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Little is known about the relationship between real and perceived water competence among youth in the context of drowning prevention or of their perceptions of their risk of drowning. This study reports the findings of an international project entitled Can You Swim? Collegiate physical education students (n = 373) were assessed in a two-part study using an initial questionnaire survey to provide self-estimates of water competency and risk perception, followed by six practical tests in the water. Correlation coefficients between perceived and real swimming (rs = 0.369) and floating (rs = 0.583) skills were significant but only moderate in strength. No significant gender differences in real or perceived water competency were found. Significantly more males than females estimated lower risk of drowning associated with a series of aquatic scenarios (p = 0.016). The implications of these findings on drowning prevention and the need for further investigation are discussed.
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International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 2012, 6, 122-135
© 2012 Human Kinetics, Inc.
Can You Swim?
An Exploration of Measuring Real
and Perceived Water Competency
Kevin Moran, Robert Keig Stallman, Per-Ludvik Kjendlie,
Dagmar Dahl, Jennifer D. Blitvich, Lauren A. Petrass,
G. Keith McElroy, Toshiaki Goya, Keisuke Teramoto,
Atsunori Matsui, and Shuji Shimongata
Little is known about the relationship between real and perceived water competence
among youth in the context of drowning prevention or of their perceptions of their
risk of drowning. This study reports the ndings of an international project entitled
Can You Swim? Collegiate physical education students (n = 373) were assessed
in a two-part study using an initial questionnaire survey to provide self-estimates
of water competency and risk perception, followed by six practical tests in the
water. Correlation coefcients between perceived and real swimming (rs = 0.369)
and oating (rs = 0.583) skills were signicant but only moderate in strength. No
signicant gender differences in real or perceived water competency were found.
Signicantly more males than females estimated lower risk of drowning associated
with a series of aquatic scenarios (p = 0.016). The implications of these ndings
on drowning prevention and the need for further investigation are discussed.
While the role of swimming prociency in drowning prevention may appear
axiomatic, its protective capacity is not well understood. Brenner, Saluja, and
Smith (2003) have argued that increased swimming competency is almost certain
to be protective in a drowning situation and, if so, then differences in swimming
competency may help explain why some are at greater risk of drowning than others.
The relationship between swimming competency, swimming lessons, and the risk
of drowning for young children has been the subject of some inquiry (Brenner,
Moran, Stallman, Gilchrist, & McVan, 2006), but little is known about this rela-
tionship with respect to young adults, one of the most at-risk groups of drowning
in most developed countries.
A systematic, large-scale review of childhood and youth drowning noted that
even though studies have shown that swimming lessons improved the ability to dive,
Kevin Moran is with the University of Auckland, Faculty of Education in Auckland, New Zealand. Robert
Keig Stallman is with the Norwegian School of Sport Science in Oslo Norway. Per-Ludvik Kjendlie
is with Vestfold University College in Oslo Norway. Dagmar Dahl is with Alta University College in
Finnmark, Norway. Jennifer Blitvich, Lauren Petrass, and G. Keith McElroy are with the University of
Ballarat, School of Human Movement and Sport Sciences in Ballarat, Victoria Australia. Toshiaki Goya
and Keisuke Teramoto are with the Aichi University of Education, Department of Health and Physical
Education in Aichi, Japan. Atsunori Matsui is with the Naruto University of Education in Japan. Shuji
Shimongata is with Chiba University in Chiba, Japan.
Can You Swim? 123
swim underwater, breathe correctly, and tread water, no study had examined the
more important question of whether swimming lessons actually prevented drowning
(Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Centre, 2001). All of these capacities
have some association with survival in water, but determining their individual or
collective protective capacity remains unclear. Recent studies have suggested a
positive relationship between swimming instruction in children of preschool age.
Brenner and colleagues (2009) reported that participation in formal swimming
lessons was associated with an 88% reduction in the risk of drowning in 1–4-year-
old children, although the estimates were imprecise and 95% condence intervals
(CIs) included risk reductions ranging from 3% to 99%. Successes have recently
been reported in low and middle income countries (LMICs) among children in
rural settings (Linnan, Rahman, Rahman, Scarr, & Cox, 2011; Rahman, Rahman,
Mashreky, & Linnan, 2011).
Determining whether the swimming prociency reported in many studies has an
ameliorating effect on drowning risk is difcult to ascertain for two reasons. First, in
the context of drowning prevention, there is no universally agreed denition among
water safety experts as to what constitutes swimming competency. Hogg, Kilpat-
rick, and Ruddock (1983) highlight two essential aspects of swimming: otation to
permit breathing and propulsion to provide mobility. Swimming competency is often
described in terms of distance swum, but even then, various distances have been used
to assess competency. Many water safety initiatives establish arbitrary distances from
25 m to 200 m to identify “can swim” status. Langendorfer and Bruya (1995) have
suggested that the term water competence is a more comprehensive term than swim-
ming ability and better describes the raft of aquatic skills and knowledge associated
with aquatic activity. In support of establishing more embracing terminology, Brenner
and colleagues recommended that “the concept of swimming ability be replaced by
the more encompassing notion of water competence with regards to drowning preven-
tion” and that “swimming ability be promoted as a necessary component of water
competence, but with the understanding that swimming ability alone is not sufcient
to prevent drowning” (Brenner et al., 2006, p.116). Consequently, this study adopted
the more comprehensive notion of water competency to describe a set of survival
skills that may prevent drowning.
