Francesca’s (“Frankie’s”) mom, Mina, and I both grew up in San Diego, swimming for rival teams. Whenever I see her, a vision of a 1980’s swim meet comes to mind… 14 hours a day of pop-up tents, bagels, my yellow Sony Sport Walkman, moon boots- you get the idea. Then I come back to reality, where Mina is juggling a family and her local eateries Wonderland and The Local.
I hadn’t met Francesca “Frankie,” and I asked if she knew how to swim. She replied, “No lessons. Just been winging it.” I told her about my project and asked if Frankie could be a participant. You see, from what I’ve heard, it’s really tough to teach your own child how to swim. It makes sense. I’m sure parents have instincts to protect their offspring from danger, and being submerged without the ability to take a breath independently is a bit dangerous…if you don’t know what you’re doing. But I do 🙂 I am very present when I teach and I can usually identify an individual’s limitations right away. Then I push her straight past them and way out of her comfort zone. It’s so awesome- seeing the look on one’s face when she accomplishes something she never thought was possible.
Frankie was an interesting participant because she couldn’t quite swim independently (she was right there and just needed a little assistance breathing). But…she THOUGHT she could. She would squirm out of my hands and head for the other end of the pool. Which was too far for her. Frankie was overly confident, which is a very dangerous thing to be in the water.
She’s the perfect example of the best/worst type of student. She is awesome and an absolute blast to work with in the water because she has no fear. But she scares the crap out of me in the water because she has no fear. It’s my job to find the perfect balance of feeding her daredevil side, yet showing her that there are boundaries. I talked about this a bit with Hunter (Project: Face in Water Participant #5) I did NOT want to freak Frankie out by using negative words like, “dangerous,” “scared,” “fear” and “DROWN”. She clearly did NOT have negative associations with the water. I wanted to keep it that way.
To accomplish this, I focused on the positive rather than the negative. (like everything else in life, right?). So, I used words like “safe,” “fun,” “excited,” and “swim.” And rather than using the “d” word, I allowed Frankie to push off, swim, and feel what it was like to not have hands there, automatically helping her before she realized she couldn’t make it.
I let her panic. Her eyes got big. She spun in circles. She took a big breath (about 50% air, 50% water). She was worried, as she should have been. The goal is to get her worried enough to be cautious and safe. To think before she lets go of the wall or pushes off the steps. By the end of the hour lesson, Frankie was swimming further than ever, still taking risks, but watching my face and waiting for cues.
We still have some work to do, but what an awesome session! We even started in on some early water polo work 🙂 Check out this video:
Special THANKS to Michael Timm at THE Swim School San Diego/ Dive California for taking photos!