Adult Learn-to-Swim Success Stories: The Instructor, Part 1
A few weeks ago while coaching a Saturday morning practice, I had the chance to meet Mari Soliman on deck. Right away, I thought, “She looks like she could be a swimmer.” She looked confident yet a little nervous. When she approached, she was outgoing, happy, and excited to get started.
I asked Mari about her prior swim lessons, about the time she spends on workouts in general, how she stays fit, and how much time she thinks she can give to herself to continue swimming. She volunteered why she wants to learn to swim: her daughter, and future safety for herself and others when she goes on fun trips to paddle or do other water sports. She told me that she was afraid when her daughter was young—that if her daughter fell into a body of water, she wouldn’t be able to do anything to help.
We met for the second time and our first lesson on a clear Tuesday morning at a beautiful backyard pool. I'm not sure whether she was nervous, but I know I was a little nervous myself and hoped I could help her love the water as I do. I’m always nervous with someone new. Will I have the right personality to help? Will I be too pushy? Will she appreciate my humor? Will she be able to hear what I offer and make it work for her?
I have a strong personality, but I’m very careful with new people to not push too hard, and to remember to end on a task that’s easy for them so they can remember a success. Mari doesn’t have experience with a group sport or a coach pushing her, so I thought that might present a challenge for me. She seemed very determined, but I knew any pushing from me would have to make sense to her and be reasonable and very reassuring so she would want to try hard and come back.
After we reacquainted ourselves, we discussed the equipment we’d be using: swim caps, goggles, fins, kickboard, nose clips, and snorkel. I gave a brief explanation of when and how we would use each piece. I think I stunned her a little as I helped her put on her swim cap age-group style!
As we slipped into the water, I saw that Mari looked mostly at ease, and didn’t mind getting her head wet. We went through the breathing-in, bubbles-out bobs, then got all the way to front and back floats. She had a great time pushing off the walls and gliding after working on the simple floats and sculls. It was difficult for her to relax on her back with her head in line with her spine, but she kept trying.
As we ended our first lesson, Mari was starting to trust me, trust herself, and started understanding the way of the water.
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