This case study talks about the real risks in swimming lessons and the importance of a swim instructor. On April 2, 2019, Mr Garett Lee, a Master Trainer of the national Swimsafer program, was called upon by the police as well as by the State Courts of Singapore to take the stand as an expert witness to the case of a drowning incident of a 6-year old girl that took place at Kallang Basin Swimming Complex last year, Dec 20, 2017. Being a coroner’s inquiry, his duty was to explain that what is taught at the Swimsafer course and whether safety guidelines have been taught to instructors.The case is slightly unique because the girl drowned while in attendance at a swimming class for kids. Needless to say, the swim instructor concerned has to take the stand as well, and because he had attended the instructor course taught and led by Mr Lee, that is where the connection arises.It made me sit up and think pretty hard that the level of alertness that each of us, as coaches, need to have when teaching MUST never be compromised, especially since the consequences are fatal at worst, and the confidence of a child badly shaken and busted at best.When we ask students to swim out to us, while some others wait at the platform or by the side of the pool, do we eventually turn our back on the students who are waiting for their turn? When seeking to increase swim distances, be it from wall to platform, or platform to platform, for swimmers who are practicing Stage 2 or Stage 3, how is the class organised to prioritise safety while ensuring minimum waiting time and maximum practice opportunities?A child can have difficulty in reaching out for the wall (or platform pole) even if they are just centimetres away from it, just because they panic when they run out of air when submerged. It is indeed ironic that we teach students to be water-safe while constantly practicing in an environment that places them at the highest risk. But there is no other way. The risk is real. That it is possible to encounter a near drowning experience during a swimming class.Therefore, I reach out to all of you to bear in mind the seriousness of this issue that directly concerns us each and every time we enter the water to teach our students. We truly are, aqua guardians to the kids placed under our care.
Justin Tay