Summer is upon us and we’re all staying cool by laying out at the beach and lounging by the pool. These leisure time activities all involve innocent fun in the water, but inevitably we all read those stories of summertime tragedy, especially with young children. The hard fact is that drowning is the leading cause of injury related death among children between one and four years old and it’s the second leading cause of injury related death among all children. So I took this opportunity to talk to Nick Rubino who owns Sea Star Swim Academy in Orlando, Florida and is a featured listing on Hayden’s List. We discussed his inspiration for swim education, water safety and his commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all his students.
Nick was born in upstate New York. During this time his school took Nick’s classes to field trips to farms and was around horses and jockeys. His first vacation to Orlando and eventually moving there in high school brought water into his life. Nick was not a member of any swim teams in high school or college. In fact, he didn’t start swimming until his late teens. Nick believes this is what makes him very relatable to his students, especially his adult students. After training dolphins, whales, sea lions and many other aquatic animals at SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and the Florida Aquarium he wanted his career to continue inspire and contribute to the greater good and he also wanted to be an entrepreneur. This led to Nick starting the Sea Star Swim Academy and working with Swimming for Life.
Nick’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to start Sea Star Swim Academy. At Sea Star Swim Academy, Nick provides lesson from babies to adults on how to swim safely. By working with Swimming for Life, Nick is able to give back to the community. Swimming for Life is an organization in Lake County, Florida that provides swim lessons and water safety skills and education scholarships to families with financial limitations, families that adopt and foster, families that take in children with special circumstances and for individuals with special needs. Nick enjoys working with Swimming for Life because it not only provides an important skill and safety but builds confidence in young children in and out of the water. Nick’s strong belief in the mission of Swimming for Life has led him to start his own chapter in Orange County, Florida. With help from the Dawn Brancheau Foundation and the City of Orlando, Nick is expanding the program in 2017.
Sea Star Academy’s website offers many tips for water safety for in the home, swimming and boating. Nick’s number one rule for water safety is for parents/guardians: “If your child is in the pool, your eyes are on your child and you’re in arm’s reach”. Cell phones and other electronic devices are huge distractions for parents watching children by water. Nick begins each swim lesson with children by having the child ask his/her parent for permission to enter the pool. This instills the habit in the child to ask permission to swim and makes the parent aware that the child is going in the pool. Nick also has the child bring his/her parent a tag and this tag has water safety tips that can be brought home.
I also asked Nick about an issue I’ve read about on social media this summer, secondary drowning or dry drowning. This can happen when your child breathes water into his/her lungs, it can happen while swimming or playing in the water. It is more common in children because of their small size. Nick states that a secondary or dry drowning is very rare and WebMD states they make up only 1% – 2% of all drownings. To avoid secondary or dry drowning, Nick teaches his young pupils about blowing bubbles holding their breath so not to ingest water. However with babies and submersion lessons, Nick follows Red Cross guidelines which are no more than 3 submersions per lesson and stops submersions immediately after a pupil comes up coughing. Nick uses a slower methodical lesson plan compared to other programs.
How did Nick establish Sea Star Academy as such an inclusive environment that a LGBT mom group reached out to him to do a “Mommy & Me” group swim lesson? It started when Nick was teaching swim lessons in Tampa and child came in with his gay dads. Nick saw the looks that other instructors and parents gave the dads. It hit Nick that he wanted his business to be welcoming to all members of his community. Besides the “Mommy & Me” group, Sea Star Swim Academy gives lessons to multiple LGBT families. Nick says “I’m a comfortable, safe place, where you can bring your family”. And knowing that his students and their families know his inclusive policy it helps Nick feel comfortable being out with his husband also.
A big thank you to Nick for being so welcoming with Sea Star Swim Academy. For more information on Nick and the Sea Star Swim Academy, check out the listing on Hayden’s List here.Tags: Florida, LGBT, LGBT friendly, LGBT Parents, Nick Rubino, Orlando, Sea Star Swim Academy, Swim, Swim lessons, Swimming, Water Safety