Nine years ago, Kelly Rucker was a single mother living in Central Houston. And she was worried about the fact her then-1-year-old daughter, Peyton, would have immediate access to water every time she was with her father for visits.
“I knew that she needed survival training as soon as possible, but I was shocked how few options were available in Central Houston,” Rucker said. “I spent seven weeks, four days a week commuting one-and-a-half hours roundtrip each day to get my daughter trained. Watching the training sparked a passion in me and I became interested in becoming an instructor.”
Flash forward a few years and Rucker was living in Oak Forest, where the availability of lessons for children in her area was still limited.
“I decided to take a leap of faith and get certified as an instructor by one of my daughter’s previous instructors who had since been involved in founding the Survival Swim Development Network,” she said.
The nonprofit organization is dedicated to training instructors to teach infants 6 months and up as well as older children swimming, stroke lessons and survival skills.
“Since certifying I have enjoyed training children in the GOOF/Heights area communities with these lifesaving skills,” Rucker said. “I am also a member of Parents Preventing Childhood Drowning, which has a wealth of resources online regarding drowning prevention.”
With the advent of summer, Rucker wants to caution parents that life jackets, puddle jumpers and other vertical floatation devices are not learn-to-swim devices.
“These devices teach an orientation in the water that would cause a child to sink if the device were not present,” she said. “When wearing these devices children develop a false sense of confidence that they have the skill to swim.”
Rucker said adult supervision is an essential, consistent layer of protection that is needed when children are swimming and around water. She warns this supervision tends to slip when parents perceive that their children are safe in the water alone.
“Floatation devices should be reserved only for use in bodies of water that you can’t see in and that have no defined edges that can be grabbed,” she said. “Ask yourself, ‘How would my child fare if they walked into a pool without a floatation device and without supervision?’”
Rucker also cautions against encouraging unskilled children to jump in the pool and then praising and cheering for them when they jump.
“No one stops to ask themselves the question, ‘What would my child do if they jumped in the pool and no one was there to catch them?’” she said.
During Rucker’s lessons, which she said utilize gentle, child-centered methods, there is a focus on horizontal head and body orientation that transitions to a technical freestyle swim with a side breath when developmentally appropriate.
“There is also a very strong focus on the students knowing how to calmly secure an independent back float from any given scenario that might arise during recreational swimming or an accidental or unexpected fall-in,” she said.
According to Rucker, a parent’s goal should be to teach their child a healthy respect for the water as well as the skills to deal with unexpected scenarios before they learn to have fun in the water.
“Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death in children ages 1-4,” she said. “Multiple layers of protection will help keep your child safe.”
For more information, visit http://www.survivalswim.net/ and https://www.parentspreventingchildhooddrowning.com/ or contact Rucker at 832-857-0010.
Swimming Safety Tips
• A constant designated water watcher (an adult free of influence of drugs or alcohol and free from all distractions — including cellular phones other than when being used for emergencies)
• Survival training
• Pool fence
• Door locks
• Door alarms
• CPR training
• Backyard address signs for reminders to call 911 for emergency help