OK. I admit it. At the end of a long day of coaching, it’s not always easy to get in the water to teach an adult LTS (Learn-To-Swim) class. I’m usually tired, hungry, and wheezy from too much chlorine. But in four years of teaching LTS on Tuesday nights, it never fails. We get in the water… and something magical happens.
I’m convinced that being an adult LTS instructor is by far the most challenging coaching assignment — and the most rewarding. It’s challenging because fearful and non-swimming adults make you look at EVERYTHING with fresh eyes. How do you get in and out of the pool? How do you put on a pair of goggles? How do you regain your feet after floating on your front or back? Skills that seem as elemental as breathing to most of us, are a total mystery to the non-swimmer. Explaining and introducing these skills to someone lets you witness a special kind of joy. I will never forget the look on Venkata’s face when I held her hand and she stepped for the first time EVER into waist-deep water. She may not remember her first steps as a baby, but she will never forget her first steps in the pool.
LTS is challenging because adults bring a wide assortment of fears and issues to the pool. They also bring things like bad knees, arthritic shoulders, frozen ankles, poor aerobic capacity, and weak muscles. Each LTS adult needs a slightly different progression of skills to get to "swimming," and it is a constant challenge to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. Again, they compel you to re-examine everything you THOUGHT you knew about swimming. And they expand your definition of swimming. I used to apologize to my students when I couldn’t get them to do a beautiful front crawl in 8 lessons. Now, I realize that elementary backstroke with flutter kick is the key to emancipation for most adult LTS. With that simple skill, they have graduated into the rank of Lap Swimmer. Backstroke and front crawl will come in time.
This past year’s LTS classes have been especially rewarding. Three women who came to class afraid to put their face in the water have recently joined my Masters swim team. A fourth woman will join them next month. One of these women, Sharetha, now loves swimming so much that she decided to get her WSI and become a teacher at our pool. Within weeks, she became one of the most sought-after instructors in the Red Cross program. And now, she is helping me teach adult LTS. She even leads her Masters lane when she is there. Sharetha has incredible rapport with the swimmers because she knows exactly what they’re going through. A year ago she was right there with them!
If you have a chance to teach an adult LTS class, go for it. If this type of program isn’t offered at your pool, advertise it and they will come. In not-so-rare cases, it can bring more swimmers and instructors into your program. You will find it challenging and transforming and rewarding — the perfect antidote to a long day on deck.