Dumb Is Forever

The discussion on the depth of swimming pools has focused on major pools hosting national competitions. The Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre because it was once the pool used for the National Short Course Championships and the Te Rapa Waterworld Pool in Hamilton because it hosts the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ Championships.

Focusing on these national events in major pools was the right place to start. Swimming New Zealand is the organization responsible for swimming throughout the country. If the conduct of the national organization demonstrates a cavalier disregard for the safety of swimmers, what chance was there of educating smaller operators? As you know I have had little success in changing Swimming New Zealand’s attitude to pool safety. For 22 years Swimming New Zealand has fought every effort to improve the safety of pools where depth is an issue. My protests have been declined. My protest fees have been withheld. My reputation has been publically slandered and libelled in the organization’s Annual Report. And why? Because I lobbied to make diving into a swimming pool safe.

It will be interesting to see whether other organizations brought into the discussion on the Hamilton Pool last week demonstrate more concern for swimmer safety than Swimming New Zealand.

But this week I came across evidence that the arrogant disregard for safety shown by Swimming New Zealand is beginning to trickle down; is beginning to influence the attitude of smaller operators to the question of pool depth.

This week I picked up the August 2017 edition of the Porirua City Aquatics Newsletter. In it there was a 400 word discussion on the efforts being made to bring back diving into the Cannons Creek Pool. Right now the Porirua City Council has banned all diving. The Cannons Creek Pool is only 0.86m deep at the walls and 1.00m deep everywhere else. Porirua Council has rightly said that is too shallow. It is dangerous and has taken the appropriate step of protecting the safety and health of local swimmers. Well done Porirua City Council.

But here is a summary of what the newsletter says Porirua Aquatics intend to do about the care shown by the Council.

“Swimming New Zealand has recently released guidelines for competitive race start dive water depths and height of blocks.

These guidelines follow several face to face meetings between Brent Harris (PCA Committee member and National Qualified Referee) and Steven Johns (CEO SNZ) to discuss the Porirua City Council (PCC) diving ban at Cannons Creek Pool.

Cannons Creek pool is accepted by SNZ where official times can be recorded, as the depth requirement is not mandatory for pools under FR1.3 for FINA Minimum Standard Pools. FR1.3 states that events should be conducted in pools that comply with all of the minimum standards, but does not state that they must be conducted in pools that comply with all of the minimum standards.

The PCA committee is still working to have dive starts allowed at Cannons Creek pool within the guidelines published by SNZ. We are working on changing the blocks so that the height of the dive will be achieved from a flat surface and no more than 0.4 metres above the water line. Once we have found a suitable alternative to the current blocks we will be approaching the PCC representatives to discuss our options.”

What I find disturbing about the newsletter is that the arguments and attitudes that have characterised Swimming New Zealand’s conduct for 22 years are now being demonstrated by local operators. Bad habits are catching on. For 22 years Swimming New Zealand has relied on FINA Rule FR1.3 and its use of the word “should” not “must”.

But that’s not really the point is it? What matters is whether it is safe to dive into a pool that is 0.86m deep at the walls. Brent Harris and Steven Johns can sit around discussing the semantics of the FINA rule book as often and for as long as they like. They can duck and dodge and find a way to lobby the Council to change its rule. But they will never make diving into a 0.86m deep pool safe.

What concerns me about the meetings between Swimming New Zealand and Porirua Aquatics is that they are portrayed as an effort to gain back the freedom to dive. But in reality these meetings involved two organizations doing all they can to find a way to compromise the health and safety of Porirua swimmers. In my view these meeting planned harm; aimed at manipulating words in order to put swimmers at risk of injury or death.

The Cannon’s Creek ban on diving was introduced on 16 August 2016 after a club member hit her head diving into the Cannon’s Creek Pool. And do you know what the reaction of Swimming New Zealand (as reported on Stuff) was at the time.

The ban was opposed by Swimming New Zealand, which said that not allowing children to dive-start in shallower pools – common around the country – could “greatly affect competitive swimming in New Zealand” if the move set a precedent.”

And Porirua Aquatics president Viv Morton compounded the blasphemy by saying that “the diving ban had been a hindrance to the club, as its children had been racing since May without being able to practice dive-starts.”

How Swimming New Zealand and Viv Morton can find any moral equivalency between perfecting a dive start and a broken spine is beyond my comprehension. Their reported reactions are a disgrace. My attitude to this question is coloured by years spent coaching in the United States where you would lose your job immediately for allowing swimmers to dive into a pool like Cannons Creek. I have attended many Florida High School competitions involving 50 second 100m swimmers where swimmers began their races in the water because the pool was too shallow. That sensible caution has not done American swimmers any harm. Perhaps there are better things for Brent Harris and Steven Johns to spend time discussing than how to dodge some very sensible Porirua City Council and FINA pool depth rules.

The Americans keep good statistics on this sort of thing. So when Brent Harris and Steven Johns are next meeting and before a high school enters their team in the September Secondary School Championships in Hamilton perhaps they would like to dwell on these American numbers. 6,500 adolescents a year are brought to the hospital because of diving-related injuries. 80% of injuries occurred in shallow water of 1.2 meters or less. More than 80% of the dive injuries were from a dive height of less than or equal to one meter. Diving is the fourth leading cause of spinal cord injury among males and the fifth leading cause among females.

The European Spine Journal concluded a study on injuries caused by diving into shallow pools with the following. “Every year diving accidents in swimming pools result in severe spinal cord injuries with profound physical, social, and professional repercussions. In addition, there are staggering economic implications for the individual and to the society as a whole. Despite advances in the hospital management of these injuries, the implementation of an effective prevention strategy is also essential if we are to reduce the incidence and impact of these potentially catastrophic accidents.” And so Brent Harris and Steven Johns it is relevant to ask, “What was your contribution to an effective prevention strategy today?”

PS – If Swimming New Zealand or Viv Morton knew anything about swimming they would realize that practicing dives into a 0.86m deep pool has no benefit at all. Modern starts are way deeper than that. Most swimmers spend the dive portion of their race between 0.9m and 1.2m under the water. And so besides the danger involved, practicing dives in 0.86m water is only going to teach swimmers to start badly.


0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.