Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Job is Pretty Awesome Sometimes... JROTC

As Aquatics Director for our school district I get to teach swimming a bunch of different ways to all sorts of different groups. One of my favorite units of the year is JROTC.  I offer a "drownproofing" course for our school and four others in the area. They come over to the pool and cover a little bit of basics to help them to be comfortable in the water.  We spend a little time helping them to tread efficiently. We talk to them about the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and how they might help.

You might say I am carrying on a Georgia Tech tradition in this course as one skill station is the actual "drownproofing" pioneered by their long-time coach Fred Lanoue.  I don't bind anyone's hands or feet obviously, but it is nice to be able to teach it as a skill that can help people who haven't had much opportunity to take a lot of swim lessons. Read up on it.  It really could be practical in a situation where a person might have to survive more than just a few minutes waiting for a rescue.  I actually read an article once about a pilot who survived for days without flotation by using this very skill.  It is pretty fascinating stuff.  The manual I was given when I took the job was actually printed in 1944, from back when the Navy first embraced it as a way to reduce drowning rates.

We also teach students to inflate their BDU's in multiple ways.  I never had any military background, but this was a skill that we actually learned in elementary school in Southeast Alaska.  The best day of the year in fourth grade was when we got to swim in our clothes and learn how to trap air as improvised flotation.  Serious hands-on learning.  Swimming in clothes ain't the same as doing laps in your speedo.

We were taught a lot about survival in the fishing industry through our swimming classes up there.  One lesson that sticks out in my mind is being taught that as kids that if we see someone go overboard we were to tell the adults and then throw potatoes in the oven.  That way, when the grown ups got the wet clothes off of that that shivering deckhand we could wrap the hot potatoes in towels and stuff them in his sleeping bag to help warm him up gradually.  Pretty smart, huh?!

If you are teaching swimming for a school you might want to look into partnering up with your JROTC.  You will get to see some well-behaved students really soaking up the knowledge and having fun in the process.  JROTC is a great program that does a lot of good for kids and I am glad to be able to contribute.

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