BRANDON, Fla. - Theresa Hickie, a woman who devotes her life to keeping kids safe in her Brandon pools, shudders when she hears the results of a new study:
One in three parents are fine with children under 6 years old swimming alone. As in no supervision. As in by themselves.
“My initial reaction is why would [a parent] want to do that?” says Hickie, the aquatics director at the Brandon Sports & Aquatics Center, which just this week opened the new Ken Hagan Learn to Swim Community Pool.
“I had two experiences with my children…. If I hadn’t been there, they wouldn’t be here today,” Hickie said.
So she makes water safety and supervision major pillars of her teaching – show them how to survive before learning to do the backstroke. The Tampa YMCA and the St. Pete YMCA also offer water safety courses for young swimmers.
Referring to the disturbing study, Hickie says, “I don’t know why parents would make that decision".
“My daughter was in the pool one time on a float, and she flipped herself over, but she couldn’t flip herself back… I encourage all parts to be out there poolside no matter what age your child is. Something could happen when they’re 13 or 14,” she said.
Water safety and survival teach kids to be calm in case of a water emergency when their alone: float on their back, make noise, yell for help, splash, make it to the side of the pool if they can.
If they panic, swallow water, sink: “Drowning is a very silent way to die,” she says, adding, “Confidence goes a long way, but supervision is number one.”