Going From Zero To Hero With A Splash!

, , , , , , | Learning | July 8, 2020

Our swimming club usually gets the kids who have behaviour issues and can’t be handled elsewhere. Since we are used to — untrue — negative stories, we usually don’t have opinions formed before seeing a child. But sometimes, even we get fooled by experiences from the past.

A mother asks if her thirteen-year-old son can join the swimming club. They just emigrated from an Asian nation. They speak little Dutch and a bit more English. It’s not much of a problem, so our contact person asks if he has any swimming diplomas. 

The boy has none. That country doesn’t do swimming diplomas, nor do they teach swimming classes. So, how did he learn? He taught himself! This usually sets alarm bells off because we have had plenty of parents who’ve said their angel children could swim like fish and all they could do was barely avoid drowning. 

Our first plan is to let him start at level zero as a beginner, which means, for him, knee-deep water. But, since there’s a global health crisis going on, that class hasn’t started again yet. 

The mother asks if we can please, please, give him a chance. She knows it doesn’t sound good, but he really can swim well and if we only gave him a chance, if he wasn’t good enough, she would never bother us again. Since something just feels… different from the other entitled parents, the contact person arranges a test swim. 

Seven teachers are present, ready to jump in if needed. The boy is shy and nervous, but he also looks happy when he sees the pool. One teacher will act as his “primary teacher” for the day and she asks him to show what he can do. 

Our jaws drop. Of course, he’s not an Olympic champion but… he’s good! Considering his technique, I mumble that he probably watched Olympic swimming videos as teaching material. 

It turns out that he did!

The teacher then asks him to dive. The boy looks confused; what is diving? The teacher shows it with poses — teachers are not allowed to swim yet — and the boy tries to dive. It is a good dive. He has never swum on his back before, and he does, including the backstroke! He picks it up immediately. 

Then, our most senior teacher arrives. He’s approaching ninety and has taught for around sixty years; keeping him away from the pool would be torture for him, so we’re very careful around him. “Hey, new kid?” he asks us. “So, which class will he be in? Level five?”

After class, I see the boy waiting outside. He walks up to me and asks, in broken Dutch and English, when the next class will be. I tell him to send an email to our contact person and please, please, please come back, because he swims wonderfully! A shy smile appears on his face and when I get home, I contact our contact person to say that the boy seems interested in returning. 

Due to experiences in the past, we expected someone at less than level zero. We got someone close to level five. We hope he will return — if he wants to! — because he can grow into a wonderful swimmer, perhaps even a champion!


This story is included in our Feel-Good roundup for July 2020!

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