Monday, July 29, 2013


I took dance lessons for about seven years as a kid. I was mostly really bad and I always took only a few lessons, but you'd expect that after seven years I could dance. You would be wrong. I can perform one very nice pirouette and my toes point quite a lot, but beyond that my dance skills are about average for someone of my social location. I was thinking about this the other day when I was scolding my five year-olds for not doing dolphin kicks off their walls. Will they remember any of it? Does teaching swimming that meticulously even matter?

My feeling is yes. I think all kids should be drown-proofed simply because drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in children, but when I teach swimming I usually go way past the point of safety. I make them do flips, dives, and strokes correctly. I challenge them to swim thirteen feet underwater and glide off the wall backwards underwater. These things are unnecessary, but what they get from it even if they forget the particular skills is a lack of fear. In the same way that I'm never afraid to dance in any situation my preschool-aged swimmers will try anything from sculling to butterfly. They'll jump off diving boards because I told them they would be able to. Even if they are too young to really remember how to do everything properly it doesn't matter because when they grow up and want to swim laps they'll have no fear.

I've met so many adults who want to learn to swim, but can't because they are afraid of the water that I've lost count. Every time I get somebody requesting swimming lessons, but prefacing it with, "I don't want to get my face wet" I have to sigh a little. It's impossible to swim without getting your face wet. It's impossible to really swim without doing some drills. If people tell me they don't want to learn anything other than front crawl I know it's because they are afraid of putting their body in different positions. They should have conquered that when they were little children, but they didn't. Nobody threw them in the way I do. It's sad.

I'm glad that I learned to swim and dance when I was younger so I can be graceful on the land and the water now. Walking along on your tip-toes and doing flips is surprisingly rewarding even if that's all I retained from years of lessons. I believe learning is worth it for its own sake. Sometimes skills are just good to have.

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