Bag of Tricks

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Ms. Maridel giving Cameron some freestyle lessons.

If you’ve read some of my recent posts, you’ll know that for the first time in my 45 years, the concept of athleticism has started to inch its way into my identity.

I’ve taken up tennis with the encouragement and expertise of my husband and I’ve been learning to swim with the teaching and support of Ms. Maridel, a fabulous athlete and instructor that lives in our condo complex.

Before Ms. Maridel, I was comfortable in water. I could float around and do made up arm strokes with some kicking, but I had no clue how to do a proper stroke, a proper kick or how to get the breathing into the mix. It seems crazy to me now that I lived in Hawaii for over 25 years and didn’t get around to learning proper swimming techniques! That may explain why I loved beach walks more than ocean swims.

Well, I’m almost done with my first ten lessons with Ms. Maridel and I’ve learned so much! While mastery is a ways off, I have learned to do a pretty good freestyle stroke, breaststroke and backstroke as well as the rhythmic breathing for each. I’m improving my lung capacity and building stronger arms, legs and core muscles with each session at the pool.

When I first signed up for the lessons, I didn’t think much about the tools and strategies my teacher would deploy to help me learn and improve. I thought it would be me and the pool, but now I know all about fins, hand paddles, float boards, pull buoys and snorkel breathing tubes. Each of them has helped me isolate and focus on a specific part of a stroke so I can either get faster or improve my form.

Good teachers are so important at every stage of our lives and I love how they each come with their own bag of tricks. Ms. Maridel has a black mesh bag that’s sitting on the side of the pool, always handy for the next stage in her student’s swimming progress. Along with that black mesh bag, she also packs along a big smile, encouraging words, a practiced focus that hones in to give pointers for improvement and a competitive spirit that helps push her students to do more.

It’s also interesting to see what good teachers don’t pack in that bag. They don’t pack their frustrations from the traffic they just sat through or their irritation at the weather not being ideal. They leave those things somewhere else when they teach and in doing so, they create a safe and comfortable environment for learning.

Learning new skills can be hard, but having a good teacher that knows what to pack, when to take something new out of the bag and what to leave behind can make it so much easier and enjoyable.

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