As some of you know, I hated swim lessons as a young child. I have a very clear memory of me crying in the back seat of my grandparents' car, of cold water and blue tile and being told to "jump in" when I had absolutely zero desire to do so..
I have taught children before, in my 20's as a real live coach of a Marin Swim League team. I taught the children who were beginners but were water safe. They could jump in the deep pool and make it across, either under water or some sort of semblance of freestyle on top of the water.I had a good time and one of the things I truly focussed on was not timing them when they competed. I cared about how they swam and making sure that they knew how a swim meet worked and that they were responsible for getting themselves to the blocks and knowing what events they were participating in. There were lots of laughs and hugs and giggles.
One lesson I particularly remember was losing my voice. I had 3 , 30 minute sessions , 5 days a week with anywhere from 15-20 children. My first thought was.. " oh crap, what am I going to do?". Well, I showed up and whispered... and it was a real whisper... "I have no voice, I really need you to pay attention and if I raise my hand, it means 'please be quiet'.
They were superstars. It was so quiet that the main coach actually came over and asked if everything was ok! Lesson? You don't need to yell to make your voice heard.
Skip forward to yesterday.
I swim sporadically at a high school pool on Sundays. We get two lanes at most, but it's two hours and sometimes I can get some decent yardage in. The rest of the pool is water polo players and in the shallow end are children and some pre-teens who are taking lessons to become water safe. Not necessarily to be on a swim team but to be able to make it to the side under their own power and be able to float if they fall in.
Last week , I spoke to the co-ordinator and said I'd like to try. I was kind of scared because it had been so long but I figured I couldn't mess them up too badly. I chose ( got assigned ?) the one young boy who was not at all water safe, everyone else was practicing going back and forth and jumping off the side.
This young man had the guts to tell me ( he was about 6) that he was "really scared'. And he gripped my neck like a vise at first. At one point his arms were floating above his head but he had his legs wrapped around my waist like a vise grip. Plus, he was shaking like a leaf. No cap for him!
Well, after about 35 min we had made some progress and there were some smiles as well. The last thing i had him do was repeat what we had started out with.. jumping from the top step to the 2nd step to the 3rd etc. Then from the bottom step to the bottom of the pool, about 3 1.2 feet deep so his head was still above water, bouncing under the water and then back to the step.
He did it and then I said.. yay , good job, out you get, go get warm.
Best words all day... " Can I do it again"?
So.. full circle... I am teaching children again.
And teaching myself.