My first swimming lessons were at Transylvania University (Transy), a school in Lexington, Kentucky. At five or six years old, my mom signed me up, as well as my two brothers, to be taught by the coaches and team of the university. There are a few memories that stick out to my about this experience. First, is the smell of chlorine that hit you as soon as the door to the pool was opened, a smell that I still love for some reason. I remember the flags hanging above the water and the stacks of brightly colored kick boards. There was a high dive that seemed huge to me at the time and two normal diving boards to the sides.
There were so many kids in these lessons and everyone was put into groups according to his or her age. Each group would be at a certain spot in the pool doing a different activity, like practicing strokes or working with kick boards. Learning to blow bubbles was the biggest step for many us. I was so scared to put my face in the water because I wasn’t sure about the whole not-being-able-to-breathe business. I’m sure it was funny for the parents watching from the bleachers to see all of these kids gasping for air after a few second of being under water. Once I got that down, the next step was floating. The teachers would hold us up and slowly back away until we were on our own. I don’t think I ever really knew what I was doing during this, really just lying there looking at the ceiling. The strokes came next and for most of what I remember, the teachers were keeping us afloat on our way down the pool as we practiced the strokes. Back stroke was always my least favorite because I though I was drowning as soon as the water hit my face.
At the end of the summer, all of the kids got a t-shirt saying “I learned to swim at Transy,” but now that I think about it this sounds more like free advertising than a reward for learning how to swim. I never really thought about swimming as anything but something I did during the summer.
For a few years following these lessons, I would participate in the swim team for the pool that my family belonged to. I was so young we didn’t really do much of anything and the memories I have of this have nothing to do with actual swimming.
As I got older and quit the swim team, I started to think of “swimming” as jumping off a boat into a lake, river, or ocean instead of organized groups and strokes because that’s the only sort of swimming I did. Even with a pool in my backyard, I always thought pools were kind of boring. Now I am interested in swimming as a type of exercise and am excited to practice.