Second, much of the drowning prevention research has relied on self-estimates
of water competence because of the difculties associated with in-water testing of
real competencies. The value of self-estimation in the reporting of health behaviors,
quite appropriately, has been challenged (Mickalide, 1997; Nelson, 1996; Robertson,
1992; Watson, Kendrick, & Coupland, 2003), but nevertheless it has been widely
used in drowning prevention studies. A major problem with the reliance on self-
estimates of water competencies is the tendency for males to overestimate their
ability and underestimate the risk of drowning. Howland, Hingson, Mangione, Bell,
and Bak (1996) suggest that males probably overestimate their swimming ability
and are thus more likely to place themselves at greater risk than females in aquatic
settings. In a study of New Zealand youth, Moran (2006) found that signicantly
more young males than females aged 15–19 years estimated better swimming ability
and lower estimates of risk of drowning. Similar results of higher self-estimated
swimming competency among males have been reported in young adults (Gulliver
& Begg, 2005) and in adults (Gilchrist, Sacks, & Branche, 2000; Howland et al.,
1996; McCool, Moran, Ameratunga, & Robinson, 2008), but whether this compe-
tency is real or imagined is unknown.
124 Moran et al.
Previous research has suggested that in addition to overestimating swimming
prociency, males and youth may underestimate the potential dangers inherent
in aquatic activities (Baker, O’Neil, Ginsburg, & Li, 1992; Brenner et al., 2003;
Howland et al., 1996; McCool et al., 2008; Moran, 2006). Moran (2006) found
that male youth were more likely to report lower perceptions of drowning risk
associated with a range of specic water safety-related scenarios. A study of adult
beachgoers found that higher perceived swimming competency was associated
with lower perception of risk, which raises the possibility that some individuals
(especially young males) may be overly optimistic about their ability to manage
risky situations (McCool et al., 2008).
The lack of consensus among experts as to what constitutes water competency
in a drowning prevention context and the dependence on self-reported estimation
rather than objective measurement in water safety research has meant that much
of our understanding on the protective role of swimming in drowning prevention
is speculative. Consequently, the purposes of this study were to
1. Obtain self-estimates of a range of water competencies that include swimming
and survival skills among young adults;
2. Establish and administer a set of practical tests of the same water competencies;
3. Explore the relationship between real and perceived competencies and the
implications of any over/underestimation of such skills among young adults;
4. Identify perceptions of drowning risk among young adults and any relationship
between risk estimation and actual water competencies.
Following workshop discussions that focused on dening and measuring swim-
ming competency in the context of drowning prevention at the World Water Safety
Conference in Oporto, Portugal, 2007, a pilot study was initiated in New Zealand
at the University of Auckland (KM) and in Norway at the Norwegian School of
Sports Science (RS, DD, P-LK). The intention of the pilot study was to identify key
components of swimming competency, establish protocols for their practical assess-
ment, create a questionnaire that reported on self-perceptions of water competency,
and provide personal estimates of the risk of drowning. These developments were
underpinned by a conceptual model of water competencies based on the causes
of drowning (Stallman, Junge, & Blixt, 2008). Further trials were undertaken at
the University of Ballarat (JB, LP, KMcE) in Australia and at three institutions in
Japan at Aichi, Naruto, and Chiba (TG, KT, AM, SS). Researchers at each of the
participating institutions obtained ethics clearance from their institutional review
boards before the commencement of the testing. All institutions had their own
swimming pools that varied from 25m-50m in length, were heated (27–28 °C), and
had deep water (2 m+) available for testing underwater activities.
University students newly enrolled in Physical Education programs were invited
to voluntarily participate in a project entitled Can You Swim? Participants had
Can You Swim? 125
undergone preliminary selection processes to enter their respective programs and
in one case (Norway), minimal entry standards for swimming competency were
required. The participants, their swimming skills, and aquatic experience were
not known to the members of the research team. It was anticipated that because of
their selection into a physical education-related degree program, all participants
would be able to safely participate in the study. Participants whose safety was at
risk were screened out of the study based on responses to the questionnaire before
the practical testing.
The study consisted of two phases of data gathering: an initial self-complete ques-
tionnaire followed by practical swimming assessment. To avoid possible learning
effects from participation in aquatic-related courses, all data gathering took place
before the commencement of course work. Participants were unaware when com-
pleting the questionnaire that the skills included in the practical tests paralleled those
in the survey. Practical testing took place within a week of completing the written
survey. Unique identication codes were allocated to enable survey responses to
be matched with the practical test results. The data were manually entered into the
database using Microsoft Excel 2007 and data entry errors identied and corrected
before being exported to statistical software for analysis.
Research Instruments
The rst phase of data collection consisted of a 20-question survey that sought
self-estimates in six aspects of swimming and survival skills (i.e., distance swim,
otation, swim on back, dive entry, surface dive, and underwater swim) considered
relevant to drowning prevention. Participants also rated their risk of drowning in
ve scenarios (such as “tipped upside down in a canoe 100 m from the shore of
a lake”) using a four-point Likert scale ranging from extreme risk to no risk. The
questionnaire also sought information on sociodemographic variables including
gender, age, and ethnicity.
The second phase of data gathering consisted of practical testing of swimming
and survival skills that matched the questionnaire items to enable the relationship
between self-reported and actual swimming and survival competencies to be deter-
mined. The skills tested included
• distance swum nonstop in 15 min with no stroke or speed specied (distance
achieved assessed on a 5-point scale ranging from < 50 m to > 300 m);
• stationary oating in deep water with minimal swimming motion (4-point scale
ranging from < 2 min to > 15 min, and
• an underwater swim (5-point scale ranging from did not complete to completed
25 m).
For all other tests that included (a) 100 m swim on back with no speed or stroke
specied, (b) dive into deep water, and (c) a deep water surface dive, a 4-point scale
from did not complete, completed with poor form (great difculty, difculty), with
good form (easily), and with excellent form (very easily) was used.
126 Moran et al.
Data Analysis
Data from the completed questionnaires were entered into SPSS Version 17 in
Windows. Data were then analyzed to provide statistical information at a national
level before being combined to provide an international database using the same
coding and data entry procedures. Frequencies and percentages were calculated
to describe student self-estimates and actual measures of their swimming and sur-
vival skill competencies and their perceived risk of drowning. Mann-Whitney U
tests were used to ascertain signicant differences between independent variables
(such as gender) on dependent measures (such as estimated swimming or oating
competency). Kruskall-Wallis H tests were used to analyze data (such as age group)
that had multiple levels of comparison. Spearman rank correlation coefcients were
obtained to determine signicant associations between real and perceived skills.
