Shallow-Water Blackouts by Bob Bowman, North Baltimore Aquatic Club & Cathy Bennett, Michael Phelps Swim School (2013)


Published


 

[introduction, by John Leonard]

You’re all here this morning for the same reason I am: we’re going to listen to one of the great coaches in modern Swimming history.  Bob and I were just sort of debating, and neither one of us can remember whether he’s been the ASCA Coach of the Year five or six times, but it’s right up there—it’s a record.  Every single time he speaks, he has tremendous content to give us.  I have a 23 year-old son who’s just started learning how to coach with the University of Florida and Gator Swim Club, and I send him articles all the time.  The first article I sent him last September was Bob’s talk about capacity training and utilization training.  And Jackson has the same habit I have, which is reading with a yellow magic marker in-hand or a highlighter, and he said, “Dad, I want to go to breakfast and talk about this article.”  And he pulls out the article and the entire six or seven pages is solid yellow.  So, I know he got a lot out of it; I get a lot out of it—I re-read it every day.  This is the latest installment of gotta listen to.  Coach Bob Bowman”.

 

[Bowman begins]

Thank you, John.  I’ve been kind of dreading giving this talk, and not because I don’t want to be here.  But because it’s pretty painful and personal, and it’s just hard to get through.  So I hope you’ll bear with me as we start off.  And I do think this is the most important talk I’ve ever given to coaches.  And the information that I’m going to put forth today is not going to have anything to do about butterfly or freestyle or sprinting or distance or anything else.  But it could be the most important information that you get at a coaching clinic.  So, please pay attention, and take this to heart.

 

On October 28 of last year, the most significant event in the history of North Baltimore Aquatic Club occurred.  And it wasn’t in London, it was back home in our own pool.  I personally had been taking some time away from the deck, and I was in Michigan attending the wedding of a very good friend, on the 27th.  And I got up on the 28th and about ten-in-the-morning I got a call from my general manager, John Cadigan, and he told me that we had had a near-drowning event in our pool.

 

As he’s talking to me and telling me some of the specifics about what happened, I’m thinking in my head, ‘Okay, this is probably one of our older members, who had a health problem and got into some trouble and was struggling; and that’s how the event occurred.’  He told me it had happened just-after NBAC practice finished on Sunday morning, like it always happens.  We were fully staffed, the emergency action plan by all accounts was successful.  The victim, or the person involved, left the pool alive; on life-support, but alive.  So, at that time, we didn’t know much more than that.

 

And then, he told me something that literally made me drop the telephone.  He said it was Louis Lowenthal.  I said, “No.”  Not a perfectly-healthy, 14 year-old boy, who swims for NBAC, is the state champion in 200m Breaststroke, just successfully completed a practice.  He said, “Yes, it is.”  And it didn’t… you know, it would be bad for anybody, but when I heard that, I was like, How can this be?  How does a kid leave home on Sunday morning and not come back from practice?”

 

And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.  Because through this really excruciating process, we have learned something that’s very important and something that I think will be relevant to everybody in this room.

 

I got the final news that afternoon, because I was up-in-the-air about what I was going to do; I was supposed to fly to Moscow to the FINA Convention, that night from Detroit.  And we didn’t know if he was going to make it, if he was not; so I just kind of stayed on my plan.  And I was in a car on the way to the Detroit airport when John gave me the call that Louis was not going to make it.  And I just asked the gentleman who was driving the car to take me straight to the rental car center, and I got a car and started driving back into Baltimore that night.

 

During that seven-hour drive/eight-hour drive, I spent most of the time on the phone.  As you can imagine, there was a lot of communication that had to be done.  We were trying to get in contact with the family, trying to support them; come-up with a plan for what was going to happen.

 

And we decided we’d follow several steps.  Number one, the most important thing, was take care of Louis any way we possibly could.  At that point, he was in the doctor’s hands, so that was mainly prayers.  But, when we got the call, then we knew that we had to shift our focus to his family.  And what the family valued most at this time was privacy, and that’s what I gave to them.  In terms of any communication that we put out, it was approved by them and them alone, when they wanted to do it, and the way they wanted it done.  We needed to make sure that we provided support for the family, and that was overwhelming from NBAC.  They were solid members of our team for quite a while, so there were meals, there were people visiting, there were… any kind of support they needed, they got.

