G’day from down under!
Heart O’ the Hills is a magical place where your girls get to experience activities that they would never usually be exposed to in the lifestyles they lead outside of camp.
My favourite activity – and this may be biased – is swimming! Now I know what you’re thinking, the girls have plenty of opportunities to swim outside of camp. I can tell you now there is nothing more, let’s say, thrilling than your first jump into the beautiful, magical Guadalupe River!
In my two years of having the amazing opportunity to be waterfront coordinator at HOH, I have learnt a thing or two and I know your girls have too, so this blog will be about the adventures the girls get up to and what they learn whilst at camp.
On opening day of camp first things first; the girls jump into the river and we do timing. Timing is not necessarily all one big race, but it helps the WSI’s (Water Safety Instructors) to decide what level the girls are in, based on three components – technique, speed, ability– and it helps to assign the girls to certain races in the swim meets later on in the term. After the girls have been placed into their levels they are split into classes and will go on to learn different skills as appropriate to each level.
We teach under the American Red Cross Learn-to-swim model, and this is a description of the levels:
Level 1 –Learning the fundamentals: being comfortable in the water (face in the water, blowing bubbles etc.) and having the ability to kick on cue as well as having arm movement (preferably front crawl arms). Back floating is also a big part of Level 1; they are expected to be able to float unassisted for at least 10seconds.
Level 2 – Introduction to new strokes such as: front crawl with breathing, back crawl and breaststroke legs. This level is meant to boost confidence in the water and make the girls feel as though they can swim independently and actually get somewhere. Safety strokes are introduced and encouraged for an easy transition into the higher levels.
Level 3–Introduction to correct technique in front crawl, back crawl and breaststroke. This level can be very challenging for some girls as they may not yet have the cognitive skills to understand how the stroke works fluidly. New skills such as seated dives and safety strokes are taught and corrected in this level.
Level 4 – Conditioning of stroke: the girls will have been exposed to all strokes at this point besides butterfly; Level 4 is the introduction to legs and arms separately. Creating a bad habit in your stroke is very easy and that is why Level 4 provides a chance to correct the little errors in each stroke (breathing positions, body position, arms, etc.). Level 4 is where the girls learn timing for breast stroke and learn more safety around water and how to signal for help in an emergency situation.
Level 5 – Building endurance: to be in this level the girls are expected to have correct technique as well as the ability to self-correct. Butterfly timing (arms, breathing and kick) is corrected and encouraged. The distances are increased and safety skills become a bigger part of the level – learning basic safety skills such as: signalling for help, “reach or throw, don’t go”, “think before you sink” and others. These skills are all practical and can be used in everyday situations.
Level 6 – Endurance: Level 6 is continuing the independent swims where the distances are the longest of all the levels. Level 6 is a chance for girls to build up their mental strength to keep going and push themselves to their personal best. Race starts and finishes are learnt in this level as well as transitions such as tumble turns and touch-turns.
Guard Start – Introduction to lifeguarding: this level is ONLY offered to girls in the senior/teen age divisions, because there is a certain amount of emotional maturity needed for the rescues and sequences performed. The entry techniques taught are: slide-in, stride jump and compact jump. The rescue techniques taught are: front drive, conscious victim rear, unconscious victim (submerged and on the surface) and suspected spinal injury (vice grip). The sequence taught is how to respond if a victim is found drowning or unconscious in the water and how to perform CPR if necessary (entry + rescue + getting them out of the water + performing DRSABCD + giving information to professionals when they arrive at the scene).
Now I know, after all that information you’re probably thinking – that must get boring to do EVERY SINGLE DAY at camp! And that’s exactly why we, as WSI’s, came together and figured out a plan of action for the term. Some days we would venture out to Whale’s pool, or even swim all the way to Rat’s Bridge (one mile there and back), “free swim Wednesdays” (where the girls get the choice between the slide or the blob), sports have been introduced such as volleyball in the water, water aerobics and even synchronised swimming! Noodles and inflatables make for a fun time in the river with their friends as well as relaxing on the rafts, drifting in the centre of the serene Guadalupe River.
Swimming every day is an incredible blessing to me! Seeing the amazing growth in all the girls and the confidence with which they leave camp with knowledge that they can do anything they put their minds to!