When I first spotted Brianna by the swimming pool, I only knew her as “Javonnie’s little sister.” This was back in July of 2016 when I was teaching Javonnie how to face her trepidations about getting across large bodies of water (see Eagle Rock Students Overcome Fears and Take the Plunge).
Brianna eventually joined her older sibling in the Eagle Rock pool, steadily improving her limited swimming skills and overcoming her own discomfort with deep water. She continued to put a lot of work into that effort and the result was a notable increase in her physical skills, as well as a gain in confidence when in the school pool
As with most fledgling swimmers, Brianna’s style was “all out,” which means she swam with all of her effort in order to stay afloat. This frantic floundering resulted in a rapid depletion of energy and an increase in the resultant fear of head-high water. It took a long time for her to develop the stamina to swim one length of the pool
After a few months of taking her morning swims most seriously, Brianna joined our Learn to Swim Class where we work on form, confidence, style and the rudiments and history of swimming in the United States.
The class also provides a video analysis of each swimmer’s skills, and it was through this visual assessment that Brianna was able to refine her swimming stroke and more important, learn to pace herself.
“I got better at swimming and pacing, because I used to always ‘sprint’ in the water, and this class taught me how to pace myself, “ says Brianna.
About a year after the Learn to Swim class — all the while continuing her practice — Brianna signed up for our Red Cross Lifeguarding class, which follows a nationally recognized curriculum –and is challenging to complete. How challenging? In order to pass the class, students must swim 12 lengths of the pool without stopping, tread water with no hands for two minutes, and pass the ‘brick’ test.
That test entails swimming from the shallow end to the deep end of the pool, retrieving a 10-pound brick, and returning back to the shallow end with the brick on the student’s chest. Oh, and you can’t use your hands. Oh, and you have to complete this water test within a minute and 40 seconds!
This task is followed by the successful completion of a number of “rescues” in the pool and performing CPR and first aid skills outside the pool. Like we said. No walk in the park.
By far, the hardest task was Brianna’s brick test. As her instructor, I wasn’t all that sure she was going to be able to pass. The entire class was on the side of the pool, yelling and cheering her on. When she got to the edge of the pool with the brick, I was so proud of her.
Upon completing the brick test, Brianna recalls, “jumping out of the pool and calling my adviser. I felt undefeatable when I passed.”
To progress from being a fearful non-swimmer to becoming a lifeguard in such a short period is a gigantic leap. We’ve had several other students attempt it in the past few years, but Brianna is the first student who made it. Her hard work, dedication, and willingness to stay with it over multiple years is amazing.
These days, you can find Brianna opening up the Eagle Rock pool area as the student lifeguard on duty, a task that enables her to teach other students how to gain the same experience she enjoyed as a novice swimmer during her early days at Eagle Rock.
“I’m proud of my swimming achievements,” Brianna says. “I should probably work on my 12 laps a little more. But it feels good to be a lifeguard — especially to know that I know how to save a life.”
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About the Author: Anna Magle-Haberek is the Human Performance Center instructional specialist at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center. She teaches classes in physical education and health, including lifelong fitness, coaching, Run for Your Life and swimming. She also teaches Red Cross curriculum such as lifeguarding.