How Far Is Too Far?

Here is a difficult question: As a swimming teacher how far are you prepared to push a child into achieving the goals of their swimming certificate?  To be honest, judging it correctly is hit and miss.  I’ve had parents say that I do not push their children and then I’ve had parents say that I’m pushing their children too hard!  Ahhhhhh!  Talk 

about being caught between a rock and a hard place.  The situation is then made even more frustrating if the parents then give notice to quit and you as a swimming teacher don’t know this is happening until it’s too late and you have missed the opportunity to actually sit down and discuss the situation with all the parties involved.

Over the years that I have been teaching, I have come up with a set standard for each of the series of certificates and I find that is a huge help to put my lessons together.  For example, for STAnley 7, I expect all my swimmers to be able to swim a length of both back crawl and front crawl, I also expect them to put their faces in the water and jump into the pool (which is a depth of 1.4 metres) unaided.  I have been told my standards are high and that is a good thing; it also means that unfortunately I have to nag swimmers continually all the time to get their faces in the water and I hate doing it; especially with the children who just don’t knuckle down and do it.  I tend to find it is the more nervy swimmers who refuse to put their faces in the water and I do take the time to explain why they must do so, i.e. that it is better for their backs, it makes swimming easier as you are more streamlined in the water.  I also give the children homework and I speak to the parents about it too.  The homework is very simple, just to get used to putting their faces in the water at bath time.

I have recently had two sisters, who are particularly timid, leave my Saturday morning sessions and one of the reasons was because that I hadn’t pushed the older sister hard enough.  I had asked the father to get his daughter to practice putting her face in the water and apparently she had done it, so they thought because she wasn’t doing it for me, I wasn’t pushing her hard enough.  Now other than verbally getting a child to do something, what can I do?  Hold her under the water?  I do adjust my teaching methods to the personality of the child, but I only see the children for half an hour once a week.  There is no way that I am going to know exactly what make these children tick; their parents know them better than anyone.  The parents are in a much better position to push their children than anyone else; I have to frequently tell my ten year old son (Luke likes to procrastinate and I have to physically sit beside him) to get his bloody homework done, but if I swore at a child at work, it would be goodbye job.

In the autumn term just gone, I was told by my boss that I had to start taking two of my non swimmers under the water, just the once, each lesson.  Well they both hated it, even though I used a method that is gentle and used with babies in mother and baby classes, they also had been told why I was doing it, along with their parents.  It actually led to one of the parents giving verbal notice on the swimming lessons at the end of term.  In truth, I have never had a child give notice because they don’t like going under (at some point, as long as they continue with the swimming lessons, they will have to) and I was determined this wasn’t going to be the first.  So we have reached a compromise, both children have to submerge their faces in water at least once a session at a sensible speed – no skimming the water type action.  They are both happy with this and the lessons are progressing, albeit at a snail’s pace.

A swimming teacher’s hands (or any kind of teacher for that matter) are tied by rules and regulations and we can’t second guess what a child is truly capable of with only half an hour spent each week with them.  There needs to be open communication and an understanding of what can and can’t be done between all parties before notice to quit is even considered.

Swimming Modestly

Girl In A Burkini

This is a blog that I have wanted to write for a while, but have been fearful of what the reaction would be.  Before I go any further, I will state that I’m agnostic boarding onto atheism and so admittedly, some of the concepts that I’m going to discuss here are pretty foreign to me.

So why be so hesitant?  Well, I want to talk about swimming and religion.  I got the idea back in August of last year when news broke in the international media that a Muslim father had let his twenty year old daughter drown in Dubai, because she would be dishonoured if the male lifeguards (who she didn’t know) had touched her.  The news reports that the father was physically strong enough to hold both lifeguards back and began to get physically violent with them and by the time the father had stopped fighting with the lifeguards, his daughter’s heart had stopped beating.  After the incident, the father was arrested and charged.  Now obviously from my own religious view point I can’t even begin to comprehend or let alone agree with this man’s actions, but it got me thinking do Muslim women get the opportunity to learn to swim and if so how?

A few years back I remember being told through the grapevine that a boy in my daughter’s year at school was to have swimming lessons, because his mother wanted him to learn to swim, but she couldn’t take him herself due to being Muslim and because of this, I don’t think she could swim herself.  However, Muslim women can and do swim, which is brilliant, but what is causing uproar because it is happening here in the UK, France, the USA and Australia as well as Muslim countries is segregated swimming or swimming with a strict dress code.  Which I can understand because it doesn’t encourage social cohesion and prevents a deeper understanding of differing cultures.  According to the British press, members of the public have been turned away from their local swimming pools either as it was closed for Muslim women only swimming (Muslim men have their own private sessions too), which is done in complete privacy away from men or because they weren’t suitably dressed i.e. modestly.  To be modestly dressed

Jewish Swimwear

means that men must wear swim shorts that cover the navel and the knees, for women it’s a swimming costume that covers from neck to ankle and is called a burkini.  I think it’s a shame that people can’t wear what they want in the pool and mix with people of differing faiths as I think it would help a create a greater understanding in the wider community.

Even though Islam is prominent due to what is happening across the planet, it isn’t the only religion that requires its followers to be modestly dressed.  Orthodox Jews require their followers to be modestly dressed and segregated in swimming sessions.  The Jewish view is that men are the “lookers”, so are restricted in what they can see and the women are the “show-ers”, so in turn are limited in what they can reveal.  Some Christians prefer to be modestly dressed too and consider a swimming costume to be of immodest dress.  This view is discussed in a blog written an American gentleman who decided with his wife not buy a house with a swimming pool, because this (in their view) encourages immodesty due to the swimming attire.  He also asks the question to his readers “have your restrictions become more lenient since you first owned your pool?”

Personally, I think that religion, as a whole needs to understand that swimming is a life skill, which could potentially save a life and is not about flaunting one’s body to the opposite sex.  As a swimming teacher, you get to see all body shapes, male and female and all races, it does not bother me who swims, as long as it is done in a safe and an appropriate manner; I don’t think “hey, there is a half naked man over there, he must want something”.  In fact, I probably have got slightly blase over seeing half naked bodies, but not at all in a sexual sense.  On the flip side though, because I have to wear shorts and t-shirt in the pool, I feel more self conscious without them, when I do swim for pleasure.