Megan is taking part in a Swimming Coaching programme in Melbourne. Here she tells us what it's really like...
I landed in Melbourne on the 18th January 2016, on a Swimming Coaching Programme. So far it has been an amazing experience! I’m working with kids from the ages of 3 to 11 who are on a Learn to Swim programme at Harold Hold Swim Centre. The Centre has a 50m, 25m, Learn To Swim and Hydrotherapy pool, as well as a gym – not that I’ve used the gym yet! - and it is run by the City of Stonington council.
The swimming teaching is so rewarding! I have an AAA lesson, which is a disability lesson, and one little girl who I coach is confined to her walking frame on land, yet in the water she is completely free. Even in my day-to-day lessons I see small improvements in each and every child. Whether that means they get to move up a level, or they are just a step closer to the next level. I get to teach all levels from 3 year olds who have only just started swimming lessons (Starfish) to those heading toward swimming in a squad (Sharks & Dolphins).
The social side to teaching is great as all of the other swimming teachers are very friendly, and very used to having English teachers. They know that we have to get used to the fact that we’re teaching from the water all the time. Yes, unfortunately they teach from the water here! It was a big shock for me as they teach in the water for all ages (until they can swim 25/50m in all four strokes), and that took a lot of getting used to. And there’s also other stokes you have to teach, which are different to in the UK, such as survival backstroke and sidestroke. These are seen as very important here because personal survival is a big issue, and swimming is important with all the water everywhere. One of the women who runs the Lean to Swim programme is amazing and acts like our mother. For example, when I’ve been feeling ill or just home sick she’s invited me around to visit her family and is always so welcoming. She also puts on BBQ’s and bakes for all the teachers – she is an AMAZING cook!
Swimming is a massive part of the Australian culture. Where I’m living in Prahran there’s a 50m public pool a 5 minute walk away, and a 25m pool/ water polo pool a 10minute walk away. I’m at the pool at a wide variety of times, and whether I am coaching, or at 5am training there is always people swimming and in all temperatures!
The Sport Lived Socials have been brilliant. Kathy has been amazing and has organized fantastic socials, and such a huge variety which means you can seen parts of Melbourne you wouldn’t normally think to visit. The socials have ranged from surfing followed by cider tasting or a trip to a koala and kangaroo sanctuary, to Bounce and trips to big sporting fixtures.
I have had the privilege to join Melbourne H2O swim squad and their Performance Programme while I’m out here. Luckily they train at the Prahran 50m outdoor pool in the mornings and Melbourne High School 25m/water polo pool in the evening – all within perfect walking distance for me! I have been able to coach around my swimming training, and train around my coaching. I’m training six times a week and working 5 times a week, which means I’m in the water every day. I have good tan lines from morning training!
The swimming club has been so welcoming and we’ve had some brilliant team socials. Recently we went on a team social to Go Karting, Bowling and Laser Tag. This made for an interesting trip with 20 very competitive people ranging from 12 – 40+ all trying to win! The coach out here has been so positive about my training and swimming, and I have received so much support not just in the water but out of the water. We’ve had nutrition advice and support on tracking injury prevention, there’s psychological help, as well as advice on goal setting and time planning. I have always loved the coaching side of swimming as well, and with MH2O I have also been able to assist coaching their Development Squad who are are young children with big personalities. It has been amazing to coach along side their age group coach. It’s always a good laugh, and I’ve also learnt loads.
One of the most exciting things I’ve done has been competing as part of my squad. If you had told me before I came to Australia that I would be competing at the Masters Swimming Australia National Championships, I would have said “NO WAY!”. So when my coach asked me, I was hesitant and slightly worried that I wouldn’t be good enough. I’d never competed at a Masters level and didn’t know what to expect. It was so much fun! Even thought I think I could have done better, I still did well in my age group and gained 5 medals!
There were lots of amazing moments during the 4 days of racing, but some of the highlights include the Opening Ceremony, and the “Clown Act” where a man swam the 50m freestyle backwards, but it looked like he was trying to go forward. It was also great not being the only one spending their birthday on poolside (I share my birthday with a team mate), and spending time with the team and Sport Lived friends braving the heat of the pool to support each other The relay was another highlight. It nearly didn’t happen as our third swimmer only turned up as the race started! And finally the whole atmosphere around the pool for all 4 days was incredible, with teams from all over the country and Australasia of all ages (from myself as one of the youngest at 19, right up to 92 year olds) all supporting each other. It was such a great couple of days, proving swimming is a life time sport. For those who want to, the high end competitive side of masters racing is perfect, but also if you are just swimming socially then Masters and Masters competitions caters for all abilities. Masters is for anyone and everyone wanting to get involved in swimming, get back into swimming or who just wants to have fun!
I really have loved it out here, and all the people around me, both in and out of the water, have made it feel like home.