Hollie’s story: Top tips on teaching adult swimmers

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Hollie Burke, a Swim Manager with Everyone Active, has been busy this summer helping BBC Breakfast television’s Naga Munchetty and her husband James to learn to swim.

Here, Hollie reflects on her own swim teaching journey and gives her advice on teaching adults to swim…

  • How long have you been swim teaching and what was your journey to becoming a teacher?

When I was around three or four years old, I was pushed in to a pool. Unfortunately my mum had a huge fear of water and couldn’t swim, so after that experience she booked me into lessons. From then on I knew I wanted a career in swim teaching.

Many teachers come from a swim club background. However, I knew I wanted to push the importance of water safety and encourage people that they can learn and overcome any fears they may have.

I started in the leisure industry at 18 and have taken on a number of roles in that time. I began working on reception, then as a fitness colleague before becoming a lifeguard. From there I became a swim teacher and eventually progressed to my current position of swim manager.

  • What do you like about it?

It’s a challenge but it’s also the most rewarding job. Teaching someone a life skill and seeing them grow in confidence is really rewarding. Whether that’s a three-year-old jumping in the pool with no help for the first time, or seeing an adult finally able to let go of the floats and swim a full length – you can’t help but burst with pride seeing someone achieve something they never thought they would.

  • Did you enjoy teaching Naga and her husband to swim? How are they progressing?

Absolutely. They are both such fun and genuine people that are up for giving anything a go (even if they are adamant they won’t be able to do it). I think they’ve surprised themselves with their abilities and as their teacher I couldn’t be prouder.

By the third lesson they had both achieved 25 metres which is fantastic. So many adults (my mum included!) have been inspired by seeing Naga and James’ journeys and finally booked lessons for themselves.

  • What are the specific challenges of teaching adults to swim?

With adult swimmers, you’re often starting from a different place then you are when teaching children – who can be quite fearless at a young age.

It’s quite common that adults have been put off learning to swim because of a bad experience, so you need to help them overcome their initial nervousness first and foremost. Similarly, if an adult has never swam before they’ve often developed a fear of the water which needs to be tackled.

Adults who have swam before may also have developed bad habits that affect their technique. These again need to be corrected to help them progress.

A huge part of teaching someone to swim, particularly adults, is building a strong foundation of trust. It’s important to celebrate every milestone – no matter how small it may be – in order to encourage them to continue progressing.

For some people, just putting on a swimming costume and coming along to the lesson is a huge step, and as swim teachers we need to acknowledge this and support people to grow in confidence.

  • Gain more advice on swim teaching here.
  • Become a swimming assistant/teacher here.
  • Read Naga Munchetty’s learn to swim story here.
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