Swimming in options

Different curricula set to replace the Red Cross swim program

The Canadian Red Cross’ long-running swimming instruction program is ending. Local organizations like Aqua Essence Swim Academy are looking to fill the gap. (Supplied photo)

The Canadian Red Cross swimming program famous for its collectible badges will soon come to an end, leaving many people feeling nostalgic and disheartened. In January, the Canadian Red Cross announced plans to end its program by December 2022. In its place, the Lifesaving Society of Canada is implementing their own Swim for Life program across the country.

In a press release, Canadian Red Cross CEO and president Conrad Sauvé said “We continue to believe in the importance of water safety training but no longer saw that we offered unique expertise in that area.”

“The Lifesaving Society is a respected, accomplished organization that has long shared our passion to reduce drownings and aquatic-related injuries,” he said.

The Swim for Life program “stresses lots of in-water practice to develop solid swimming strokes and skills,” according to the Lifesaving Society of Canada’s website.

However, they’re not the only organization offering swim curricula. Rishona Hyman, owner of Aqua Essence Swim Academy, has developed her own Ready, Set, Swim! program.

“It’s very different. It just makes sense,” she says, mentioning that Aqua Essence didn’t design their program based on elements of the Red Cross one. “We built (Ready, Set, Swim!) from the ground up.”

Like other swim curricula, Ready, Set, Swim! focuses on water safety and drowning prevention, and the program especially emphasizes first-aid training. “We ... talk about life jackets in some form at every single level,” Hyman says.

Both the Red Cross and Ready, Set, Swim! programs consist of 12 levels that start with teaching floating and kicking then progress to intense swimming, rescue drills and leadership outside the water.

Although Ready, Set, Swim! is geared toward individuals and smaller groups, it also works with larger groups of students. Each level involves an instructor in the water to help ensure proper technique and provide on-the-spot examples.

Mitchell McCausland, a team lead at Aqua Essence, teaches multiple levels of the program. “For younger students at lower levels, I’ll be in the water, guiding their hands and helping them stay afloat,” he says. For lessons with “higher levels, I’ll be in the water, swimming with the students to show them how this technique should look.”

This fall, the Ready, Set, Swim! curriculum can be implemented across the country, allowing local communities the opportunity to learn basic and advanced swimming techniques. With the help of The Quigley Dream Company, Aqua Essence has developed instructional videos to aid and streamline the learning process through video content, allowing other centres to use the program and have trainers available to provide assistance.

For information on registration and the variety of course options, visit aquaessence.ca or lifesaving.mb.ca.

Published in Volume 77, Number 01 of The Uniter (September 8, 2022)

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