Data Presentation
Regional results from each participating country have been reported previously
at the World Drowning Prevention in Da Nang for New Zealand (Moran, 2011),
Norway (Stallman, Dahl, Moran, & Kjendlie, 2011), Australia (Blitvich, Petrass,
Moran, & McElroy, 2011), and Japan (Goya, Matsui, Teramoto, Shimongata &
Moran, 2011). The results reported in this paper relate to the combined results of
the six contributing institutions in four countries. While some regional variations
in results were evident, they are not the focus of this paper and will be the subject
of future investigation and publication. Analysis of real and perceived swimming
and survival skills by ethnicity was not undertaken because of the homogeneity of
most groups taking part in the study.
Of the 373 rst year university students who volunteered to take part in the study,
slightly more than half (53%) were male, one half (50%) were between the ages
17–19 years, and the other half (50%) were between the ages 20–29 years. They
were residents of New Zealand (n = 68; 18%), Norway (n = 81; 22%), Australia
(n = 112; 30%), and Japan (n = 113; 30%).
Perceived Swimming and Survival Skills
More than half (53%) of students estimated that they could swim nonstop for a
distance of more than 300 m, and one quarter (27%) estimated that they could swim
100 m or less (Table 1). More than one half (54%) considered that they could not
oat in deep water for more than 6 min. Most students estimated that they could
swim 100 m on their back (82%), dive into the deep end of the pool (90%), swim
25 m underwater (62%), and surface dive to a depth of 2 m (74%). No signicant
differences were found in self-estimates of water competencies when analyzed by
gender or age group as shown in Table 1.
Real Swimming and Survival Skills
Most students (76%) were able to swim more than 300 m nonstop, and two
thirds (67%) were able to satisfactorily swim 100 m on their backs (Table 2).
Table 1 Student Self-Estimated Water Competencies by Gender
Total Male Female Mann-
Whitney U p
n % n % n %
How many nonstop laps of a 25m pool can you swim?
< 50 m 61 16.4 29 14.6 32 18.5
16624.50 0.548
51–100 m 38 10.2 25 12.6 13 7.5
101–200 m 41 11.0 17 8.5 24 13.8
201–300 m 34 9.1 20 10.1 14 8.1
> 300m 198 53.2 108 54.3 90 52.0
How long can you stay aoat?
< 2 min 125 33.8 71 35.9 54 31.4
16015.00 0.314
2–6 min 74 20.0 37 18.7 37 21.5
7–15 min 63 17.0 30 15.2 33 19.2
> 15 min 108 29.2 60 30.3 48 27.9
Can you swim 100m on your back?
Yes, can swim 100 m nonstop back 306 82.3 159 80.3 147 84.7 16506.00 0.293
No, can’t swim 100 m nonstop back 66 17.7 39 19.7 27 15.5
Can you dive into deep end of pool?
Yes, can dive headrst into pool 335 89.8 183 92.0 152 87.4 16516.00 0.143
No, can’t dive headrst into pool 38 10.2 16 8.0 22 12.6
Can you swim underwater?
Yes, can swim underwater 232 62.2 125 62.8 107 61.5 17084.50 0.793
No, can’t swim underwater 141 37.8 74 37.2 67 38.5
Can you surface dive to a depth of 2 m?
Yes, can surface dive to 2 m 274 73.5 151 78.2 123 74.5 15334.50 0.412
No, can’t surface dive to 2 m 84 22.5 42 21.8 42 25.5
Total 373#100% 199 53.4% 174 46.6%
#Missing data accounts for the variation in subtotals.
Table 2 Student Water Competencies by Gender
Total Male Female Mann-
U p
Swimming Ability
< 50 m 21 5.7 12 6.1 9 5.2
10.066 0.185
50–100 m 27 7.3 15 7.7 12 6.9
101–200 m 19 5.1 16 8.2 3 1.7
201–300 m 20 5.4 10 5.1 10 5.8
> 300 m 282 76.4 143 73.0 139 80.3
Floating ability
< 2 min 127 35.2 73 38.4 54 31.6
9.124 0.244
2–6 min 47 13.0 28 14.7 19 11.1
7–15 min 43 11.9 21 11.1 22 12.9
> 15 min 144 39.9 68 35.8 76 44.4
100 m swim on back
Did not complete 47 13.2 27 14.4 20 11.9
11.234 0.024*
Completed with poor form 72 20.2 47 25.0 25 14.9
Completed with satisfactory form 101 28.4 56 29.8 45 26.8
Completed with good/excellent
136 38.2 58 30.8 78 46.3
Dive into pool (2 m depth)
Did not complete 20 5.6 10 5.3 10 6.1
6.933 0.139
Completed with poor form 104 29.4 59 31.1 45 27.4
Completed with satisfactory form 127 35.9 76 40.0 51 31.1
Completed with good/excellent
103 29.1 45 23.7 58 35.4
Underwater Swim
Did not complete 28 7.8 13 6.8 15 8.8
1.590 0.811
Completed 10 meters 70 19.4 35 18.3 35 20.6
Completed 15 meters 70 19.4 37 19.4 33 19.4
Completed 20 meters 59 16.3 30 15.7 29 17.1
Completed 25 meters 134 37.1 76 39.8 58 34.1
Surface dive 2 m
Did not complete 18 5.0 5 2.6 13 7.7
7.549 0.110
Completed with poor form 48 13.4 29 15.2 19 11.3
Completed with satisfactory form 166 46.2 94 49.2 72 42.9
Completed with good/excellent
127 35.4 63 33.0 64 38.1
Total 373#100.0 199 100.0 174 100.0
#Missing data accounts for the variation in subtotals
Can You Swim? 129
Proportionally fewer students (40%) could oat for 15 min and more than one third
could not stay aoat for more than 2 min (35%).
