As some of you may know, Swarthmore requires all students to either pass a survival swimming test or complete half a semester of swimming instruction before graduation. If you have no swimming experience or have not set foot in a pool in many years (like me), chances are the swimming requirement may seem daunting. However, as a student currently taking the Swimming for Beginners course this semester, learning to swim at Swat has been painless and amazing. There are several reasons why.
- You will learn to be comfortable in the water. The first day of swimming class surprised me. When we first entered the water, my swimming instructor told us to either bob our bodies up and down in the water, or put our faces in the water if we were not comfortable with doing that. This was to get everyone warmed up and feeling comfortable staying underwater, exhaling underwater, and breathing deeply. I never realized how important this step was. Doing this at the start of every class now makes me feel ready for what’s next and reminds me that I am in control of myself in the water.
- Swimming strokes/styles are not mentioned. What I like about learning to swim here is that even after two weeks of instruction, swimming strokes have not been mentioned. All we’ve been doing these past few weeks is learning how to swim: that is, finding the easiest methods to stay afloat and move in different directions. In the event that you need to stay above water for a long period of time, knowing how to swim using popular strokes such as the freestyle will only tire you out. I like how my instructor eases us into learning different ways of swimming by emphasizing movements that will help us conserve energy and positions that will facilitate floating. All of these techniques will probably culminate to learning a swimming style but as of now, classes are just about learning how to move effortlessly in the water.
- Small class size and experimentation. Swarthmore is known for its small class sizes and high standards in academics. This applies to its swimming classes as well. There are nine students in the class and this creates the opportunity for us to experiment and hone skills we want to work on. While classes are structured and focus on introducing new techniques and experiences, such as jumping into deep water, and practicing old techniques with slight modifications, there are times when we are faced with the challenge of using what we already know and our instincts to satisfy some objective. One example during the second week of class was when my swimming instructor told the class to float above semi-deep water for one minute. Even after learning several ways to float, I struggled to find one that was comfortable for me. Although everyone was tired at the end, we were able to survive because we were prepared. However, because we were tired, that meant that we still had a lot more to learn. Experimentation leads to revelations and finding these moments in a swimming class, I think, is rare in many places.
Swimming at Swat has been a treat for me. Not only am I relearning how to swim but I am also learning more about myself and the way I move and the way I solve problems. Like any other class at Swat, swimming class presents its own challenges and like any other class at Swat, teachers and classmates are supportive. If you have had reservations about swimming before, I hope that this post has put your mind at ease!