Youngsters are reaping vital life-saving skills through a diving programme in The West.
They conquer their fear of deep water and learn how to stay safe in classes run by Auckland Diving Community Trust at Henderson’s West Wave Pool and Leisure Centre.
Gaining confidence in deep water is a hugely important skill for tamariki who live on an island with the 10th
longest coastline in the world, says Ellie Price, Auckland Diving Community Trust Programme Manager and Development Officer. New Zealand beaches, rivers and swimming pools are frequently used by families for recreational activities, she says. “If these kids are not confident in deep water and fall into a situation where they are in deep water, there is a huge risk of drowning. In 2022 there were 94 preventable drownings in New Zealand which is unfortunately the worst in the past decade. By helping kids become more comfortable in deep water, this number could be decreased.”
Last year’s annual drowning toll is 15 per cent higher than the 10-year average, according to the Water Safety New Zealand- Drowning Report 2022. The provisional fatal drowning total for the 2023 year to date is 76.
Auckland Diving Community Trust runs springboard and platform diving lessons for 275 adults and youngsters from brand new divers to competitive training at Olympic level.
The charitable trust teaches children aged from four to 18 years through regular classes as well as a diving programme promoting deep water safety and confidence in Waitākere primary schools.
Many tamariki fear plunging into deep water, Ellie says. “We once had a young seven-year-old boy who was particularly uncomfortable to the extent that he would only do skills right next to the wall of the pool. Gradually he got a bit more confident swimming away from the edge of the pool with some help from a coach but he was still really scared to go deep.”
This boy had a really hard time jumping into the pool and would put his arms out and pull his legs up when hitting the water, she says, “which won’t work off a diving board as it is quite painful.”
But within three weeks he was landing in the water upright and straight. By the end of the term, he was jumping off the 3-metre-high diving board. “This took a lot of work from him and his coach, a lot of encouragement and some tears. Once he had conquered this skill, he was so much more comfortable with his swimming and in the deep water. It was also a huge achievement mentally. This boy finished the term feeling very happy and proud of himself, as were all the coaches who worked with him!”
Ellie says many younger children entering the programme are not necessarily very strong swimmers but can swim well enough to join classes in the deep pool. “We have had many comments from the parents of these children saying that within just a few weeks of lessons, their children’s swimming skills have improved immensely. The skills we teach progress from gliding on the surface of the water to rolling into the water to jumping feet first into the water, to diving headfirst into the deep water. This progression creates an excellent pathway for kids who are scared of the deep water and not confident swimmers, as it builds up to going deeper and deeper."
The trust has faced major challenges in the past finding the funds to run the in-school programmes and cover the pool hire fees for beginner lessons, she says. “We often spend up to three days at a school which wouldn't be achievable without the support of our amazing funders such as the Your West Support Fund. We are extremely grateful for their continued support.”
A $10,000 grant from the Your West Support Fund has meant Auckland Diving can continue its programme "which promotes diving as a sport to kids who may not have heard about it before in the community.” This includes teaching tamariki at Western Heights Primary School, Summerland Primary School and Holy Cross Catholic School in Henderson, she says. “We have delivered lessons to these schools and seen an influx of kids from the Waitākere area into our programme at the pool.”
Auckland Diving Community Trust CEO Steve Gladding says the grant has contributed to the salary of a development officer. This has enabled the trust to keep promoting water safety awareness and teaching key physical literacy skills to primary school students, he says. The funding has also gone towards the cost of pool hire at West Wave Pool and Leisure Centre.