 

Finally, we wanted to take care of the NBAC kids and members.  So we immediately provided counseling for every child on our team, every group; and their parents who were interested in having it.  And we did an initial round of counseling, and then those who were either in his specific group or his closest friends, they had on-going counseling.  We provided counseling for the staff.

 

One of the things that was hard for us to deal with was: we’ve had thousands and thousands of people come through Meadowbrook; we’ve had some incidents, nobody had died.  And on this Sunday morning, we had our very best people there and they worked on Louis.  Our general manager, years of experience; assistant general manager, years of experience.  The lifeguard who worked on him was an ex-Marine, had been in emergency situations.  We had a nurse, who was there swimming, helping.  And we had one of the best doctors in America, who was overseeing this whole process, and he did not join-in and do anything because he said, “I did not want to stop the flow of what your guys were doing.  I could not have done it better.”  So, while every one of our people gave their very best effort at the most critical moment, we failed.  So they needed counseling, too.

 

The parents on NBAC needed communication.  Hard to do, because we’re respecting the privacy of the family and there was only so many things we were going to tell them about what’s going on.  But they needed to feel like their kids were safe; that we were looking at what we were doing to see what happened and how we could not have it happen again, and how they could support the Lowenthal family.

 

And, finally, the thing that was most important to me at this time after all those were done—and I’m driving back in a rainstorm because this was Hurricane Sandy hitting us—I told John, “We must find out what happened and why.”  And I spent a lot of time going over the specifics of it with John that day, because I wanted him to write everything down that had happened, to interview anybody who was there, to get every piece of information that we could very close to the event.  Because I didn’t want time to sort of go by and dull the memories of what had happened, specifically.  And he did a very good job of that.

 

And as we started to piece together the puzzle of what happened that morning after practice, it became very clear to me that none of it made sense.  It just didn’t add up.  You had a very healthy young man, who was very fit and well trained, an exceptional swimmer.  He had done a practice, but Sunday practices for us are not hard.  He wasn’t particularly, you know, exhausted at the end.  We had all key safety people in place.  Lifeguards were there, lap swimmers were in the pool; this did not happen in an isolated facility with nobody watching.  The response time was more than adequate for anything that we know about conventional drowning events—and we’ll go into that a little bit later.  The medical assistance that was there on the scene was adequate.  And yet, somehow, Louis wasn’t with us anymore.

 

As the weeks and months after the event passed, and we tried to learn some more about what was going on, we started talking a little bit more about the specifics of what people knew and what they saw.  Practice had ended, the group had gotten out of the water, the coach had watched them leave the pool, in the outdoor pool—we have an outdoor pool and we have an indoor pool.  The coach had put-up the clocks and the pace clocks and a board that he wrote the practice on.  They had been in a short-course pool; they got up, everybody walked around.

 

Louis had jumped back in the long-course pool, right by the door where the coach had went in and put the stuff up.  That wasn’t really highly unusual, because it was cold outside and the water is warm, so the kids might do that every now and then.  And Louis had a habit of staying after practice, and sort of practicing skills and experimenting on things by himself.  He was incredibly curious, and, I promise you, nobody in this room loved Swimming more than he did.

 

So Louis is comfortable sitting there by the pool, smiles, says something to the coach.  And then the coach assumes he’s getting out, but he doesn’t.  And that’s okay, because there’s a lifeguard, there’s lap swimmers; it’s kind of our normal operation of that pool.  He’s seen doing some things called rockets that I like to do with my guys.  And my theory is: he’s working on his underwaters off the walls.

 

And rockets are when you push off the bottom, and then you go down, push off the bottom; it’s an explosive movement.  And I think what Louis didn’t understand is when my group does it, they do five and then they take a rest.  They go on a minute, and the five take about ten seconds.  So they work for 10 seconds, they have 50 seconds worth of rest.  Well, he’s doing multiple repeats of these, I think—best we can tell.  And he’s then working on pushing off the wall and kind of transferring that into what was going on.  At some point, he decided to kick 50 meters underwater, is my theory, because he was seen actively kicking underwater.

