This Teachers Day, Swimming Matters explores how the Covid19 pandemic and continued lockdowns on swimming pools have affected, impacted or even inspired swim teachers. These are stories of evolution – about how this thoroughly unprecedented and unexpected situation changed them as teachers. For one, it was an experience of being out of the daily grind and looking into her role and routine with fresh eyes. For another, it was a story of resilience. For yet another, it was an opportunity to know and connect with students in other ways than in the pool.
Despite being out of the pool, amidst uncertainty and fears, the swim teachers featured here – and many, many more across the country – continue to be positive, motivated and hopeful. Let’s celebrate their unique spirit this Teachers Day!
Nisha Millet, Olympian and Owner, Nisha Millet’s Swimming Academy, Bangalore
Working 24×7 on growing her enterprise, Nisha Millet’s Swimming Academy, Olympian Nisha Millet barely had the time to pause and wonder about her work-life balance. Therefore, despite the frustrations and uncertainties the pandemic has caused her, she appreciates the downtime she has now to relax, reflect and recharge.
“I definitely realize that I was overworked. The admin work that our business entails is exhausting, and it did take a toll on my family life – our kids especially felt our absence. This break has put some new priorities in place. We are contemplating adding a weekly off for ourselves and our staff to recover, once pools open. Earlier, many of our swim teachers were fussy about the kind of class they would like to take. But now, like the proverb goes – absence makes the heart go fonder – they cannot wait to get back to the pool, irrespective of the kind of work they are asked to do. The new normal will be different – we will have smaller batches, we may have to do private classes, the profit margin will be impacted – but I feel it would lead to better quality coaching and less stress. Frankly, we cannot wait to get started again,” she says.
Partha Varanashi, Swim Director, Nettakallappa Aquatic Centre, Bangalore
For Aquatic Educator Partha Varanashi, the unprecedented lockdown has made him lead his swimmers to the road less travelled – of farming (he is an organic farmer himself), break dancing, hola-hooping, slack lining, yoga and other dryland activities. Though out of the pool, he is still a busy teacher. The biggest advantage of doing these activities has been to wean his swimmers out of bad technique, he feels. “The muscle memory the body carries stops the swimmer from improving their swimming. Despite what the teacher or coach may advise, the body does not accept. This break from being in the pool, and the focus on diverse dryland activities, will prepare them for stroke and technique correction and help them become better swimmers when they get back to the pool,” he explains.
Camping out of his hometown Puttur, Partha is also using his time to educate himself on nutrition, neurosciences, sports medicine and other topics that can help him become a better high-performance coach to his swimmers.
Priyanka Pai, Independent Swim Teacher and Pilates Instructor
Sandeep Sejwal, Olympian and Coach, Dolphin Aquatics – Otters Club, Mumbai
Like everyone else in the world, Olympian Sandeep Sejwal was confused when he heard that the whole country was going to be in lockdown, way back in March. While the lockdown still feels like a never ending one, Sandeep has used this time to become a better teacher and coach for the benefit of his students.
“We suddenly had a lot of time to think and do something other than what we usually do. As a teacher, it gave me time to learn more about how to be an effective coach to help swimmers achieve what they want. I spent a lot of time online reading articles by famous coaches and doing online courses that gave me a better perspective on coaching. Studying about the sport that you have been doing for over 20 years made me realize how much there is still to learn. Insights like, if two swimmers are swimming at the same event does not mean their training will be the same. Their body structures, mental toughness matters in how they are coached and trained. I think all this information will make me a better teacher in the new normal,” he believes.
Sharath Chandra, Head Coach, JSW Sports – Swimming, Bhubaneshwar
While the rest of the world was catching up with an extra snooze early mornings during the lockdown, Swim Coach Sharath Chandra was up and about with his 40+ students online for the 5 AM call. The 5 AM Club, inspired by elite performance expert Robin Sharma’s routine, came together to do some journaling, positive affirmations sessions to commit themselves to the sport despite the uncertain break, learn something new about the body and mind and closing the hour with an intense 20-minute workout. “It helped my swimmers avoid stagnation, while keeping their discipline and routine going,” Sharath says.
“When we are at the deck, we only analyse the swimmer’s performance but ignore their personality, perspectives, knowledge, mental toughness and other personal aspects. In that formal setting, swimmers also do not share much about themselves. But because of the pandemic break, and classes moving online, the informal social media platforms gave me an opportunity to really get to know and understand my swimmers. I realized that some who performed very well in the pool buckled easily under pressure, while some others who lagged behind in training were in fact very motivated and sailed through this difficult time. This insight will now enable me to view my swimmers’ performance through a more holistic lens,” he shares.
Vijayshree Pahal, Vice-President – Aquatics, Fitso, New Delhi
Vijayshree confesses that the many months of functioning in the shadow of a global epidemic has left her disoriented. But even in her most unrealistic moments, the learning she has from sports kept plugging her back to make the best of the situation that she was in.
“I have nurtured new relationships and new interests which were left on the back burner always awaiting their turn. Teaching and learning have gone to a new dimension altogether – now that everything has become technology driven. To me, the pandemic at times feels to be a blessing in disguise, giving me time to meditate and refocus and energise me and my imagination. Appreciation and empathy have seeped in deeply as for some, this time as been really trying,” she reveals.
She is looking forward to getting back to the pool. “The teacher in me hopes to see the clear skies and the new normal to be normal as before,” she says.
In conclusion, we at Swimming Matters hope that our swim teachers and coaches are back to where they belong: by their swimmers in the swimming pool. However, in the new normal, we also hope that swim teachers come together and support each other. The biggest learning from this pandemic is that we cannot get strong and positive in our silos. We can only build strength and positivity by leaning on each other. On this occasion of Teachers Day, let us commit to connect, collaborate, share, help each other and build a strong swim teachers community.