When analyzed by gender, no signicant differences were found in distance
swimming or oating skill, but signicantly more females than males were able to
swim on their backs with satisfactory or good/excellent form (females 73%; males
61%). Most students completed a dive entry (65%), a 15–25 m underwater swim
(73%), and a surface dive (82%) with satisfactory or good/excellent form. Table
2 shows no signicant differences in student performance of these items when
analyzed by gender. Further analysis by age also found no signicant differences
in tested water competencies.
Real Versus Perceived Swimming and Survival Skills
To test the association between perceived and real competencies, data from the self-
complete questionnaire and the practical tests were subjected to Spearman RHO
correlation analyses (Table 3). The correlation coefcient between perceived and
real swim distance was signicant, but only moderate (rs = 0.369; de Vaus, 2002).
A more substantial correlation was found between real and perceived oating
competency (rs = 0.583). Differences between real and perceived competency for
the 100 m on the back was signicant but low (rs = 0.191). All other comparisons
were not signicant at the 0.01 level (two-tailed).
When comparisons were analyzed by gender, males showed slightly greater
association than females in their predictions of their swim distance competency
(males, rs = 0.408, females, rs = 0.315) and oating ability (males, rs = 0.601 females,
rs = 0.569), but no other comparisons were statistically signicant.
Perceptions of the Risk of Drowning
Participants were asked to estimate their risk of drowning in relation to ve scenarios
depicting differing levels of risk. Table 4 shows that male and female responses
to these scenarios were not signicantly different for the low risk activity of deep
Table 3 Comparisons of Estimated and Actual Water Competencies Using
Spearman Rank Correlations
Dive Entry
Water Swim
Swim 0.369*
Float 0.583*
Backstroke –.191*
Dive entry –.092
Surface dive 0.059
* Correlation is signicant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed)
Table 4 Perceptions of Risk of Drowning by Gender
Risk Scenario
Extreme/High Risk Slight/No Risk
Mann-Whitney U P
Male Female Male Female
n(%) n(%) n(%) n(%)
Capsized canoe 100 meters
15380.50 0.073
Caught in rip current at surf
14447.00 0.008*
Chased toy into deep end of
swimming pool
15768.00 0.092
Fell into deep river when
fully clothed
14897.50 0.016*
Swept off isolated rocks
while shing
16421.50 0.411
Risk Total 14577.50 0.016*
Can You Swim? 131
water exposure in a swimming pool, the moderate risk activity of a canoe capsize
100 m offshore, and the high risk activity of being swept off isolated rocks when
shing. In all scenarios, females reported higher risk estimates than males and,
when summated, the overall risk of drowning score was signicantly different
with female estimation of risk being greater than that of males (Mann-Whitney U
= 14577.50, p = 0.016).
In the higher risk scenarios, signicantly more females than males considered
they would be at extreme/high risk if caught in a rip current at a surf beach (females,
64%; males, 52%) or through falling into a deep river fully clothed (females, 43%;
males, 29%). No signicant differences were found when individual risk scenarios
and the total risk score were analyzed by age.
This collaborative international study examined, among other factors associated
with the role of swimming in drowning prevention, students’ self-estimated and
actual water competencies, together with their perceptions of the risk of drowning.
It is the rst study of its kind that attempts to compare perceived water competency
with real water competency and does so among an age group recognized to be at
high risk of drowning. Comparisons between the practical skills assessment and the
paired self-estimation of practical skills demonstrated that these students had varied
and somewhat inaccurate perceptions of their swimming and survival competencies.
As was to be expected from a cohort selected for a program where aquatic
activities were an ongoing part of their professional development, most students
had a sound aquatics skill base, though skill levels were not consistently high. Why
the association between estimated and actual distance swimming appears to be
uniformly high compared with other skills is hard to explain, but it may reect the
emphasis placed on swimming distances as opposed to performing other survival
skills in the teaching of aquatics. Given the popularity for aquatic recreation in
the countries taking part in the study, it is a concern that more than one third of
students (35%) could not stay aoat for > 2 min and almost half (48%) could not
stay aoat for more than 6 min, a duration not unlikely in the event of an aquatic
emergency necessitating rescue or assistance.
Students tended to underestimate their distance swimming skills, oating
competency, surface dive capacity, while overestimating their competency for swim-
ming on the back, performing a dive entry, and underwater swimming. The lack of
strong association between real and perceived swimming and oating competencies
and a tendency to overestimate their ability to swim on their backs, suggests that
many students could not accurately predict their performance in these fundamental
water competencies. No other real versus perceived competencies reached statisti-
cally signicant associations, which again suggests that students had difculty in
accurately predicting their likely performance outcome. Unlike other studies on
drowning where self-estimates of swimming competency differed between males
and females (Quan & Cummings, 2003), the current study found no signicant
gender differences in self-estimates or actual swimming ability, except for the ability
to swim 100 m on the back, where females demonstrated higher prociency than
males (73% and 61% for females and males, respectively, p = 0.024).
132 Moran et al.
While the swimming and survival skill levels of this selected cohort were high,
not surprisingly, it is of interest that students of physical education did not predict
their performance more accurately. Since physical performance is an area of pro-
fessional inquiry for this cohort, it is not unreasonable to assume that they would
possess a heightened awareness of their own physical skills and prociencies. If
so, their lack of accuracy in estimating swimming and survival competencies does
not bode well for the exploration of swimming competency via self-estimation in
more generalized populations. Further research is required to determine whether the
lack of accurate prediction is unique to this population or whether a similar lack of
accuracy in the self-estimation of aquatic skills is characteristic of other populations.
The widespread use of estimates of swimming capacity, either by self or
signicant others (such as instructors, teachers, or parents), in recent drowning
prevention literature (for example, in children, Fife & Goldoft, 1994; in youth,
Moran, 2006; in young adults, Gulliver & Begg, 2005; and in adults, Howland et
al., 1996; Gilchrist et al., 2000; Mael, 1995) is understandable given the difculties
of assessing “real” water competencies along with the lack of a robust, accepted
denition of what constitutes swimming competency. The lack of strong correla-
tion between real and perceived water competencies in the context of drowning
prevention found in the current study, however, suggests that caution should be
exercised in any interventions based on estimated rather than actual competency.
