SSLF grant enables swimming teacher to reach new students
For the past year and a half, Megan Cameron has been teaching adults to swim, in addition to offering private lessons, clinics, and triathlon coaching and hosting a Masters program at the program she founded, Megan Cameron Swim Coaching, in Joplin, Mo. All these program pieces fit together, creating a one-stop approach to taking swimmers from fearful to competitive one step at a time. “Adult learn-to-swim lessons are such a great way of onboarding individuals to enjoying the water for the rest of their lives for fun and fitness,” she says.
Cameron grew up in northern New Jersey and Chicago and was an avid competitive swimmer through her teens. After high school, she took a 20-year break from swimming but found her way into Masters swimming. “I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle,” she says. “I got into triathlon and rediscovered my love for swimming.”
She also discovered that she loved to teach others to enjoy the water and become safer in and around water. That’s when she started coaching and teaching, and when she learned about U.S. Masters Swimming’s Adult Learn-to-Swim certification program, she took full advantage of it to add to her skillset and coaching and teaching offerings.
Cameron decided to apply for a grant from the USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation in 2020 because there weren’t many opportunities in her community for adults to learn to swim. “There’s so many adults who don’t know how to swim. I wanted to be part of changing that” and provide opportunities to teach them, she says.
Cameron is using the grant she received to reach potential clients, with a prime tactic being leveraging Facebook ads. “The community is responding to this opportunity,” she says. “Even if they don’t sign up or need the lessons themselves, they know someone who does and they’ve been sharing it and tagging people in the comments, encouraging friends to learn to swim.”
Cameron runs her lessons at Missouri Southern University in Joplin. She hopes to continue the program in the future and continue getting the word out in her community and among college students in Joplin who might also not be able to swim.
Cameron teaches both children and adults and says they are quite different in how they learn and approach swimming. “There’s a different type of anxiety for adults than for kids” that can incorporate both anxiety and discomfort, she says.
“I was talking to one gentleman I was teaching who said he has no fear of the water, but there’s a change in breathing and tenseness in the muscles” when he gets in the water, she says, “and so there’s a level of uncomfortableness that happens when adults are learning to swim sometimes.”
To combat this and get adults who may be fearful to finally relax, Cameron says she works on “teaching them breathing techniques and teaching them to relax their muscles and talking through breathing patterns and air exchange—when to breathe through your mouth and nose and when to angle the head to breathe.” All of this talking them through and getting them more comfortable with the concepts can help adults relax faster, she says.
By comparison, she says kids are often easier to teach because “kids will learn by trial and error. They learn a little differently. You can do different games and activities and imagery if they have fears” that you can’t do with adults.
This makes teaching adults a more cerebral exercise, rather than a purely physical one, she says. “In my experience, with adults, you need to explain everything—why you’re doing a certain drill or skill. They want to know the why, and they love to hear it explained rather than just demonstrated. With adults, you’re teaching and training their brain first and then the body catches on. With kids you can train their bodies and then their mind understands later what’s going on. They figure it out by doing it.”
Though it sometimes takes a little longer to teach an adult compared to a child and often requires more patience, working with adults has been a great experience, she says. “It’s challenging and fun and definitely rewarding.”
And she hopes to reach even more people in the coming months and years. “I plan to apply for SSLF grants in the future and continue to spread the word and create opportunities for adults to swim in Missouri,” she says.
- Adult Learn-to-Swim