High 5, Inc. swim lessons Hillsborough county

INSIDE LOOK: Free Swim Lessons with High 5 for Swim Safety

High 5, Inc. was established in 1963 as a nonprofit founded on five pillars of impact: teaching how to swim, providing adult and youth sports, after-school care, special needs programming and community partnerships.

One key focus area in the organization’s aquatics programming is drowning prevention and The Water Warriors water safety lesson program, funded through a grant by the Childrens Board of Hillsborough County, which has allowed the organization to expand their impact in our community.

We sat down with Sharon Finotti, Director of Aquatics, High 5, Inc. to hear more about the program.

Tell us about your organization and the Swim lessons that the Children’s Board supports that are available at no cost to Hillsborough County residents.

Sharon Finotti: The Water Warriors program is a set of eight water safety lessons that allows Hillsborough County youth ages 3-18 to participate. Lessons focus on teaching drowning prevention skills in the water and water safety lessons on land, such as boating safety and CPR. Parents also receive water safety instruction in areas such as home pool safety, CPR, use of an AED, boating safety and more.

High 5, Inc. swim lessons Hillsborough county swimmers splashing

Are there any special requirements or qualifications for children to participate in the Water Warriors program?

Sharon Finotti: Youth ages 3-18 and residents of Hillsborough County are eligible to participate at no cost to the families. Repetition and time in the water are important factors in skill development, so swimmers and parents should plan to attend at least six of the eight lessons. Water warrior lessons are provided with both weekday and weekend options.

Can you walk us through the steps parents and caregivers can take to keep their pools safe at home?

Sharon Finotti: Home pool safety is important for families with a pool in their backyard. This includes pools at homes that children frequently visit such as friends, neighbors or caregivers.

One of the most important factors is multiple layers of protection to prevent young children from accessing the pool without adult supervision. These layers include locks on the doors and gates leading to the pool, including door alarms to alert others if the door to the pool is opened.

Other layers include extra barrier fencing around the pool and pool alarms that will detect movement in the water and sound or send an alert.

High 5, Inc. swim lessons in action

It is easy to feel comfortable at home, but it is important that youth of all ages always have adult supervision while the pool is in use. This means designating at least one adult that is considered a “Water Watcher.” This person is responsible for supervising the swimmers in the pool and responding if there is an emergency, and should be free of distractions.

A leading cause of drowning in home pools includes walking away from the pool for just a couple of minutes or thinking that someone else is watching the swimmers.

What other swim lessons do you provide to children and families in the community?

Sharon Finotti: High 5, Inc. also provides Learn to Swim classes for children ages 6 months to 18 years. These include our parent and child classes and group lessons for youth, teens and adults. Additional programs such as swim team, lifeguard certification classes and diving are also offered.

High 5, Inc. swim lessons instructor with student on his back

What is the best way for a caregiver to get in contact with High 5?

Sharon Finotti: Families or individuals interested in more information about any of our Aquatic programs can contact us by emailing Memberservices@high5inc.org or calling 813-689-0908 to speak to member services or an aquatics supervisor.

Sharon Finotti’s Top Six Tips for Water Safety

  1. When possible, swim under the supervision of a lifeguard at community pools or the beach.
  2. Always have adult supervision of younger swimmers, whether at home or away.
  3. If caught in a riptide, do not swim against it; instead swim parallel to shore.
  4. When on a boat, lifejackets are required for children under 6 in Florida. Always have a lifejacket on board for everyone present.
  5. If lightning is within 10 miles or less, get out of the pool or the beach and seek shelter immediately.
  6. Review pool and water safety rules with children with each visit to the pool or beach.
High 5, Inc. free swim lessons swimmers lined up to dive in the pool

*Presented by Children’s Board of Hillsborough County | *Photos provided by High 5, Inc. | Originally published in the May 2024 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.