Believe it or not, I used to be a swimmer. I wish I could still classify myself as a swimmer, but now it’s more of just a hobby… when I am lucky enough to sporadically get access a lap pool! 😉
Taking swimming seriously all started for me a few weeks before school was out during my fifth grade year. My family had just made the big commitment to join a local pool, and Mom and Dad were dragging my brother and me to the first swim team practice of the year.
I grew up swimming- in the ocean with Dad, in the pool floating around…I was a mermaid according to my family. But I had my first official lessons when I was 4. The instructor’s name was Becky and she taught me so much! By the time my two or three lessons with her were over, I could swim freestyle, hold my breath for a considerable amount of time, and tread water like no other 5 year old you know. I loved the water and felt so comfortable in it. Moving just came naturally.
When I was 5 or 6, Dad and I went to a swim class together at the YMCA. I don’t remember much about this, but I do know that I learned the Dead Man’s Float//Survival Float while in that class… a float that I hate to do! haha, I know it could literally save your life by conserving your energy, but I hated floating with my face in the water… I much rather preferred floating on my back.
The summer I turned 6, our family went to a lake. That was the summer I learned that Pops (grandpa) had been in the Navy and had learned and loved to swim. His favorite stroke? Backstroke. He swam back and forth to the dock, demonstrating the easy and comfortable strokes. I wanted to try it too! He held my back as I attempted to float on the surface of the water and circle my arms backwards. After practicing and wearing myself out, I remember I simply decided to float on my back until it was time to leave. So peaceful, so relaxing. So natural.
Whenever my family would go on vacation after that, I was always a little mermaid in the water. If we were at the beach, I was a daredevil with my dad out chasing the waves and swimming in the salty ocean water. If we were at a pool, I was racing Dad across to the other side, practicing my backstroke, or learning new strokes from Dad. (breaststroke, freestyle, sidestroke…) I was up for anything in the water- whether it was challenging my uncle to a cannonball contest, trying to teach my cousin to swim, or seeing who could hold their breath on the bottom of the pool the longest. [I ALWAYS was the worst at this because I’m naturally a floater so I can’t stay on the bottom!] If we were at a lazy river, I was that wily shy child that swam around all the lazy floaters, or the child that attempted to swim against the current, wearing herself out. If we were in a hot tub, I couldn’t just sit there and relax…I would practice holding my breath underwater or something. Even in the bathtub at home I would practice holding my breath! (My mother was terrified when I would do this!) And when it was time to leave the beach, pool, lazy river or hot tub, I was that demon child that was crying because she didn’t want to leave. Ok so I wasn’t that bad, but I did embarrass my parents with the way I acted!
Simply put, I loved the water.
My brother was 4 1/2 when he learned to swim, and I was so jealous that he naturally possessed the fish-like quality that I felt so special to have. It must run in my parents’ veins or something because the two of us were always swimming whenever we got the chance.
Which brings me back to fifth grade year when our family got a pool membership… it meant a full summer of swimming… and swim team.
Our parents had picked us up after school and were taking us straight to the pool. Bathing suit, goggles, and towel in tow, I hesitantly entered the woman’s locker room to suit up. I remember being so nervous. I only knew a few other girls at the pool, I didn’t know the coaches, and I was nervous to have to swim laps! I just knew I was going to be horrible and so slow because everyone else had done swim team before.
After an introductory “THIS IS SWIM TEAM!” (think- “THIS IS SPARTA!”) pep talk, our coaches made us run 3 laps around the outside perimeter of the fenced-in pool. I was tired afterwards and nervous of how hard the swimming was going to be. We did static stretches, arm circles, and pushups. Then we rinsed off our feet and went to stand around the hot concrete by the pool. The coaches split us up by age, so while my brother was “learning” to tread water and kick with a kick board in the kiddie area, I was in the 4-ft. zone preparing to warm up. As if I wasn’t already warmed up! We swam freestyle. I don’t remember how many laps we swam but I remember being so out of breath. Then we worked with kick boards and did scissor kicks, frog kicks, and butterfly kicks. Sounds like some kind of kindergarten gym class, no? ;p
Practice lasted an hour and a half, and to finish it up, we played “Sharks and Minnows” in the 12-ft. end. I was so glad I wasn’t chosen to be a shark, and I was glad that I safely made it to the other side of the pool without being tagged 🙂 I was a beast at that game… I’m just sly in the water, what can I say?
Although I did enjoy it, I was a ball of nerves before swim practice every day… I didn’t know what to expect, what I would learn, etc. Despite my nerves and silly fears, I came to love swim team. I dove deeper in love with swimming. And actually excelled in swimming. But more on that next week 😉
How did you learn to swim??? Do you like to swim??? Tell me your story!