 

And I’m going to give you a little hint of the timeframe of how this happened.  The lap swimmer in the lane next to him is a parent on our team; I coach both her children, she’s swum at Meadowbrook for probably 15 years now, every day, same time.  She’s in the lane, and she’s swimming down the lane and she looks over in the next lane somewhere during her lap.  And we know it takes her about a minute, at the fastest, to do a lap.  She’s not a very good swimmer, right?  But, you know, good lap swimmer, I guess.  So she moves down the pool at a minute pace.

 

Somewhere in that lap, she sees Louis kicking down the other direction, and she thinks, Oh, it’s an NBAC swimmer doing what they do.  You know, she didn’t really think anything of it.  She continues on down the lap, which is maybe 30-40 more seconds.  She stops—her goggles filled up, she fixed them—she turns around to come back to the other end, and we already have Louis out of the water working on him.

 

That’s what you’re going to find today, is that time is critical.  And the time of shallow-water blackout, in terms of saving somebody, it’s almost you can’t do it.  There’s one boy you’re going to see on a video, who’s one of the lucky few, one of the 1%-2% of people who are affected with this, who are actually saved.  Because if you don’t get to them and administer oxygen within less than two minutes—at two minutes is the critical window, because we feel like we had Louis receiving oxygen again in two minutes—they don’t make it.  So that’s why I think the timeframes on these are very, very important.

 

I got a call from Louis’ pediatrician, Dr. Alan Lake—who you’ll see on the video—and he said, “You know, at the request of Louis’ family, I’d like to work with you to educate coaches about shallow-water blackout.”  I had heard of this, right?  Maybe some of you have heard of it.  But I didn’t understand it.  But once I did, all of the events that happened on October 28 made sense to me.  I don’t like them, and I wish I could do anything in the world to go back and rewind the clock.  Because I promise you, it’s not the kind of thing you get over.  You will never get over it.  I think about it every day; I think about it every time I walk by the spot in the pool where it occurred.  Every time.  And I walk by that pool a lot.

 

Dr. Lake set-up a round-table discussion with: himself—he was Louis’ pediatrician—Louis’ cardiologist, the emergency room doctor who worked on Louis, another pediatrician—who is a parent of children on NBAC—and, then little beknownst to me, one of the country’s leading pulmonary specialists was a mother of three swimmers that I had coached, all three over the course of 15 and 20 years, and I just thought she was a nice swim mom who ran the computers on Sunday at meets.  She was there, Cheryl McGrath.  They put-together a wonderful presentation for all of my staff, Eagle Swim Team staff, we invited all local coaches and there’s a pretty good bunch of us came.

 

And one of the main things I want to do today is to alert you how you can watch this entire round table discussion—it’s 53 minutes.  Because it contains every piece of vital information on this topic, and it talks in terms that are very down-to-earth and will give you a much better understanding of it.  And it’s going to be linked on our page at NBAC, you’ll easily be able to find it.  So that’s one of our big purposes today.

 

But we had this round-table discussion, and we came out of that, now we understand what our mission is: it’s education and prevention.  Because as I said before, the time frames on this are so tight, that maybe 1 in 10—not even one in ten—are going to survive this, if they’re in that situation.  And what’s relevant to all of us: only accomplished swimmers can get themselves in a state where this happens.  This doesn’t happen to weak swimmers, it doesn’t happen to recreational swimmers; they can’t work hard enough and drive their CO2 levels down enough to make it happen.  The typical victims of shallow-water blackout are Navy Seals, deep divers and elite swimmers.  Really shocking to me when I heard that.

 

If there is any positive that came out of this, other than we might be able to prevent a further death, is that the Lowenthal family were pillars of strength under excruciating circumstances.  And their primary concern when they communicated with me, was that I take this message of shallow-water blackout and communicate it to as many coaches, swimmers, parents and safety people as possible.  And that’s what I’m doing today, and that’s what I hope you will do with your staffs at home, with your swimmers.  Very, very important.

