Why Olympian Chris Cook loves teaching swimming

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In the latest part of his Swim England Qualifications blog, Olympian turned swim school owner Chris Cook explains why he loves teaching swimming so much…

I absolutely love the idea that when you impart something – especially something like swimming – a skill is there for life.

The swimmers you’ve taught will go on to help teach their own kids and the trend continues. You might have one child in front of you but if they go on to have the average 2.4 children or more, there’s another bunch of kids getting influenced off the back of that. As a result, a swim teacher can start positively influencing many, many lives – and what could be better than that?

As cheesy as it might sound, I do genuinely believe that sport changes lives. I’ve seen so many kids come in with anxiety, worries and fears, and then leave the pool two or three years later as high as a kite and looking forward to the next part of their swimming journey.

More than a water skill

So, for me, swimming is about more than just a water skill – it’s about the life lessons the children can benefit from.

I hear the word ‘impossible’ a lot from the children when they’re stuck on something. They’ll say ‘it’s impossible to get that sinker’. My reaction is always to say ‘that’s good because it means you’ll do it at some point – you said last week it was impossible to do a handstand and the week before it was impossible to do a forward roll. Now you can do all that, so it’s just a matter of time before you can do this.’ Before you know it, they’ve done it!

Watching kids’ confidence grow is so enjoyable. This is one of those activities where they can actually feel their progress – there are very few activities in life that are so immersive. They begin this journey scared and unable to do a lot of things but by the end they’ve got those skills and can clearly see their progress.

Look how far you’ve come!

In the next lane, there are also new Stage 1s coming in. I often say to my Stage 5 and 6 swimmers ‘remember when you joined and had your noodles and were moving through the water scooping ice cream’. You see them look and realise how far they’ve come.

You can’t cheat swimming. It’s not something you can read about and then do – it has to be practised. We live in a culture now where everything has to be instant but swimming is one of those activities that takes as long as it takes.

The satisfaction you get teaching swimming is helping someone accomplish something they feel is not possible. That’s our facilitative role – to provide the inspiration and the foundation information to pass across to them. And I love it!

  • 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 Olympics. He now runs Swim Buddies and is a qualified and Licensed Educator delivering Swim England Qualifications.
  • Watch a Chris Cook video at the Swimming Qualifications Facebook group