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Fourth lesson: Comfort in water can be natural and learned

POSTED: July 11, 2014 12:42 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Max Sumner helps two swim students. Sumner was splitting his time between students Audrey Williams and Cornelia Martin, who was in her third week of swim lessons.

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Thursday marks the last day of my first week of the Red Cross’ Adults Learning the Basics swim lessons at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center. With a patient instructor, Max Sumner, and a supportive classmate, Cornelia Martin, I’m so comfortable in the pool that I feel silly having avoided it for the past 23 years.

While I am more comfortable in the water than when I started, I still cannot swim.

Sumner is quick to remind me that is just fine.

“Hey, you’re better than you were on Monday,” he said. “Now you know what the water feels like. You can put your face in the water, you can float — that’s good progress.”

I can also flutter kick, hold my breath under water and push off from the side of the pool. These are all fundamental skills the Red Cross requires in its safety training. Even if I can’t swim at the end of the two-week course, I should be able to perform the basics as safely as possible, Sumner said.

In addition to learning those skills, I have a personal goal: jumping into the pool.

On my last lesson for the week, the pool was noticeably more kid-filled. Their screams of excitement were hard to ignore and unexpectedly motivational. Children as young as 2 years old were cannonballing into the pool without hesitance and bobbing back up all smiles. I wanted to be like those 2-year-olds.

I asked the mom to a group, Amanda Bales, how her kids became so comfortable with the water.

“We’re just a bunch of fish. We love the water. We’re in all the time,” she said.

Bales is from South Florida and has lived in Gainesville for over 20 years. She brings her kids to the aquatic center often.

“We’re used to the beach and the lake, so this is great. It’s affordable, it’s local and it gets the kids out and moving.”
None of her four kids have ever taken a swimming lesson, but they’re all here, jumping, splashing and swimming. I tell her 13-year-old, Lindsay, I’ve only just started getting in the water and she is surprised.

“Really? It’s not that hard. I’ve been swimming all my life,” she said.

I turn to her sister Lily, who just turned 5, and ask what her favorite part about swimming is. Lily, with her two front teeth missing, just smiles at me and jumps right back into the pool.



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