June Swimmer Spotlight: Shayla

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It is our pleasure to introduce our first Swimmer Spotlight: Shayla! Shayla is six years old, and currently participates in one of our Intermediate classes. Shayla (and her younger brother JJ) regularly arrive early for class, giving them the opportunity to play around in the water before each of their lessons begin. Shayla is always smiling and laughing, jumping into the pool chasing down a toy (or her brother JJ). During this time, Shayla pays close attention to the advanced student in the class before hers, and even attempts to follow along during certain drills. After her class, it is Shayla’s brother’s turn for a lesson, which gives Shayla even more time to swim freely. Once again, she uses this time to practice her skills, listen to the other classes going on, and push herself to try new things. She does this every single week. And every time, she blows us away with her drive and work ethic. This is one of the most impressive things about Shayla. While many kids would use this free time to do the fun activities that they don’t get to do during class, Shayla uses it to continue practicing. Because to her, that is the fun part. 

When asked about some of her current CHALLENGES in class, Shayla responded, “streamline, back floating, and sweet spot.” But, when then asked about her some of her FAVORITE parts of class, she again replied, “streamline, back floating, and sweet spot.” Her challenges are also what excite her, and motivate her to keep trying new things. 

However, despite the positive and happy girl described above, Shayla’s first experiences at the pool were actually met with fear and trepidation, coupled by terrible anxiety when her parents would try to bring her to class. While she had taken parent/child classes at a local YMCA when she was younger, this was her first independent lesson experience. Coach Timm, Shayla’s instructor at the time, described her as, “one of the most scared students that I have ever had at first.” Through our interview with Shayla’s parents, we were able to gain more insight into how she was able to get to where she is now. 

Why was it important to have Shayla begin taking lessons? Why did you choose Swimm With Timm? 

It was important to Shayla’s parents that their children learn water safety at a young age, because of their regular exposure to the family pool at home. They were familiar with Latitude Sports Club, and had been referred to Swimm With Timm through an acquaintance. 

How would you describe Shayla’s first session? 

Not knowing what to expect, Shayla worked through her very first lesson with confidence and focus, even putting her face in at times. Unfortunately, the rest of the proceeding lessons did not go as smoothly.

“Shayla was petrified to be in the water. She clung to Timm while in the pool, and either cried when she was asked to jump in the water, or she would run away. As time progressed, she would sit on the edge of the pool, and Timm would take her into the water kicking and screaming.”

What did you do to encourage Shayla?

With a chuckle, Shayla’s parents discussed how they would try to get her to attend lessons through bribery. Another great word for bribery, in my opinion, is positive reinforcement.  Or simply, rewarding your children for trying new things, and facing their fears. Through bribery (aka positive reinforcement), and the influence of her (often fearless) little brother, her parents hoped that Shayla would see that swimming can be fun. But the fear continued. 

What was Shayla’s attitude towards swimming like, during her first session?

It started to become difficult getting Shayla to attend her lessons, as she was,“very adamant about not going.” As the older sibling, it was confusing to see her younger brother surpass her in both skill, and class level. “There was even one lesson in which she was the only child in the class, recalled Shayla’s parents, “but unfortunately, her fear prevented her from succeeding.” Gradually, she started to gain confidence, but required very small steps and lots of patience. First, she would only get in wearing a bubble and TWO noodles. Eventually, she dropped down to a bubble and ONE noodle, and even began attempting to put her face in the water. She would practice putting her chin under first, building up to her mouth and nose, and finally putting her face, and whole head, in the water. This slow and gradual approach was perfect for Shayla, and helped her begin developing a strong foundation of water confidence, that still carries over into her current practice. 

Shayla’s next challenge was the jump. The big 1, 2, 3, lets jump right in! On the ride over to the pool, already showing signs of her stellar work ethic, Shayla would say, “today is the day, I’m going to do the jump”. Her parents described how she would nervously (and reluctantly) line up with the other kids, but when it came time for her turn, “she would either run away in tears, or sit down on the edge of the pool. She would leave class crying, frustrated, and disappointed in herself.”

What happened at the end of her first session?

At this point, Shayla’s parents made a decision that many new families with young kids make. With the summer starting soon, they decided it would be best to take a session off, and hoped that increased family time in the water, would also increase Shayla’s enthusiasm for it. 

“One day,” noted Shayla’s parents, “toward the end of the summer, she jumped in our pool, and that was the first time we saw her truly have fun while in the water. She was also practicing some of the skills Timm had taught her in class. She asked if she could return to swim lessons with Timm, and could not wait to show him her progress.” 

What would you say are some of Shayla’s preferred learning styles?

At Swimm With Timm, we take into consideration that every student has different learning styles, and do our best to encourage their development through utilization of what works best for them. It is also our philosophy that children will increase their potential for success through regular exposure to the pool, outside of lessons. Peer to peer interactions, and observations, increase our swimmer’s confidence, and skills are learned and reinforced while they mimicking each other’s behavior. For Shayla, this aspect of her development was critical to her finding success. 

Shayla learns best through patience, persistence, and practice. Her parents highlighted what we were already beginning to see in her. “She wants to learn. And then she wants to reinforce all that she has learned in class, so that she can learn more new things.” Understanding our student’s learning preferences, and how they develop, is a fundamental part of being an instructor, no matter what field you may be teaching. By including aspects of positive reinforcement into Shayla’s routine, and encouraging extra time in the water, Shayla’s parents were able to help her find the courage she needed, and still needs, to continue challenging herself. 

How does Shayla feel about swimming now?

Fast forward to today, and you will see the confident, happy young girl described during the introduction. Her instructors now still use the same gradually approach, which continues to work well for her, even when trying some of the more advanced skills. Every day she comes to class with a smile on her face. She always gives 100% of her focus, and is always eager to work on new skills. Her persistence, and patience, are clear in everything that she sets her mind to. She even has goals to be part of a swim team one day, and loves that her brother is there to play with before and after class. 

When I asked Shayla what she wished we did more of during our class, she smiled, and replied, “I wish that the class was longer, and that I could use fins the entire time.” She continued that she is happy and excited to come to lessons now, and asserted her eagerness to try new skills. 

Shayla embodies everything that we hope to instill in our swimmers at Swimm With Timm. She is focused and hard working, but also thoughtful and intentional. She may not always be the best swimmer in the class, but she never lets that stop her from giving 100%. Her early experiences in the pool, and constant support from her parents, created a foundation of water safety skills in Shayla, that will prove to be invaluable throughout the progression of her adolescence. Those of us at Swimm With Timm have been in awe of Shayla as we’ve watched her progress through the program, and we are so excited to witness the bright future that she has in front of her. Whether she be pursuing her goals to one day become an artist, or join the swim team, there is no doubt that Shayla will find success in whatever she sets her mind to.


Alexis DeVilling