Sarah’s story: From volunteer to swimming teacher

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Volunteers form the backbone of swimming and the Swim England family.

Supporting clubs, events and programmes across the country, they help to inspire more people to get into the water and enjoy swimming.

Many volunteers also gain swimming assistant/teaching qualifications as they look to increase their skill-set and bring additional benefits to their club or swim school.

Sarah Blythe is a perfect example, having progressed from school swimming helper to volunteer to swim teacher. Now, ably assisted by her daughter, she continues to inspire the next generation.

Sarah’s story…

I started a new job with a primary school 15 years ago and was the teaching assistant in year 3 and 4. They went swimming once a week, so I went along and supported another member of staff. From that day my swimming career started.

My next step was to do my module one course and swim rescue, then I took a small pool group alongside another teacher.

I worked alongside an amazing swimming teacher while teaching my school called Erika, who supported me and asked if I would like to volunteer at our local swimming club, Dane Valley.

I went along to watch a few sessions and soon my five year old daughter joined for her lessons while I become a volunteer helping to teach stages 1-3.

Danes then asked if I wanted to do my level one and two teaching qualifications. Within two years I had completed both levels and was teaching stages 1-3 several nights a week.

I was a volunteer for my local club for nearly ten years and really enjoyed watching children progress. Lots of children from my school joined the club and our successes at the yearly school gala went well and we won the event several years in a row.

Seven years ago I was asked if I would like to teach lessons on Saturday morning at my local leisure centre. So I took over someone’s lessons and built them up as my own.

I still teach part-time alongside my full time job. School holidays are great as this gives me a chance to run intensive courses and I often cover lessons at other sites if needed.

How have volunteering and teaching impacted you?

I fell into teaching swimming because of my main job and my daughter learning to swim. It is now definitely a passion of mine – I just wish I’d trained years ago!

I convinced my daughter to train as a lifeguard a few years ago and she has since trained as a level one teacher and is waiting to do her level two. She is currently my assistant and it’s great that she is following in my footsteps.

What do you love most about swim teaching?

Watching the children progress, especially stage one. You get a great amount of job satisfaction watching a child that is scared or worried about the water turn into a confident swimmer.

My school also takes part in a yearly Swimathon fundraiser, another highlight of my year. We have all six lanes of the pool and have between 50-60 children swimming, some as young as six years old.

Your advice for other aspiring volunteers?

I would advise other swim volunteers to gain as much experience poolside as possible. If possible find a mentor who you can work alongside and go to for help and advice if needed.

I had a young volunteer come along and support my swimming groups – he has since trained as a lifeguard and is now a level one and two teacher. That makes me very proud!

  • Find out more about Swim England Qualifications here.