Author: Ashley Graves

There are so many outstanding leaders within the armed forces. Aquatics shouldn’t be the reason they can’t move forward in their careers.

Coaching swimming in the Fort Bragg community for over ten years has shown me the drastic need within the military for trained aquatics professionals. 

Service members of all different ranks and backgrounds have come to me and others in my field seeking help in bettering their aquatics skills. No matter what their reason is for coming to lessons, the commonality is that those services are not readily accessible on military bases. 

Aquatics training is not inclusive to all branches of the military in basic training and physical training. Most often, these requirements and special training courses are only offered when service members are invited to test for the next step in their career, which is often too late to acquire sufficient proficiency to advance.

There are countless stories of people continually failing Dive School then being dropped because they can’t pass, passing out underwater with equipment training at Ranger School, or even out at a training camp having to be rescued in rivers and oceans because of their lack of aquatics training. 

Swimming is not a skill you can be shown once or twice and be expected to perform at the highest level. It takes time, dedication, repetition, and correct skill development to master.

Many individual service members struggle with different aquatics skills, making teaching in a group setting difficult. Many factors contribute to apprehension in the water - ranging from financial access to social expectations. So, by the time they enlist, many can’t swim at all, much less carry the required gear in, around, or underwater. Most advanced training requires these skills, and service members are embarrassed that they can’t perform the same as others in their units. Because of this dynamic, some seek outside help from certified aquatics professionals, provided with financial resources.

Knowing these things, what can we do to help the next generation of service members become “Mission Ready”?

USA Swimming and USA Masters Swimming are outstanding resources for both service members and their families. They have thousands of highly certified coaches nationally who are well equipped to aid in this process. 

Almost all US military bases have pools and some even partner with USA Swim Teams. Many of these facilities are woefully understaffed, the staff that is there come and go with the military lifestyle at a high turnover rate, always have long waiting lists, and their main focus for instruction in military children. 

One solution may be reaching outside of the military for a partnership.  Almost every military base is near USA Swimming Clubs and Universities that are well equipped to help service members gain these skills. These coaches are the ones developing the next generation of college and professional swimmers. You can be assured that they have the skillset to help aid in the necessary skill development a service member would be seeking.

About the Author

Ashley began her coaching journey at the age of nineteen years old. She became the youngest female head coach in the country of a club team and combined high school program in 2014. Ashley has continued to work in the swim community in a variety of roles but is most well known for her work at Streamline Teams where she is the Founder & CEO.

Streamline Teams was created to give coaches a connection platform to share their stories, challenges, and advice within the swimming community. Through doing so, Streamline Teams enables coach members to network with peers, grow professionally through resources and coach connection platforms.

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