 

I’d like to introduce Cathy Bennett.  Cathy is a long-time member of our family at NBAC; as a parent and, probably most importantly, as founder of the North Baltimore Swim School which became the Michael Phelps Swim School.  She actually taught Michael how to swim.  Not too many people get to do that.  But Cathy has been a safety advocate for years.

 

And the first thing I did when I started looking at the broad ramifications of what was going on here, was: are we safe at our practices, what can we do to be safer.  So I named Cathy manager of the daily training environment.  In charge of safety; making sure practices are safe, making sure that they’re effective in the way that we’re teaching and a good learning environment; and also opens lines of communication between our parents, swimmers, coaches, everyone about safety and how we’re going to approach it.  And she’s going to come up now and explain some of the specifics about shallow-water blackout.  Cathy.

 

[Bennett begins]

Thank you.  Thank you for coming; thanks, Bob, for the introduction.  We’re going to talk about shallow-water blackout and what it means and what it is.  Shallow-water blackout is a loss of consciousness caused by oxygen starvation to the brain toward the end of a breath-hold dive in water less than 15 meters or 15 feet from the surface.  It is felt to be the number one cause of drowning in experienced swimmers, especially in adolescents and young adults.

 

In the majority of cases, the swimmer hyperventilates, swims underwater for a relatively short distance, and dies silently after blacking-out without warning.  Unlike regular drowning where there can be more than 6-8 minutes before brain damage and death, there are only about 2.5 minutes before brain damage and death in shallow-water blackout.  Which is due to the reduction in oxygen to the brain before the blackout, especially in a more warm water pool—it speeds up the process.  So in most cases, the swimmer hyperventilates, swims underwater for a relatively short distance, and dies silently after blacking-out.

 

So next we’re going to talk about the hyperventilation part.  What is the role of hyperventilation in shallow-water blackout?  Hyperventilation is over-breathing, it involves breathing faster or deeper than normal with the mistaken belief that this increases body oxygen saturation.  The hyperventilation can be intentional or it can be the result of attempting to restore normal breathing after a competitive or exertional swim.  While hyperventilation does not significantly increase oxygen levels, as one might believe, it does effectively drive-down the carbon dioxide level, with as few as four to five deep breaths.

 

Under normal circumstances, the urge to breathe or exhale is triggered by a rise in carbon dioxide level, in the bloodstream.  The body detects accurately the rising CO2 level from the body metabolism and thus controls breathing.  As noted above, hyperventilation lowers the baseline of the CO2, and that’s a condition called hypocapnia.  And underwater, the low CO2 levels rise very slowly, and they delay the drive to take a breath. Alright?  And here is where the whole problem comes in: the CO2 levels rise, but rise very slowly.  They don’t get to take that trigger to take the breath and the drive to take the breath until too late, leaving the swimmer unaware and thus susceptible to the loss of consciousness from hypoxia.

 

For most swimmers, the very first symptom of low O2, of oxygen, is a blackout with no warning or awareness.  And then, in most cases, the loss of consciousness then triggers a deep breath underwater, flooding the lungs with water.  So a lot of times people have been… the shallow-water blackout has occurred, they’ve gone to an emergency room and it’s been just noted as a regular drowning because of that overwhelming urge to breathe after the blackout.

 

And, once again, remember that it’s only…  as Bob talked about it, time is of the essence: think 2-2.5 minutes.

 

So, in an effort to continue the education process, we had people from a local radio station do a spot on shallow-water blackout, which we’re going to show you now.

 

 

[anchor 1]:  August remains a very busy month for competitive swimming both here in Maryland and across the country.

 

[anchor 2]:  And in that world, there’s a desperate effort to warn the best swimmers and their families about something they didn’t think they actually had to worry about.  Eleven News I-Team reporter, Deborah Weiner, explains.

 

[Deborah]:  It may at first make little sense: how an expert swimmer, physically fit and water savvy, can drown.  It nearly claimed the life of competitive swimmer Chris Pilotte, during practice with a Baltimore County swim team last year.

 

[Chris]:  They realized that I was underwater, and they pulled me out and they did CPR.

 

[Deborah]:  After swimming for 45 minutes, the team began vigorously practicing underwater breath control.  It was on the second lap of the set that Chris went to the bottom of the pool for about 45 seconds. 

