Okay, I have earlier mentioned our incredible ability to talk around this house. Talk about things we’ll like to do, places we’ll like to go and classes we’ll like to send our girls to. Swimming lessons have been the subject of one of those repetitive talks lately. But then, last week we finally turned talk into action and put the girls back into swimming lessons after 8 months of absence. And it is a succes!
Since Abby started swimming lessons almost four years ago we have tried three different swim schools around Wollongong. Not because we disliked any of them, really. More because we didn’t love them (we might actually love one of them – read on and find out which). You shouldn’t settle, right?
Growing up in Denmark, where the indoor pools on average are second to none, I have had pretty high standards to the pool facilities we have visited here. For those of you that have never visited a Danish indoor pool, I can tell you that for instance the hygiene is extremely high. Everyone needs to have a shower – naked – and wash themselves with soap before putting on their swimmers and entering the pool. And no way you can bring a stroller into the pool area straight from the street. Actually, you are rarely allowed in the pool area at all unless you are a swimmer and have showered first – otherwise you will definitely need to wear plastic bags over your shoes.
That’s not exactly standard practice here in Australia. None of the above really is. Josh’s first visit to a Danish indoor pool illustrates that pretty well.
Back in the day, when Josh and I were hanging out together in Copenhagen, waiting for Abby to make her arrival, I took Josh to one of the indoor pools there. I didn’t consider that I had to explain to him how the going-into-a-pool-in-Denmark-procedure was. I figured it was like that everywhere. How wrong I was.
Well, after you purchase your ticket at a pool in Denmark, you go straight into the changing rooms. Many places you can’t even see the pool yet. So, Josh and I parted and went into our separate changing rooms. I did my usual pre-pool routine and took off my clothes in the changing area, went into the showers, put on my bathing suit and then I was ready to enter the pool area.
There, in the stairway, I found Josh. All confused and dry.
“Have you been in the pool already?” he asked me.
Puzzled, I asked him “no, but haven’t you showered?”
Where to he answered “no, why should I shower before going in the pool?”
Ohh yeah, he was also in a state of shock because he had just been in a room filled with other naked men. Yes, that’s how us vikings do it. We shower in communal shower rooms without walls around the individual shower. Josh told me that he thought it was very weird how all those men were just walking around naked as if it was the most natural thing in the world – I would argue that it is one of the most natural things in the world.
And back to the showers he went. He didn’t take his swimmers off, though.
Later on we have gone to indoor pools with my parents. Josh having to shower in the same room as my dad. Hehehe…he is not extremely comfortable with that, I can tell you, and my dad is the kind of person who doesn’t mind nudist beaches………
But back to Australia and the girls’ swimming lessons.
For me to get to the indoor pools here where people have changed into their swimmers from home and just walk all the way into the poolarea with shoes on some even bringing their prams – well, that has been quite a culture shock for me. And I think that I unconsciously have tried to find a pool that resembles a Danish one the most.
The first swim school we put Abby in was McKeon’s Swimchool. It’s a quite modern pool facility with several similarities to the Danish ones I am used to. It seemed like the right place for us. I mean, they have fostered several Olympic swimmers – surely they must know their ‘1-2-3 eyes under’- and ‘teddybear, teddybear watch me fall’-routines.
And it was good. But it was also extremely busy. The teachers changed every other week and it had this assembly line kinda feeling to it. Get the kids in the water, teach them whatever, get them out. Next group in! Repeat. No one knew Abby’s name – and the showers were inside the bloody pool area. Not in the changing rooms. No naked showers there.
After a couple of terms we chose to change to the smallest little swimschool called Nippers 2 Flippers. The building is situated in the middle of a suburbian street, they only have one tiny pool and there is carpet on the floors – in the pool area. Yep. Wow. This was a whole new level of poor hygiene for me. However, the teachers were really nice, attentive and personal. Abby got quite confident while being there and most importantly she had fun in the water.
Actually, she was there with my parents the day Billie was born. My mum sent me photos of Abby and my dad in the pool while I was in labour at the hospital. That was pretty cool.
Then Billie was born and we didn’t get Abby back into swimming until Billie was old enough to join her in the water.
For some reason we decided to try out an entirely third swimschool, Shellharbour Swim Academy. This one was pretty big, not new and smick like the McKeon one, but the reviews I read about it were excellent so I signed them up.
For the sake of teaching the kids to swim they were pretty good. Abby did evolve while being there and Billie got confident in the water. Perfect for our Thailand holiday in January earlier this year. However, while the girls attended Shellharbour Swim Academy I had this bad feeling in my stomach. I didn’t feel welcome at all. And I really felt that the teachers did not care about the individual children – they were just doing their job. Which can be okay, but in my opinion it’s not enough when it comes to small children. I know other people have had very different experiences at this swim school, but for us it was not the right place.
When we finally got the girls back into swimming last week, I had to follow my gut instinct so we signed them up at Nippers 2 Flippers again. Because even though the physical sorroundings of the place goes against everything I have ever learned about good hygiene and how a “real” indoor pool should look and operate – I mean, they have carpet on the floors(!) – it felt right. It felt welcoming and including. It felt like our children mattered and that they were taken seriously.
I learned that my decision was right. Even though they still have carpet on the floors – but hey, they have actually fixed up their changing rooms and made brand new communal showers in there. Yay, I am danish and I am very much pro showing my girls other naked girls and women to give them a healthy and realistic view of the human body. And Abby & Billie love showering with their little swim buddies. That’s right, showering after sports can be very social. Seriously. Just ask any danish handball or football player.
When it comes to the actual swimming lessons these guys (women) are ridiculously awesome. They had three teachers evaluating Abby in her first class, because they wanted to make sure she gets lessons on the correct level. Last time they even had two teachers evaluating Billie, too. She’s “just” in a baby class but they still tailor the lessons around each individual child.
They really, really make an effort to make sure the children are on the correct level to suit their ability so they make the most of their lessons. They do this simultaneously with being nice, funny and kind. Which I value so, so, so much when it comes to children and any kind of sport, really. Yes, I do want them to learn to swim – but, almost more importantly, I want them to have fun while doing so.
At Nippers2flippers the girls have lots of fun – Billie even says so when she gets out of the water: “it was fuuuuuuun” and you can’t argue with that, so I think we might stick around there for a while now.
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