“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.”
On Wednesday morning I had my very first swimming lesson, and I thought it went pretty well. I was both nervous and excited about my second class Thursday night, so I made it a point to head out of work early and ensure I got there on time. As it turned out, I got there a little early so I spent about 30 minutes swimming laps before class. Well, I thought I was swimming laps, the women in the lane next to me (who, unfortunately for me, happened to be the night coach) thought they were more of an abomination and insult to the sport of swimming.
That is at least what I surmised when she pulled me aside before the class even started and suggested I get a refund. It wasn’t really a suggestion. She actually told me that they should have made sure I knew how to “rotary breath” before I signed up. I suppose I could see her point, but her delivery really sucked. Plus, I had been very honest about my skill level (ie. swimming to avoid drowning) when I asked about swim classes. The woman who signed me up was emphatic about this specific class, and told me that I would pick things up more quickly because the class was a mix of beginner and advanced swimmers. She stressed that beginners were welcome. This was reiterated by the morning coach who assured me I would not be the only person in class unfamiliar with swim caps, goggles, and lap swimming. After hearing the same message repeated by the other swimmers, I was really starting to believe them. “You’re in the right place” they kept telling me.
Now I found myself in my second swimming class being told not to return. The message was loud and clear: YOU DON’T BELONG HERE! She suggested I get
remedial beginner classes; and then, when the tears started, she told me to come back this morning and she would spend some time with me. It was really the LAST THING I was interested in doing, but I wasn’t about to give her the satisfaction of knowing how deeply I was wounded.
After the huge blow, she proceeded to give me instructions on the workout along with everyone else. YES– she had me stay for the workout after kicking me out! The other people in the class were super friendly and supportive, which only made me more disappointed that I wasn’t allowed back. I choked back the tears and sucked it up through each group of drills. After it was over, I bawled my eyes out in the locker room. The other women who were in the class did their best to make me feel better. They told me that the night coach is really tough on everyone; and it was obvious during the session that she did a lot of yelling (…and that the majority of the class was afraid of her). They encouraged me to stick with it and offered to help with my swimming.
As upset and disappointed as a was, I was more determined than ever. I certainly was not going to let some biotch tell me I’m not good enough. I had been swimming all of 2 days at that point, and had already made HUGE gains. My swimming wasn’t pretty, but I wasn’t sinking either. I was plowing out laps like it was my job. I understand that the rotary breathing is important; however, I was clearly willing to practice on my own and told them I would get my husband to help me. I didn’t agree with her decision to kick me out when there were clearly people in her class struggling more than I was. I wasn’t the only person not keeping my face in the water, but for some reason I was the only one singled out.
This woman, obviously didn’t know who she was dealing with. Back in high school I was cut from the track team repeatedly before they finally relented and let me on the team. They ultimately had no choice because I kept showing up to practice regardless of whether I was on the team or not. I thought about doing the same with her class, but it wasn’t exactly a friendly learning environment… Plus, I think she’d have a conniption. In an odd way, the parallel to the start of my running career made me feel slightly better. I wasn’t good enough for the track team my first time out, yet here I am a week away from my first 50K. Maybe it’s a sign that the same will be true for swimming. I won’t just get the hang of it, I’ll become passionate about it. Granted, there aren’t a lot of coaches out there who admire passion over talent, but I have to say that it’s gotten me a lot further in life than talent ever has.
My point is, this isn’t the first time I have put myself out there to try something new only to have someone tell me I’m not good enough. I’ve never let anyone else deter me, so I certainly wasn’t going to let this woman. Instead, I decided I would spend time in the pool everyday, even if it meant after a 13+ hour shift, until I got the hang of the breathing. It would be my personal F- you to this women for kicking me out.
So I did go and swim after work last night. I went even though I got out late, got stuck in traffic, and knew I’d only have 30 minutes at best before the pool would close. I practiced the drills we did in class and tried my best to get comfortable with having my face in the water. Then this morning I got up early and met Miss-You’re-Not-Good-Enough at the pool. I had been absolutely dreading it, but it turned out she was much nicer (not nice, but significantly less bitchy) when not teaching a whole class. It only took 15 minutes with her for me to get the hang of turning my shoulder and breathing properly. She couldn’t get over how quickly I picked it up and how “beautiful” and “streamlined” I swam once I got it. She even admitted she was impressed, though the look on her face said it all. It was quite priceless, actually.
She didn’t invite me back to class, but at least now I know how to swim properly when I practice on my own. I also have the card of the aquatics director (who tracked me down in the locker room when I was crying). She told me to touch base with her and we would “work something out”. I’m not sure if this means swimming with her or in a different class, but I’ll do whatever it takes to get it down.
When I first signed up for swim classes, I just wanted to learn to swim well enough to finish the half ironman. However, now that I got kicked out of swim class, I’m determined to be the best swimmer I can be. After spending time with numerous horrible coaches in high school and college and over 5 years with an abusive ex, I’m certainly not going to let one swim coach with a chip on her shoulder bring me down. I think I have enough experience in dealing with self-esteem bashing jerks to be able to handle her. In fact, I find that the best method is usually to make them eat their words, and I think I’m already well on my way to doing that. 🙂
Seems like she actually has done you a favour. Had she been nice you would not have been quite so determined. You prove her wrong with bells on! 😉
You deserve a better swim coach than that. They’re out there.
I started by renting swimming videos from the library. See if you can find some total immersion videos. They will get you set up with a lot of great drills, and have helped lots of beginner triathletes pick up swimming. I also recommend checking out beginnertriathlete.com for resources.
That’s awful! I am glad you are such a determined person though, you will prove her wrong!
Just took my first master’s swim class today and I was the worst, worst, WORST person there. I was having flashbacks to this blog post – but I made it! And now I feel like I can keep practicing and show them all like you did. 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration!! Love your blog!