 

Before this happened, had you ever heard about shallow-water blackout?

 

[Chris]:  No.

 

[Deborah]:  Neither had his parents.

 

[Chris’ mom]:  But once they got to the hospital, they kept referring to it as a near drowning—all the doctors.  And then it began to dawn on me, like, this is really what happened.

 

[Deborah]:  And frightened many others in the swimming community, only six months later.  It’s believed, shallow-water blackout was the cause of death for 14 year-old star swimmer Louis Lowenthal. a member of the prestigious North Baltimore Aquatic Club.  His numerous records remain posted at his neighborhood pool in Stoneleigh. 

 

Family friend, Brian Loeffler, is head coach for the swim team at Loyola College.

 

[Brian]:  You never, never expect anything like that to happen, particularly to a gifted swimmer and somebody at such a young age taken definitely too early.

 

[Deborah]:  For Lowenthal and Pilotte, other medical conditions like heart problems were ruled out.  Shallow-water blackout, simply put, is a faint underwater; a loss of consciousness caused by oxygen starvation to the brain.  It happens in water typically less than 15 feet from the surface.  In most cases, a swimmer hyperventilates, swims underwater for a short distance, and without warning, blacks out.  Low CO2 levels delay the brain’s normal urgent need to breathe. 

 

[Dr. Lake]:  After they pass-out, or blackout, they do, in fact, take a breath in that floods their lungs.  And so when the coroner’s examining them, they appear to be a standard drowning, and it’s only if you’re aware of the circumstances in which it happened, that you’re able to understand that this was the cause.

 

[Deborah]:  Pediatrician Dr. Alan Lake is on a mission to get the word out about this deadly phenomenon, after four local deaths in just the last two years.

 

[Dr. Lake]:  A competitive swimmer from my practice, a triathlete, a Navy Seal, and another situation of a swimming program where another individual passed away. 

 

[Deborah]:  At the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, signs are now posted at each corner of the training pool, prohibiting long underwater breath holding, warning it can be deadly.  The safety coordinator there says swimmers, parents and trainers need to know that certain limits cannot be tested. 

 

[Bennett]:  We just really don’t want them taking themselves beyond.  The coaches challenge them beyond their physical ability sometimes, but this is not an ability that you would have control over. 

 

[Deborah]:  Experts say never swim or dive alone.  Never take a dare to swim further underwater.  And recognize, though it may seem counterintuitive, that the best swimmers are most at risk.

 

[Dr. Lake]:  It’s a preventable cause of drowning, okay.  And it is totally unfair that it hits the most elite swimmers and the people you worry about normally the least.

 

[Deborah]:  The Pilotte family is grateful that Chris is okay.  And the high school sophomore has returned to the pool and competitive Swimming.  A sport that, in Baltimore, is forever changed by the loss of a gifted athlete and the new awareness that shallow-water blackout is very real and deadly.

 

For the 11 News I-Team, I’m Deborah Weiner. 

 

 

It really gives you something to think about.

 

We’re going to put a chart up now, that you will be able to see when you look at the round-table discussion.  But it’s basically the chart showing the oxygen levels and the CO2 levels.  And as you can see on the bottom one, the CO2 level dips down so low, there’s no way you can get-up in time to tell the swimmer to breathe.  And then the blackout occurs.

 

So this is the situation and then you want to say, how do we reduce the risk, because as Dr. Lake says, it’s a preventable thing.  All right?  So for us: education.  We’re trying to educate the swimmers, the parents, the coaches, the lifeguards, anybody that’s around a pool, to know what to look for.  We’ve heard this a million times, but we’re going to say it a million times more: don’t ever swim alone, don’t ever train alone.

 

  • Before diving, take a moment to relax and make your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels more equal; re-equivilate them.
  • Do not encourage prolonged breath holding or hypoxic training.
  • Do not encourage hyperventilation; it doesn’t really improve oxygen capacity as much as you might think, and it certainly can become very damaging in this situation because of the other effect that it has on the carbon dioxide.
  • Teach swimmers to recognize and understand and respect the urge to breathe.
  • Do not allow swimmers to practice breath-holding while floating face-down or while sitting on the bottom of the pool, because even the increased relaxation increases the risk of blackout.
  • Recognize that repeated hyperventilation during the course of a training session increases the risk of blackout.
  • And recognize that increased exertion under water increases the risk by driving the oxygen level down and the CO2 level down faster.

