A Case Study: Meet Betty
Posted on January 22, 2015
“Betty” works at my doctor’s office and had been telling me for two years (or maybe longer) that she was going to call me for swim lessons. She always asked for my business card when I signed in for my check-up. I almost fainted the day she actually called me. We booked an early morning lesson. (FYI: Almost all adults book early morning lessons. They do not like anyone knowing they cannot swim or like anyone watching them.) Just to clear the air-if you are thinking of taking swim lessons….no one is watching you. In fact, they wish they had the courage to call for swim lessons.
Betty was an excellent student from lesson one. She did everything that I asked of her. She gave me a brief history of herself. She was from South America and was 53 years old. She had no experience in the water and was petrified of taking swim lessons. Her bucket list was calling. I gave Betty my usual Red Cross Lessons: entering the water, bobbing, air exchange, floating, arms, and kicking your feet. Everything went smoothly. Then we got to the lesson where I teach the student how to rollover. Note: This is the hardest part in learning to swim. This skill was not going well. So we skipped the rolling over part. It is not that Betty wasn’t trying. In fact, I have never seen a person try so hard. I had to wonder how much water she was drinking or how much was going up her nose. She never complained. Never. Betty learned the basics of swimming. I taught Betty how to side-breathe without her knowing how to rollover. Unheard of!
A few lessons later, Betty said to me, “I want to try rolling over from BACK-TO-FRONT. Okay! This skill is usually taught from front-to-back, but it was worth a shot. Can you guess what happened next? Betty was rolling over and over and over again. It was magic. She told me that she had been thinking about how she could do this. I love when I learn from my students. I asked her if she wanted to be a swim teacher. She laughed, but I was serious. She knew then that she had the confidence to take care of herself in the water. You must learn to “rollover or turnover” and get air. You must get yourself to safety. Your swim teacher is not always with you.
Betty had many great moments. She jumped off of the diving board into 11 ½ feet of water. She swam her first lap – it was 50 meters long! Of course I cried. She told me that she knew that she could do it because she trusted and loved me. I love Betty too and would never let anything happen to her. But Betty did the hard work. She stepped out of her comfort zone. She made up her mind to let go of her fear and learned to love and trust herself. This was two years ago. Betty graduated from Barbie’s Swim School, but still comes back for refresher lessons. We now have “fun.”