’s presentations were powerful. These two men along with Bill Brenner, USMS Education Director, have a passion for this program that is ever present in their delivery of this amazing program. I would encourage everyone in Oregon Masters Swimming to consider offering Adult Learn-to-Swim programs to their community. I plan on offering ALTS lessons in the South Metro area of Portland next year. Like Sandi Rousseau stated above, our communities are surrounded by water, reaching out to those who have a fear of water might save a life, and possibly attract people who want to continue “Swimming for Life.” Several ALTS participants have continued onto swimming lessons, and some have joined USMS workout groups.