The lessons learnt in Nippers pave the way for a future of community service and emergency management volunteerism for the next generation of Victorian lifesavers.
LSV’s Nippers beach education program introduces children aged 5-14 years to lifesaving, delivered by Life Saving Clubs across Victoria through summer. But, it has also evolved to include Starfish Nippers, an all-abilities program and Bush Nippers, an all-aquatic-environments program.
“The program is about children participating in safe, fun and organised activities in a beach environment (and now also via an inland Bush Nippers program), preparing them to become future lifesavers,” said Angela Malan, LSV’s Director Membership and Leadership Development.
As well as teaching children how to be safe in an aquatic environment, it also introduces and develops the fundamental skills to become a future lifesaver, whilst socialising and most of all having fun!
Junior coordinator Charlie Crawford (23) has been the Junior Coordinator at Cape Paterson SLSC for the past five years and says the two main lessons of Nippers for him were that of leadership and teamwork.
“I saw firsthand how these lessons were put towards being a lifesaver during a training day for Nippers and a Bronze certificate when we had a real-life rescue on our hands,” said Charlie. “It took four hours and 36 members, as well as other emergency services agencies, water safety teams and helicopter crews. It showed us all how important that leadership and teamwork was on the successful outcome for the patient.”
Cape Paterson SLSC puts a lot of effort into its Nippers program and has grown it from 80 to 250 members in the last few years. One of the ways it keeps the older children interested is to have recently certified lifesavers come back to teach the slightly younger generation.
“The familiarity helps them to see a pathway for their own lifesaving journey; they see people they know just that one step ahead of them,” said Charlie, who works as a coach at Best Practice Tennis in Melbourne when not volunteering with lifesaving. “We have strong retention of Nippers members and they will often aim for their Surf Rescue Certificate (SRC) and go further into lifesaving.”
The final year of Nippers as an U14 gives junior members the option to complete their Surf Rescue Certificate – after which they can become a qualified lifesaver and assist to patrol the beaches.
“You don’t have to be the strongest swimmer or fastest paddler to be the best lifesaver,” said Charlie. “The leadership and teamwork aspects are even more important and Nippers caters for all manner of experience and skill levels of participants.”
There are more than 10,000 Nippers in Victoria aged between 5 and 14 years that hit our beaches as part of the Nipper Program each summer.
“Nippers is a key initiative of the lifesaving movement and its continuous success is of vital importance to the growth of Victorian Life Saving Clubs,” said Angela Malan, LSV Director Membership and Leadership Development. “It’s an area we value and our clubs put an enormous amount of our resources and energy there, because we know this is where our next generation of lifesavers will come from. These members will take our emergency services work into the future.”
We have seen some phenomenal examples of our Nippers putting their skills to effective use in saving lives, like Layla (11) from Williamstown SLSC, who put her skills to great use when she saved a young boy who fell from a kayak in November 2020.
Layla is one of many little heroes who confidently used their skills to help their community.
“We are incredibly proud of Layla and all our phenomenal young Nippers,” said Angela. “They are incredible and the skills they learn will be with them for life.”
Leading into the 2020/21 season has certainly been challenging in a COVID environment, and our Clubs have risen to the challenge, working hard to ensure they provide a safe environment for the 12,000+ Nippers that hit the beach this season.
Nippers is a huge undertaking for clubs and only happens with the amazing dedication of our volunteers – from the many brilliant age managers, to our dedicated water safety and the many other key roles.
“It’s a real team effort, from our youth lifesavers to Nipper parents and the many, many dedicated volunteer members,” said Angela. “We are so thankful and proud of the clubs and members, and their ability to provide these great programs across the state this year for our future generations of lifesavers.”
Find out more about Nippers here: https://lsv.com.au/clubs-members/nippers/