I sometimes ask the children I teach.
‘What is the most important thing about swimming lessons?’
And they give me all sorts of answers like ‘kicking’, ‘floating,’and other things.
But I say ‘No. Fun. That is the most important thing.’ And they look at me in amazement.
I am always in the water with them which is quite necessary as the pool where I teach is too deep for most of them to stand up and so I have to really keep an eye on them. Some of them have floats but some are quite good at swimming without. Some of them have started off very frightened of the water and I have to spend quite a lot of time un-teaching them, i.e letting them understand that they can absolutely trust me not to make them do anything they don’t want to or that will frighten them.
Some of the adults I teach are good swimmers who may want some help with technique and some are just as terrified as the children but added to that they are embarrassed and sometimes almost ashamed that they can’t swim. Every non swimmer seems to go through more or less the same stages whatever their age. Most are uncertain about putting their faces in the water and they also find it hard to stretch out and believe the water will hold them. They want to keep their heads out of the water, their knees curled up underneath them and their feet near the floor of the pool. For non-swimmers floating on their backs seems to be the most terrifying thing and it is a lovely stage when you can get the little children to stretch out their arms and legs and trust the water to hold them lying on their backs like little stars.The realisation that they can float without me holding them is often very touching and delightful.
I say to the adults you feel you have to hold on to the water but actually the water is holding you.
Photo of stars on the water by Deborah Brasket from her blog Living on the edge of the wild