Olympian Chris Cook on becoming a swimming teacher

In the first part of his new Swim England blog, Olympian Chris Cook explains why he decided to become a swim teacher – and how a six-year-old boy inspired him to take the plunge!

Like many people, I started to learn to swim at the local leisure centre on Saturday mornings, and I can remember the feeling of living for the next lesson!

I was asked a lot during my swimming career ‘what is your highlight?’ I’ve got lots but, hand on heart, learning to swim was one of the most energetic and exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had – I just loved it. That’s what I want to give back to children now. I want them to have that same feeling I had.

I had wonderful teachers – ladies called Linda Woodhouse and Linda Askew. They made the lesson fun but it still had structure to it and you always felt like you were learning. That strong foundation has stayed with me ever since. The water’s enjoyable enough but having a teacher who helps you explore it in a safe, fun way is the icing and cherry on the top.

I used to love getting the badges, for the 25m or whatever, and I’ve still got those awards. I’m watching my kids experience that now and I’m getting the same satisfaction all over again.

How a school visit inspired me!

I went through a tricky patch after I finished competing. I didn’t know where I was going and what I wanted to do. I tried lots of things but I was still reeling from the shock of leaving the sport. Regardless of when you leave, there’s always that feeling of wanting a bit more.

So I left the sport a little confused and worried, and it wasn’t until I was doing a primary school visit and a little boy asked me what I wanted to do next that I realised. I told him that I’d love to teach swimming, and he asked ‘why aren’t you doing that now?’

I thought ‘that’s a really good question!’ That’s when I decided to set up my own learn to swim business and I started the process the next weekend. I was there trying to inspire the children and he inspired me!

Taking the plunge…

So I said to my wife ‘let’s do it’ and she was the one who started to put pen to paper and build a website. Before we knew it we had people signing up to the lessons. Now we’ve got just shy of 900 children swimming with us every week.

I started Swim Buddies four years ago, and I teach on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday – small group lessons, one-to-ones, disability swimming. I love it and I hope I never stop teaching. We want to continue growing, but also keep to a manageable size so I can still do the part I adore – teaching kids to swim.

  • Chris Cook won Commonwealth gold in the 50m and 100m breaststroke at the 2006 Melbourne Games and represented Great Britain at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. He now runs Swim Buddies and is a qualified and licensed Educator delivering Swim England Qualifications.
  • Follow Chris’ lead and join the Swimming Qualifications Facebook group at bit.ly/SwimmingQuals and visit the Swim England Qualifications website at www.swimenglandqualifications.com/teaching-swimming now to start your career in aquatics.