Great Opportunities to Swim for Children Who Have Special Needs
As a past collegiate swimmer for UC San Diego, swimming has had an immense impact on my life. Michael may love watching the ocean waves, but that boy loves his time in the water. Rather than swimming the strokes, he loves to just get in and kick around on some noodles on his back. We haven't enrolled him into lessons before, but as a past swim instructor, I feel more comfortable taking him swimming.
For this week's blog post I'm going to share the perspectives of a couple friends of mine who are influential coaches to special needs children. One of them, Leslie, is a Special Olympic Coach and swim instructor for the St. Madeleine Sophie's Center, who I also had the pleasure of teaching swim lessons with a few years ago. The other, Jaimie, an old teammate of mine from UC San Diego who is the coach for the UC San Diego Special Olympics team.
I highly recommend enrolling your child in a Special Olympics program, or enrolling in swim lessons at the St. Madeleine Sophie's Center if you are in the San Diego area. The benefits that special needs children receive are incredible. They not only impact their own lives, but the lives of the many coaches and volunteers around them.
Below I've included an interview that I had with Leslie and Jaimie:
1. What do you love most about coaching/teaching adaptive athletes?
Leslie: I love coaching/teaching adaptive athletes new skills, along with improving their swim skills.
Jaimie: My favorite part about coaching Special Olympics is the relationships I form with my athletes. There is really something special about coaching these kids. They genuinely work hard and always try to do their best.
They are also so enthusiastic! Finishing one lap can be a time for celebration. They are so receptive to encouragement and you can physically see the effects that a simple high five can have on their attitude and demeanor. Honestly, every practice is so rewarding and humbling. It's definitely my favorite part of the week because I get to put my energy into coaching where I help build their confidence, improve their swimming, and let them have some fun!
2. What reactions do you usually see from the athletes throughout the season, and how do they react to their improvements
Leslie: I see a lot of different reactions and responses from athletes throughout the season, from frustration to excitement.
J: My swimmers respond and celebrate immediately after any success, such as completing a lap of a new stroke or learning a new technique. The most joy I see from my swimmers is at our end of our season swim meet. My swimmers can't wait to swim their races! After they swim, they immediately sprint to the award stand to wait for their medals. It's a really awesome experience to witness their pure joy and pride when they display the medal around their necks.
3. How are the athletes like with their teammates?
Leslie: The athletes become close with most of their teammates. They cheer each other on at swim meets, encouraging each other and even hanging out.
Jaimie: My athletes who train together are all friends! They encourage each other while promoting an atmosphere of friendly competition.
4. What would you say to parents who are thinking about signing up their kids for swim lessons/Special Olympics?
Leslie: I would encourage parents to sign their kids up for swim lessons to improve their swim skills. I would also encourage them to participate in Special Olympics where they'll learn to compete as an individual as well as a member of a team.
Jaimie: I recommend Special Olympics to any parent even considering getting their children involved. There are so many sports to participate in and no previous experience is necessary! Special Olympics encourages athletes of all skill levels. For instance, one of our swimmers who competed at the meet had stepped in a pool for the FIRST TIME just 2 weeks before the competition! Special Olympics really is an incredible experience for everyone including athletes, coaches, and parents.