Injury Smart

Conquering the deep

Building muscle memory is the basis of effortless experiences...





As a swim teacher I am inspired by Bob Hewitt’s courage and the survival techniques he used while alone for days in the cold water off Kapiti Island. Nobody would want to be in Bob’s situation, to be tested at that level and have to find the emotional strength to stay calm and carry on, day and night. Bob’s story would have started many years ago with his first swimming lesson. His subsequent life experiences gave him the skills to assess risk, manage panic and reserve his physical strength.

Every summer I teach fledgling Bobs to swim in an unheated outdoor pool. Keen to learn, tiny little bodies with no flesh and no physical strength turn up twice a week for eight weeks. When they were toddlers, my water babies were taught how to overcome their primordial fear. Now they are older they are comfortable in the water and are experiencing the joy of being freed from the denseness of gravity.

My challenge as a swim teacher is to further develop their love of water and inspire and motivate them to not give up, because everyone can do this, everyone can learn to swim.

It is important to keep my water babies enthusiastic and engaged, to let them know why they are doing something. Explaining why a good posture not only will keep them afloat but is core to every sport and activity they do has been a huge success; they get it and start learning to apply it quickly.

Building muscle memory is the basis of effortless experiences in the water. The great thing is, my water babies are not breaking bad habits here, they are building new ones. By the end of the season their strokes are relaxed and easy and in many cases full of grace and elegance.

When my fledglings understand that posture and practice are key to a good stroke, it is easy to teach them the finer points of each action, to get them to practise each component of a stroke so they can slowly bring them all together to create integrated, effortless movements through the water.

By the end of the summer each water baby is ready to move up to the next level, where the perseverance, tenacity, discipline and self-management they have been developing will start to serve them well.

I want my water babies to become independent sirens of the deep, I want them to see the wonders of underwater alien worlds, dimensions made up of colour, form and light, explore with their bodies and minds fully engaged, taking in wonderment while anticipating what will happen if…, calculating their risks and having the resilience and discipline to survive a “Bob Hewitt”, cold and alone.

This is the personal view of Jane Gilbert, Senior Corporate Communications Advisor working in the injury prevention area. Jane is a level four swim teacher with the Featherston Amateur Swimming Club.


February 2014 Newsletter

Published 25/02/2014

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