 

[Bowman returns]

Thanks, Cathy.  For me, and for us in this room, the practical implications are important.  And I’ll give you… well, a very good example of this.  I often do training camps at Colorado Springs, for altitude training.  And every now and then, if I’m there in the Summer and the weather’s good, we can go out to the short-course pool that they have outside—so the kids can be in the sun.  And it was a very-relaxed, Sunday afternoon practice where they were just… it was a recovery practice, they were given something, they just did at their own pace.  We were splitting them up, and the best way that we did it this time is we had all of the really, the post graduate and college men in a group.  In this little pool.

 

And they finished and they were hanging around and they were having a great time, and next thing I know, they’re doing the thing about, Oh, I can go 75 underwater.  “Can you go 100?  Let’s see if you can go 100.”  And that’s where I had to stop and share this story with them.  And every one of them thanked me.  Like, we had no idea.

 

You know, it’s not necessary for competitive swimming to swim 75 yards underwater.  It’s probably not necessary to do 50 meters underwater.  Maybe, if Chase Kalisz does one at the end of his warm-up, which he likes to do, a 50 meters in which I now watch every meter of; and he’s in a relaxed state and he’s not hyperventilating before, that may be okay.  But, Age Group swimmers don’t need to be trying to see how far they can go underwater.  We will allow our young swimmers who are advanced, and I’m saying 12/13/14, to go a 25-meter repeat underwater, if we think that’s something that’s a good teaching tool for them.  But they do one.  Not 8, not on short rest; and it has to be done with complete recovery.

 

Obviously, as coaches, you have to use your judgment about what you do with advanced and elite swimmers versus younger swimmers, you know.  If you’re doing multiple repeats of underwater 25s—which I know a lot of people do and I have done some on my own—and you’re doing it with Michael Phelps, well maybe that’s one thing.  But I’ve never really believed that, you know, doing a lot of breath-holding and severe underwater work was that beneficial to the 15 meters that we have to go off each wall or dive.  You would never do that with a young child, and you would never encourage them to keep seeing how long they can hold their breath doing underwater swims.  It’s not worth it; I’m here to tell you today.  I don’t care if there is a benefit, we’re never going to do it again, and it’s not worth it.  Please, hear that.

 

One of the things: I would encourage you to take the time to watch this round-table discussion that we did, as the coaches got to ask the doctors a lot of great questions.  About, Well, is hypoxic training on the surface like breathing every three or every five the same thing as going underwater?  And generally, it’s not; there’s not any proof that there’s a difference.  But when you’re on the surface, it’s much easier to just turn your head and breathe.  And you have to make some decisions about that too.  I don’t think you want to just get someone so fatigued they can’t do anything and then do a lot of breath holding on the surface, either.

 

But you have to start learning about, in my opinion, how to effectively train the underwaters without doing it to a real extreme level; or one day, God forbid, we would have another one of these.  I promise you: you never want to see a day where you have to take a Speedo backpack that has the clothes of a boy who put them in there before his practice and sat on the side of the pool like a hundred other backpacks were that day and it never got picked-up and his glasses are still sitting on the top of it, and you have to put it in your office because every time staff walks by it they fall apart.  You don’t want to do that.  So err on the side of caution on this one.  You know I’m all about pushing the limits of performance, on physical performance, on psychological preparation.  This is not an area where you should do it.

 

Cathy is going to come up… sorry.  Cathy’s going to tell you a little bit about what we’ve done on a broad sense with our program to improve safety at practice.

 

[Bennett returns]

Yeah, you don’t ever get past it, you don’t ever forget about it, you don’t ever do anything about what happened that day.  But you do try to do something to make a difference or to examine what you’re doing; it does make you think.

 

So we’ve really been putting together what… I would have said we had a good safety plan before, but we’ve looked in every nook-and-cranny and we will continue to do that.  And it’s not really a scare tactic; it’s just to make sure you’re making the safest environment you can make for your swimmers, and their families.