The ndings in relation to perception of the risk of drowning among youth
offers support for previous research (Howland et al., 1996; McCool et al., 2008;
Moran, 2006), which has argued that young male adults may underestimate the
potential dangers inherent in aquatic activities. Males in the current study consis-
tently reported lower perceptions of drowning risk even though their swimming and
survival skills were not signicantly better than their female counterparts. It may
also be that the higher estimates of drowning risk among females reect greater
risk aversion than their male counterparts, providing them with greater protection
in and around water. The ndings of lower estimations of drowning risk among
males in this study offer one possible explanation as to why more male youth drown
than females. While the current study did not nd evidence of male overestimation
of water competency, similar studies of actual swimming, and survival competen-
cies with other groups (such as male adolescents and adults) would be valuable in
refuting or conrming previous speculation that higher male risk of drowning is
predicated on a propensity to underestimate risk and overestimate ability to manage
that risk (Howland et al., 1996; McCool et al., 2008; Moran, 2006).
Results from this study should be interpreted with some caution in light of
several methodological limitations. First, the study conned its self-estimated and
practical assessment of swimming and survival competencies to beginner students
embarking on a professional degree in Physical Education. It is therefore likely
that their estimates of swimming competency might be more accurate than the
general youth population. It would also be anticipated, given their chosen career
development, that their incoming swimming competency would be greater than that
of other youth, and this greater competency might accurately reect their ability
to cope with the risk of drowning.
Second, the study was conducted in four countries and required translation
of the written survey and practical test protocols into three languages; they conse-
Can You Swim? 133
quently may have been subject to different local interpretations, thus reducing the
validity of the survey and test protocols. Third, practical testing took place at six
different pool locations that differed in pool length, depth of water, time availability,
water temperature, and ambient conditions (both indoor and outdoor pools were
used). These differences may have affected practical performance. Fourth, since
different examiners were used to assess performance and no intertester objectivity
tests were possible before commencing testing, it is possible that protocols were
applied and evaluated differently at the various sites. Fifth, there is no universal
denition or measurement of swimming and survival skill in the context of drown-
ing prevention, further work is required on what being able to swim really means.
Sixth, and nally, this was a rst attempt at developing a universal measure of
water competency. Certainly the tests require renement and further reliability and
objectivity testing with other groups and other testers to ensure their robustness.
Notwithstanding these limitations, the results provide fresh evidence on the modest
relationships observed between real and perceived water competencies.
This paper reports on the rst phase of an international study, part of which
attempted to identify the relationships between real and perceived water competency
and perceptions of risk of drowning. The results suggest that participants in this
study were unable to accurately predict their actual swimming and survival skills,
and no signicant differences were evident in perceived or actual competency by
gender. Males were more likely to underestimate the risk associated with aquatic
activities, reinforcing previous research ndings. Further investigation using similar
methodology is required to determine whether these ndings would be replicated
in other general youth populations to ascertain whether others can accurately
assess their water competency. Until these relationships have been more clearly
determined, caution is advised on the use of self-reported estimates of swimming
and survival competency in the context of drowning prevention. In addition, further
study on drowning risk estimation among other at-risk groups (especially males)
may help explain current drowning statistics.
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... University students (19-28 years) are one of the young adult groups at high-risk of drowning [17]. The National Action Plan for Drowning Prevention and Water Safety in Sri Lanka highlights the need for drowning prevention among university students in Sri Lanka [18]. ...
... However, both locally and worldwide, most water safety training programmes and research studies have targeted children [19][20][21][22][23], while the young adult population seems to have been neglected [16]. According to the author's knowledge, the available water safety training programmes and research studies for university students or young adults have been conducted in high-income countries which have a different pattern of drowning compared to Sri Lanka [16,17,24]. Scientifically proven or validated water safety training programmes targeting the improvement of survival swimming skills for university students or young adults have not been found in low-and-middle-income countries. ...
... Assessors were provided a skills assessment protocol to follow and data collection sheet to mark the allocated score for each skill. The questionnaire to assess water safety knowledge and attitudes was developed using questions adapted from the SfS knowledge and attitude questionnaire for school children in Sri Lanka, the literature [16,17,19,30,33,40] and expert comments based on the adapted SfS curriculum. Table 1 provides examples of the statements used. ...
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Drowning among young adults is high in Sri Lanka. Water safety education is a recommended strategy for drowning prevention but is often overlooked for young adults. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of an adapted educational intervention, “Swim for Safety” on improving water safety knowledge, attitudes and survival swimming skills among undergraduates (19–28 years) in Sri Lanka. This study employed a parallel-group, two-arm randomized controlled trial design. The intervention group (n = 78) received a face-to-face, 12-lesson education programme, and the control group (n = 78) received a brochure and weekly mobile phone messages for six consecutive weeks. Baseline, post-intervention and three-month follow-up knowledge, attitudes and skills were evaluated. Knowledge and attitudes were assessed using a self-administered questionnaire and skills were evaluated following a skills assessment protocol. In total 116 participants, 60 intervention group and 56 control group, completed the study. At baseline there were no differences between groups in median scores of water safety knowledge, attitudes and survival swimming skills. The intervention group demonstrated statistically significant increases in median water safety knowledge, attitudes and survival swimming skill scores compared with the control group, following the intervention and maintained at three-month follow-up (p < 0.05). The adapted Swim for Safety programme significantly improved water safety knowledge, attitudes, and survival swimming skills among young adults in Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is recommended that the SfS programme be implemented widely to prevent drowning in young adults.
... Term of water competency is a more comprehensive term than swimming ability and better describes a raft of aquatic skills and knowledge associated with aquatic activity [20]. Swimming researchers also contribute to initiating new techniques, drills, teaching, and training methods based on scientific principles [22]. ...
