The weather is getting cooler, and after today’s stormy effort a lot less enticing to go for a swim but swimming is exactly what’s on my mind as I chat with Te Atatu Swimsation Manager, Swimming Coach and in my humble opinion somewhat of a water-whisperer – Danielle Turner.
How long have you been teaching and how did you get into working with Swimsation? Are you based only at Te Atatu Peninsula Primary School?
‘I’ve been teaching at Swimsation for 7 years, and I actually got poached! – they called and asked me if I wanted to be the operations manager while I was at my other job (which was swimming related!). I was working at my other job part-time and was finishing Uni so it was perfect timing.’
‘Swimsation is nationwide and I am based at Te Atatu Peninsula, we also service other central and West Auckland schools.’
How early can someone start learning to swim? How many kids are enrolled on the Peninsula each year?
‘You can start from as early as 3 months and we cover the swimming fundamentals (water confidence, submerging, floating, kicking, stroking and breathing) and water safety. Te Atatu Peninsula Swimsation team provide lessons to around 5000 students a year.’
Have you noticed any changes with the general public’s knowledge of the importance of learning how to swim?
‘Not really. Although in recent years less people are learning through swim schools because of the cost, it is an expense some families can no longer afford, especially when you have a few kids. I’ve noticed that families have either stopped lessons or they are in for less time, which is understandable in the financial climate. As a result we now also work on some government funded projects. The Greater Auckland Aquatic Action Plan is for year 3-6 students at schools that are decile 6 or below, they get 10 free lessons a year – if the school has a pool we will always use that rather than adding additional costs for transport.’
‘We believe learning to swim is a must for everyone and for this reason, Swimsation is trying to make lessons accessible to all by offering lessons at a reasonable price ($10.50 a lesson) and allowing payments schemes for families to spread the costs out over a term.’
Have the adult classes been well attended over the years? Do you teach adults who have no ability to swim at all or does everyone need to have a basic level of swimming?
‘The adult classes are a bit hit and miss with attendance, it’s really interesting. Of course a lot of people have kids so the timing doesn’t work and with the colder months attendance seems to drop off. We have a solid group of about 6 to 10 but it hasn’t taken off in a big way yet and there are a few factors involved as to why. A lot of adults are embarrassed about their lack of ability in the water and it stops them from trying. Lots of people think they are alone in not being able to swim well as an adult, but there are lots more than you think. Very few people are exceptional swimmers.’
‘I have taught people who have been scared to get in the water because of a traumatic experience in their younger years or for some people who have migrated to NZ and haven’t been surrounded by water in their own countries (we offer private lessons with adults only in the building). I’ve also seen great progress, with these individuals now being able to swim 25 metres. I worked with someone who was petrified of putting her face in the water, so much so that she experienced frequent nightmares – now she can swim for recreation at the age of 64 and can swim 100 metres without stopping.’
When are the busier periods throughout the year for Swimsation?
‘Summer – definitely by far and that’s common in the industry. There are a lot of myths about catching colds in winter. It actually helps your immune system to be active in the pool, moving around and getting your heart rate up. It’s more going out into the cold with wet hair and not drying off properly that can be the set up for catching something. Swim teachers have fantastic immune systems because of our constant exposure to all types of weather and the variety of bugs that can walk through the door at any given time.’
What tools do you use to help someone to gauge their progress?
‘You can follow your progress online at our website, we also have the ability to video your swimming style and effectiveness from on top of the water and from below the water. We give regular feedback and we can also offer a stroke analysis during a one on one lesson which is a tool used for squad simmers. It’s so valuable to have a recorded starting point to be able to refer to at the end of term or the year – it is a huge advantage to mark significant progress.’
What would you say to anyone considering starting classes for themselves or for their children?
‘Just do it. Come and trial a class or two, we always work with the person to see what will work the best for them. Ask people in the community about the classes and how they find them.’
Do you have any specials for Swimsation classes?
‘We have a few specials, if you plan to have lessons twice a week, the second lesson is half price and learning two times a week gives you four times the progress. We also have one on one lessons which not many people know about. The cost is $30 for a thirty minute one on one lesson, I know that other swim schools can charge upwards of $50 for a thirty minute lesson so this is good value for money. We pair you up with an instructor you know or we think would be a good fit. There is also the two for one deal for adult classes, if you bring a new person to class it will cost you $47.25 for term 2. The two for one deal is only available for adult classes.’
‘We usually have a holiday programme but we are closed these holidays due to the pool at Peninsula Primary school currently undergoing maintenance. The holiday programme (which will be available for the July holidays) is a great offer of $30 per week for 5 lessons which works out to be $6 a lesson. Because it’s such a great offer our holiday classes fill up fast, we choose not to have a waitlist but to try and work with everyone’s schedules to make things work.’
‘Contact us if you would like more information on our website www.swimsation.com or email me on email@example.com or call us on 948-2414. We really like talking to people and we are available on email 24/7. If you do call the office number and you miss us we are most likely in the pool so please leave us a message or email us and we will come back to you as soon as possible.’
Do you live on the Peninsula?
‘No – and we regret not buying on the Peninsula. My son goes to school here, which is a nightmare in traffic in the mornings from Westgate. We feel like we live on Te Atatu Peninsula but we don’t sleep here (and I don’t sleep at the pool although I ‘ve been asked that a few times!) Ironically my son really wants to walk to school but I keep telling him he can’t walk on the motorway!’
Tell us about yourself
‘I was born in Fielding and we moved to Auckland when I was 4 years old. We lived in Henderson Valley Rd until I was a teenager, then moved to Massey. I actually find I relax by being with my kids and if I get really stressed I go for a swim.’
Where do you get your coffee?
‘I don’t! I don’t drink coffee but Fuze is my favourite cafe and I order a Grapefruit/Lemon tea more often than not.’
What do you plan on doing with your kids over the holidays?
‘We are going to New Plymouth to see family. I will be working during the week, but I will have lots of fun crafty things planned for my kids, as well as a few home renovations. Believe it or not, I do take my kids for swimming lessons during the holidays as I don’t get much time during term and we also like discovering other pools around Auckland – Sunday is our swimming day as a family. We love to go rock climbing in Glen Eden, it’s such good value and we will also visit the new Splash park in Mt Eden. We do lots of water things year round, we are a real water family. If you happen to be out at an Auckland beach in April/May and you see a crazy family swimming it’s probably us!’
I have been attending the Adult swimming classes in term 1 of this year, I had an extremely basic incomplete knowledge of swimming. I couldn’t breathe underwater while swimming very effectively and could only swim half a 25 metre length. I will attend for the rest of the year as I’ve found the classes to be a great challenge and I’ve seen an incredible amount of improvement in my own swimming ability let alone the other adult swimmers. Our class is very relaxed and we do have a lot of fun. Danielle and the Swimsation team are really supportive, passionate and skilled in their instruction. I can only encourage those who have been thinking about it to give it a go – Andrea.