Year 3 Teaching Swimming – A Reflection

I wrote the following below two months ago to a friend of mine:
During the course of any given year as a teacher of swimming, I approach my role to students as a chance to “provide a life changing experience they would not have if not for swimming.” This upcoming summer will be one of those that exceeds such definition.
I can tell everyone the week exceeded such definition in ways I did not anticipate. The proverbial envelope was pushed, and the emotional rollercoaster was a wild ride (I finished the final section of high speed twists and exhilarating turns). The discussions and conversations with parents about whatever it was, with students about their life, dreams and goals (and all that comes with it) reached depths that I am not sure any of us involved could have planned nor expected. The week has been a treat unlike any other. Perhaps one has to truly know the “players” in order to understand how such experiences could happen in such a short period of time with such profound and visceral outcomes.
It began three years ago. 5 kids and their parents came to the waterfront to learn how to swim. I had finished putting together the curriculum I wrote and it was going to be put in action. Currently, it is three years later and I have over 16 kids and their parents coming to the waterfront – some returning and some new – to learn how to swim. How incredible is that. To know that all my children can swim to the dock and back without me is something that words can not describe. They know how to swim with their lifejackets on. Some do not need a lifejacket anymore. You are probally wondering why this is “big” for me. Well, when you have each kid crying the first day because they are scared to get in water, and at the end of two or four weeks the kids are begging to go on the dock in the deep end a half-mile away, that is why this is big for me.
Also to know the program is getting bigger is pretty impressive for a 19 year old like me. Most 19 year old kids are getting drunk and doing whatever it is. Not this man. This guy is trying to make a difference in life. I want to try to live life the most I can and get the most out of it (although I tell myself that I think this even though it can go in one ear and out the other because I do not do it LOL).
With swimming, I can help develop strength, endurance, fine motor skills, confidence and love for the water. I do not think any sport can develop this as much as swimming. My dream is to save the lives of people one stroke at a time through teaching them how to not only swim, but to tread water, go underwater and even float on the back. The emotional journey this has been for all of us (the parents, kids and I) was transporting and suspended time. I have been in a bubble the last few days – one that has brought me closer to understanding how utterly important it is to stop brooding over the past, stop worrying about the future, and LIVE in the present. I have friends who do this and I have been envious of it forever.
Now I have a bit of a better understanding due to the personal immersion of this week. The parents, kids and I all fed our souls this week. It was a by-product of a standard event conceived in selfishness that I did not anticipate. It was a win-win-win situation. The students were exposed to the teachings and skills that helped them look inward and find resilience and strength. I was able to learn a bit more about myself. However, the biggest winners were the kids I taught. I knew this would be a special week but it turned into a gift unlike any we could have planned. To borrow a saying that I am inspired by:
Art is not a thing. Art is a way.
This summer was indeed: art. I am glad to be a positive role model for children who deserve everything in life. I am glad to have parents who put their trust in me to give the best for their son. I glad for the people who support me and what I do. A little kindness can go a long way, especially for this man. Each kid and I have made some kind of memory that will last forever.
That is what life is about and what I preach to everyone I meet – to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Watching children smile and have fun in the water is what makes life so precious for us. To know our time is limited on this planet should be a motivation for all of us to find the little things in life that mean something to us.
To the parents of the kids I had this summer: for those who are coming back next summer I will see you then. For those who are not, remember to take what I taught you and explore with it. Encourage your child to love the water but most importantly, to love themselves and how they can do anything they want in this world when they have a positive mind, attitude and a willingness to learn. That was how I was taught and that is a way for you to pay me back – to teach them just that.
It has been a great third year of teaching swimming. Now let us finish summer!

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