... The research subjects consisted of 35 students (age [19][20]. 20 students were from the Sports Science study program and 15 students were from the Physics study program (28 males and 12 females). Subjects were beginner swimmers who have not been able to swim at a distance of 25 m [21]. ...
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The study aimed to examine the concurrent validity of front-crawl swimming competence as a criterion by measuring the basic swimming ability for estimated swimming distance. The research samples were 35 students (15 people from the Sports Science program and 20 from the Physics program) aged 19-21. The seven components of basic swimming ability, including submerging, floating, gliding (Gd), leg propulsion, hand propulsion, leg coordination, and breath control, were the predictors, while the front-crawl swimming competence referred to the criterion. Concurrent validity analysis used PPM correlation, while factor analysis used stepwise multiple regression methods. The results indicated a significant association between basic swimming abilities and swimming competence. The moderate relationship (r = 04-0.7, p <0.01), was found in gliding, leg propulsion, hand propulsion, hand and leg coordination, and breath control. While the relationship in the ability to submerge and float is weak (r = 0.22 and 0.16, p <0.05). Basic swimming ability as an estimator of swimming competence has a significant concurrent validity in the moderate level, except for the basic ability to dive and float, which were in the weak category. Only two factors are estimated to have the greatest influence on the beginner's front-crawl competence achievement, namely basic ability to control breathing and coordination of legs & hands.
... An analysis, proposed by Moran et al. (2012) via a roleplaying game called "play against nature, " reveals a significant correlation between estimating and performing according to a surface swimming protocol. In the experiment, participants were asked if they were able to achieve different swimming tasks. ...
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Introduction: Swimming is composed of several phases. One of them is done underwater in apnea. Although this phase takes an important part of the performance, it is not taught much because of the risk it entails. At the same time, learning apnea can reduce the fear of immersion and, thus, reduce the number of drownings. The pedagogy used in this paper comes from game theory. This paper tested an apnea game based on the agreement between self-prediction and realization of the task. Methods: Considering the preliminary level of the 33 sports students involved, the game offered two choices: swimming apnea over 15 or 20 m with a distribution of payoffs depending on the actual achievement (15 m estimated and less than 20 m performed = + 3 points; 15 m estimated and at least 20 m realized = + 1 points; 20 m predicted and less than 20 m realized = + 2 points; 20 m estimated and at least 20 m realized = + 4 points). Results and discussion: Concordance was favored over discordance, including in the swimmer’s comfort zone (15 m). Throughout six apneas the results showed that the structure of this game supports the improvement of the estimation of the distances swum. The “Concordance Game” could be offered in Physical Education or in a sports club to learn to swim a longer distance below the surface without forcing.
... (2) For swimming ability, approximately 70.1% of the surveyed students could swim at least 25 m and had basic self-rescue skills (i.e., Level III or higher level of swimming ability). An international research investigated a self-estimated questionnaire survey of first year collegiate physical education students in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Norway confirmed that 83.5% students estimated that they could swim nonstop for a distance of more than 300 m [15]. In contrast, a self-report study that examined the swimming ability of US, 43.6% of the adolescents (aged 12-17 years) responded as a "at risk" swimmers (defined as "unable to swim" or "could swim a little, but were not comfortable in deep water") [16]. ...
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Background: This study examined the relationship between the five-level swimming ability of college students and their regular exercise habits. Methods: This study applied to Academia Sinica for permission to use the raw data from the Survey on the Sports Participation Situations of Students in All Levels of Education, which was conducted by the Sports Administration, Ministry of Education, Taiwan; a secondary data analysis of the obtained data was then conducted. Results: Overall, 18,515 pieces of data were selected for analysis, and the results revealed that 85.9% of the surveyed students had learned to swim; those who had regular exercise habits exhibited a higher level of swimming ability than those without such habits. A logistic regression analysis showed that progressing to a higher level of swimming ability increased the likelihood of having regular exercise habits by 20%. Conclusions: The present study showed that level of swimming ability was significantly correlated with regular exercise habits. In the future, exercise self-efficacy theories can be applied to explore the relationship between exercise skill proficiency and regular exercise habits.
... At least in developed nations, the assessment of swimming and water safety skills is typically undertaken in swimming pools, usually as part of education classes (Erbaugh, 1978;Moran et al., 2012;Stevens and NZCER, 2016;Di Paola, 2019;Chan et al., 2020). Swimming pools provide a seemingly "ideal" setting for competency assessments as the environmental conditions are relatively comfortable, stable, and reproducible (i.e., water temperature, currents, waves, depth, etc.). ...
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Drowning has been the cause of over 2.5 million preventable deaths in the past decade. Despite the fact that the majority of drownings occur in open water, assessment of water safety competency typically occurs in swimming pools. The assessment of water safety competency in open water environments brings with it a few difficulties, but also promises tremendous benefits. The aim of this position paper is to discuss the benefits and caveats of conducting assessments in open water environments as opposed to closed and controlled environments, and to provide recommendations for evidence-based practice. The first theoretical section discusses the effects of the environment and key variables (such as temperature and water movement) on various factors of assessment. These discussions are linked to the two perspectives of representative learning design (based on ecological dynamics) and information processing theory. The second section presents two pilot studies of relevance and provides practical implications for assessment of water safety competency. It seems that a combination of pool-based practice and open water education may be ideal in assessing aquatic skills competency. Assessment in open water presents clear benefits regarding validity, but often poses seemingly unsurmountable barriers, which providers may have reservations about in the absence of clear evidence. Hence this article provides a robust discussion about competency assessment and signals the practical importance of faithfully reproducing the environment in which skilled behavior is most relevant.
... For example, previously, SC was evaluated based on their reported maximum swimming distance (13,14) or subjective swimming skills evaluation (9,15). Previous studies revealed that SC could be influenced by gender (13), Swimming Experience (2), Age (16), Socio-Economic Status (17), Swimming Location and Accessibility (18). ...