 

Luckily, helping us, USA Swimming has a lot of regulations in the coach’s safety and the background checks and all those kinds of things, which is fantastic.  Make sure everybody’s up-to-date with that.  That’s the number one place you can start: to make sure all your coaches are up-to-date with their certifications.

 

Look at all your insurance policies.  Look at what you have for your facilities, if you rent facilities; if you have a board of directors, you might want to possibly look into something like that.

 

Think about your team, specifics about your team.  It’s impossible for us to stand-up here and say do this, and do this, and do this, and do this, and everything will be fine.  You have to look, do your own housecleaning, your own looking; look around and see what you have going on.  Work to come-up with a plan.  Discuss the things; imagine what could happen or what could not happen or what’s good or what’s not good or what needs to be worked on.

 

Post reminders around the pool.  The signs that we have now are great.  At first, I have to say that I didn’t really like looking at them, but I’ve gotten used to it and I think it’s really great and it’s a good piece of education.

 

So, educate your swimmers about daily safety protocol.  I feel like we have a responsibility as adults to do that.  Do not assume that they will always choose the right path, even if you have given them the rules.  You’ve got to watch them.  And it’s something you have to continue to go over, and go over with them.

 

So, right-specifically to North Baltimore Aquatic Club, we have a number of things going on.  We ask, number one, for total support from our parents in this safety program that we’re developing; and that does put some responsibility on them, too.  We’ll have our opening team meeting next week, and we will go through the safety procedures and protocol that we have in place for this Fall season.  We will also send reminder emails, and we will have updates and reminders in newsletters that coaches would send out.

 

So, for us, we decided to look at when does practice start?  And when does practice end?  So that’s the simplest thing.  It’s not usually the first hop in the water.  So we’re asking parents that they are not allowed to drop their swimmers off more than twenty minutes before a practice starts and they need to pick them up twenty minutes after the practice is over.  Depending on the pool, we have a couple locations, depending on the location, whether the swimmers can walk out to the parents or whether the parents have to come in and pick them up, we’re erring on the more conservative side; and in most instances, parents are picking up their kids directly from the pool—for the young ages, of course.

 

Each coach has an arrival and departure practice and protocol for each one of the facilities.  When we talk on arrival in the facility, where do they put their bags, where do they line-up, where do they sit, where do they get ready.  During swim practice, how do they line up, how do they follow each other in the water.  All of those safety things that you probably do, but it would be good to talk about it and get it out there.  Once again, there’s post-swim practice protocol and regulations; they have a dryland program, there should be separate regulations for that.  And in these instances, it may be groups of people moving from one place to another in a facility.  And, of course, safety in the locker room.

 

We will continue to have team activities throughout the year, and we will highlight certain aspects of safety as well as other things.  Once again, it goes back to the education and educating the parents.  We will continue to have some in-service training for our coaching staff, which will be in-service training and meetings to just discuss how things are going.  And we will be investigating things like having yearly physicals for our swimmers and things like that.  That’s the topics that we’ll go into.

 

And lastly what I’ll say is, I think that it’s really, really, really important—I touched on it—to educate the swimmers; they’re our biggest advocates.  If mom and dad drop you off thirty minutes early, and that’s not what we want to happen—because we have a ten minute window of we’re not sure what’s really going on and we’re not prepared to watch you at that point in time—the swimmer is more apt to say to their parents, “I can’t come at that time.  The coaches aren’t ready for me.”  Or at the end of practice, “You need to be there twenty minutes after.”

 

You know, we’re all real people: we’ll listen if there’s an emergency or somebody has to come late.  But fitting our time into certain parameters, and having the coaches and the families help us with that and follow with that, is really helpful to the whole safety plan.  Thank you very much.

 

[Bowman returns]

(Alright.  I’ll wrap it up.)  I hope we’ve given you some information that you can go back and think about and use.  I would highly encourage you to watch the round-table discussion on shallow-water blackout that we did with the doctors and the coaches.  That’ll be on nbac.net.  If you have any further questions or anything you’d like to know more about it, you can email me.  And, really, thank you for your time; I appreciate it.

 

 

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