Swimming lessons are about so much more than swimming

As a child I came close to drowning, twice. Once at the beach, where I was pulled up from under the water by another child, with the adults chatting, just metres away. The second time I was older, a proficient swimmer, but I dived too deep, hit my head, and winded myself to the point that I was pulled from the pool, gasping desperately for breath. Both experiences serve as a strong reminder about how important it is to be confident in the water, and the important of supervision.

When my youngest son was 6 months old, knowing we had a pool, there was no question about starting swimming lessons – I couldn’t wait for him to be old enough. Suddenly the beautiful pool in the backyard had become a deathtrap in my mind for my child who wasn’t yet able to swim. Eva Bory’s was the obvious choice – I had learnt there myself in the 1970’s – so I knew and trusted this local swim school.

My son did very well, as did his sister and brother in subsequent years, and swimming lessons have been a constant fixture in our lives for over a decade. Swimming lessons represented one on one time when the children were babies, in the midst of a very busy life, and later represented commitment to advancing their swimming skills and achievement.

Both of my older children swam the 50 metre events in their respective swimming carnivals, and despite being social swimmers, not competitive swimmers, qualified for the district carnival, an important personal achievement for them both, and a great confidence boost. However I must admit, I was very surprised to see how few 8 year olds were confident to swim in the 50 metre events.

I understand why it sometimes seems all too hard. When my daughter came along, 2 years after her brother, she was again enrolled in swimming lessons at 6 months of age. All was well, until she graduated to squids – the first level where I was not in the water with her during lessons – and then all hell broke loose! Thank goodness for the lovely swim teaching and reception staff, reassuring me that that her screaming would subside if I just stuck with it – so I did stick with it, for 6 long weeks of constant screaming, with me standing outside in the carpark, feeling very emotional, and wondering if it was all worth it? But, with a pool in the backyard, swimming lessons are absolutely non-negotiable. Fast forward 6 years to her recent school swimming carnival, and I know it was the right choice to continue.

I also now have a 4 year old who went through a stage where he was very resistant to learning to swim. He spent a good 6 weeks of swimming lessons pushing away the kickboard, refusing to paddle his hands or kick, and asking (repeatedly, and incessantly) to watch the Wiggles instead. However, this little boy is now the “fish” of the family, keeping up with his older siblings during long summer days in the pool, and always the last to get out of the water. Again, persevering was worth it.

In addition to being a lifesaving skill, swimming provides additional fitness to give children a valuable edge in their chosen other sports or to maintain fitness in the off season, as well as a sense of achievement while advancing through swimming levels and skills. Swimming provides the confidence to spend long days in the water with family and friends in the summer months, and attend water based activities. We can never protect our children 24/7, or ensure they are 100% safe around water – but we can do our very best to ensure they are able to swim, and equip them with the water safety skills needed to have the best chance of being able to cope if put in a tricky aquatic situation. My best advice is to please persevere all year round, no excuses – swimming lessons are too valuable to give up on.