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Introduction The main purpose of this study was to investigate children's swimming competence in primary schools of districts in Vojvodina, Serbia. Methods Included subjects were primary school students from first to eighth grade ( N = 2,778; male = 1,454, female = 1,324; age = 10.73 ± 2.1 years). We used Swimming Competence Questionnaire to acquire and analyze their swimming experience, non-fatal aquatic events, and demographics. For the statistical analysis, logistic regression and hierarchical multiple regression were used to evaluate if the factors and SC and NFAE were associated. The analyses were carried out by using SPSS® software version 24.0 (SPSS, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, USA). Results Families with more income and education generally have children with more swimming competence, experience, knowledge, and skills related to water safety. First step in analysis revealed that gender (β = 0.05, p < 0.01), education level (β = 0.06, p < 0.01) age (β = 0.171, p < 0.01), and family income (β = 0.04, p < 0.01) were significant swimming competence (SC) predictors (R2 = 0.04). Age (OR = 1.15, p < 0.01) was the only significant predictor in Step 1 predicting non-fatal aquatic events (NFAE). In Step 2, variables associated with SC were swimming location (ΔR2 = 0.06, p < 0.01), swimming experience (ΔR2 = 0.16, p < 0.01), swimming accessibility (ΔR2 = 0.05, p < 0.01), and learning experience (ΔR2 = 0.03, p < 0.01) (total R2 = 0.26 to 0.47, p < 0.01). Only a minority of participants reported that they could not swim further than 5 meters using general stroke (37.15%). Conclusion National education trainers programs must be prioritized with the primary strategy of transferring knowledge to swimming and water safety. Families with lower income must be included without exceptions. This is perhaps a key factor in preventing NFAE, increasing SC, and increasing water safety.
... To date, the majority of research investigating water competence in children, and more specifically their aquatic skills, is based on self-reported or parent proxy-reported estimates thereof [3,[30][31][32]. This approach is generally found to be less labor-intensive and time-consuming than actually assessing children's aquatic skill level in the water [30,33,34]. Nonetheless, it is known that both children's self-perception as well as the parental perception of children's level of (aquatic) skills are not always in accordance with reality [23,[35][36][37]. ...
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As children’s actual aquatic skills are important for the prevention of drowning as well as their engagement in lifelong aquatic physical activity, researchers and practitioners should be able to assess this vital concept accurately and reliably. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the inter-rater and intra-rater reliability of the Actual Aquatic Skills Test (AAST), consisting of 17 different test items for the assessment of young children’s motor competence in the water. Six raters received a training and evaluation session on scoring the AAST, after which five of them assessed four test videos (of various children (n = 38) performing the test items) twice, with one to two weeks in between (i.e., test and re-test). Inter-rater and intra-rater reliability were determined per test video and for the different AAST test items across videos using Gwet’s Agreement Coefficient 2 (Gwet’s AC2). The Gwet’s AC2 for inter-rater reliability at the test varied from 0.414 to 1.000, indicating a moderate to perfect agreement between raters. For intra-rater reliability, it ranged from 0.628 to 1.000, demonstrating a good to perfect agreement between test and re-test scoring. In conclusion, the AAST is a promising tool to reliably assess young children’s actual aquatic skills in an indoor swimming pool.
... The term "competence", when related to the aquatic environment, refers to a set of skills, behaviour and knowledge that expand the relationship between humans and the aquatic environment and help to reduce the risk of drowning (Moran et al., 2012;Langendorfer, 2015;Quan, Ramos, Harvey, Kublick, & Langendorfer, 2015). Nonetheless, there is still no consensus on the concept and the skills that comprise the aquatic competence construct. ...
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Considering age and experience as possible constraints to the development of aquatic skills, this study sought to analyse the effect of both on the aquatic competence of 368 children aged between 36 and 72 months using the Erbaugh Scale. Children were categorised according to age and previous aquatic experience in swimming lessons. The results of the two-factor ANOVA indicate that aquatic competence values increase from the lowest to the highest age group and the values found for the different levels of experience in swimming lessons. A regression model was applied and proved to be significant. According to the model, age and previous aquatic experience together were responsible for explaining 46% of the variance in aquatic competence. When applied in each group, the regression analysis indicated that age starts to exert less influence and the experience a greater influence on aquatic competence the older the age groups become. In addition, as the experience increases, the difference in aquatic competence increases between older and younger children. Therefore, the analysis of the contribution of these variables allows professionals to be guided in planning teaching strategies for the development of aquatic competence.
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Age 4-6 is an important age of growth and development to introduce the basic swimming skills, to improve fitness and body functions, as the nature of water reduces excessive stress on joints, reduces static body tension. The aim of the research is to improve the content and structure of the swimming training program for older preschool children to form their aquatic competence. The object of the research is the process of teaching swimming of older preschool children. The subject of the research is the means, methods, and forms of teaching swimming of children of older preschool age. In the article the state of the problem of teaching swimming of children of older preschool age is analyzed, the methods of teaching swimming of children of older preschool age are considered. According to the results of experimental diagnostics, the levels of the integral indicator of water competence (IIWC) of children of older preschool age have been determined, which indicated its insufficient level (13.3% – the children of the experimental group EG1; 20.0% – the children of the experimental group EG2 and 20.0% – the children of the control group CG). Changes in their indicators during the conducted experiment have been studied, which proved the effectiveness of the interactive swimming training program implemented in the training process of older preschool children on the level of their water competence. The comparative analysis of the final values of indicators of water competence (IIWC) of children of older preschool age has revealed changes in values at a statistically significant level in the experimental groups.
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The aim of this study was to determine the gender differences between students' actual and perceived water abilities, how respondents assess risk in the described situations, and whether there are gender differences for those situations. The cross-sectional study was conducted on 150 students aged 19–20 years (males, n = 88; females, n = 62) from the faculty of sport and physical education, University of Novi Sad. Using calculated frequencies and estimates, students' self-assessment and actual measures of their swimming and survival skills and their perceived risk of drowning are described. Based on the results, Mann-Whitney U tests were applied. The differences between independent variables (gender) were analyzed according to dependent measures (water competency). To determine the significance of the relationship between actual and perceived skills, Spearman-rank correlation coefficients were calculated. The results of this study confirmed gender differences between students' actual and perceived water abilities, and that the male and female students had inaccurate perceptions of their own perceived and real water abilities. Both male and female students, with high precision, assessed their ability to swim long distances (rs = 0.601; rs = 0.694) just as female students assessed their ability to float (rs = 0.698). Male students greatly overestimated their backstroke swimming, while female students underestimated their ability to dive into the water. Both groups overestimated underwater swimming and underestimated their surface dive skill. Also, there was gender differences between students in assessing the risk for described situations.
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Little is known about the specific water-safety beliefs, swimming skill, and behaviors that might be associated with beachgoers' perception of drowning risk. Summer New Zealand adult beachgoers (N = 3,371) were surveyed to assess beach swimming frequency, swimming skill, swimming behaviors, and perception of the risk of drowning in five prevalidated scenarios. Thirty-two percent of beachgoers estimated that they could currently swim less than 25 m, 55% reported that they had swum outside lifeguard-patrolled areas, and 26% had swum after consuming alcohol. Young adults and men were more likely to self-report strong swimming skill, more frequent at-risk swimming behavior, and lower perception of drowning risk. High swimming frequency, better self-reported swimming skill, and previous at-risk swimming behaviors were all associated with a lower perception of risk of the case scenarios. Addressing tendencies to overestimate swimming skill and underestimate drowning risk should be focal points of drowning-prevention interventions, especially among young male adults.
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To estimate the association between swimming lessons and the risk of drowning among children aged 1 to 19 years. Case-control study. Cases were identified from medical examiners'/coroners' offices between mid-2003 and mid-2005. Jurisdictions included the states of Maryland and North Carolina, 14 districts (33 counties) in Florida, 3 counties in California, 1 county in Texas, and 1 county in New York. Cases were children and adolescents aged 1 to 19 years who died of unintentional drowning. Interviews were conducted with 88 families of children who drowned and 213 matched controls. Main Exposure Swimming lessons. Main Outcome Measure Death due to unintentional drowning. Drownings that were intentional, of undetermined intent, or that occurred under conditions in which swimming ability was unlikely to impact risk (eg, in ice water or bathtubs) were excluded. Of the 61 cases in the 1- to 4-year age group, 2 (3%) had participated in formal swimming lessons vs 35 of 134 matched controls (26%) (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.12; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.01-0.97). Among the 27 cases aged 5 to 19 years, 7 (27%) had ever taken formal swimming lessons vs 42 of 79 matched controls (53%) (adjusted OR, 0.36; 95% CI, 0.09-1.51). In adjusted analyses, there was no statistically significant association between informal instruction and drowning risk. Participation in formal swimming lessons was associated with an 88% reduction in the risk of drowning in the 1- to 4-year-old children, although our estimates were imprecise and 95% CIs included risk reductions ranging from 3% to 99%.
The risk of drowning associated with aquatic recreation is the consequence of many underlying water safety influences that operate at intrapersonal, interpersonal and community levels. A nationwide survey was completed by New Zealand youth (n=2202, 15–19 year olds) to obtain comprehensive data on what young people know, think and do about their safety during aquatic recreation. Almost all respondents had taken part in some swimming (98%) in the previous year. Risk of drowning was exacerbated among many students because they had poor safety skills and knowledge, held unsound attitudes, and often reported risky behaviours. For example, many students estimated that they could not swim more than 100 m (54%), had swum outside surf patrol flags (61%) or never wore lifejackets (19%) during aquatic recreation. Taken separately, any of these dispositions is capable of heightening drowning risk; taken collectively they offer strong explanation as to why some youth are at greater risk of drowning than others. When analysed by gender, a lack of male water safety knowledge, a prevalence of unsafe attitudes, and at-risk behaviours was consistent and pronounced.
Generally, Blacks are less likely than Whites to be proficient at swimming. Blacks also have higher rates of drowning and are underrepresented in competitive swimming and in occupations requiring swimming or water safety skill. In this study, physiological, demographic, and biodata measures were used with military academy cadets to determine the individual factors contributing to within-group swimming proficiency among Blacks as well as Whites. The best predictor of swimming skill was the age at which the cadets had learned to swim. Other items pointed to fitness, sociocultural, and learned or dispositional differences between better and poorer swimmers. Implications for increasing swimming proficiency among Blacks and for future research are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Childhood drowning rates vary substantially among demographic groups with higher rates among toddlers than children aged 5–14, higher rates among nonwhites than whites, and higher rates among males than females. To assess swimming frequency, ability, and site as possible causes of these differences, questions were added about these items to a survey administered on-site to families using New Jersey's public beaches. Responses describing 6,366 children indicated that swimming competence increased markedly at about age 5, was greater among whites than nonwhites, and was similar for males and females. Swimming frequency was greatest among children aged 5–9 and did not differ substantially by race or sex. Few families swam at unguarded sites. Subject to limitations related to the sampling procedure, we conclude that differences in swimming exposure are not likely to explain age, race, and sex differences in childhood drowning rates. Differences in swimming competence may explain age and race (but not sex) differences in childhood drowning rates, but additional work is needed to determine whether they actually do so.
Incl. bibl., app., index, exercises. 3rd ed. (1993) also available.
Data from state telephone surveys of self-reported seatbelt use, driving while intoxicated, and drinking five or more alcoholic drinks at one sitting were compared with objectively observed belt use in traffic and evidence of blood alcohol in fatally injured drivers. Self-reported belt use overstates actual use by more than 20 percentage points on average. Self-reported alcohol use is not predictive of the percentage of fatally injured drivers with evidence of blood alcohol among the states.