Fear is an awful feeling, and for the first two decades of my life, I knew that emotion all too well. I was so afraid of water that I never went on a boat, to a pool, or to the beach. Because I thought water spraying my face would drown me, I avoided showers; bathing offered me more security and more control. When I got to college and discovered that dorms didn’t have bathtubs, I showered while holding a washcloth over my face. While all the other freshmen were adjusting to college life, I was learning how to take a panic-free shower.
I’m convinced I’d still be aquaphobic today if it weren’t for one life-changing opportunity, a job offer to teach English at a high school in suburban Chicago. To be clear, it was a few minutes after I had verbally accepted the position when the principal said, “By the way, Beth, you’ll have to become the girls’ head swim coach. Do you think you can do that?“ I still remember that moment vividly. As I said yes, I was thinking... These girls are already swimmers, so I’ll learn everything I can about coaching swimming, but I won’t have to swim. And then he added, “You’ll need to be certified in lifesaving and bring me your certificate.” Oh no! At that moment, I knew I would need to overcome my fear of water; I had to transform myself into a swimmer, lifeguard, and coach.
How did I do it? I spent every day at the community pool, where I’d take hours of children’s swim classes each morning and get lessons from the lifeguards throughout the day. At night, I’d observe swim team practices, take lifesaving classes, and volunteer at swim meets. On weekends, I’d attend coaching clinics and read every book about competitive swimming I could get my hands on. By the end of the summer, I (barely) had passed lifesaving, (mostly) had overcome my fear of water, and (totally) had learned a lot about swimming and myself in the process. But I was still a struggle swimmer.
The team I inherited had gone 0-10 the previous season, so there was nowhere to go but up. They were awesome young women with amazingly positive attitudes considering their lack of success. I focused on improving technique in all four strokes and effectively structuring practices to increase speed and endurance. During my two years as coach, we went 4-6 and 5-5, set new school records, and qualified our 50 free sprinter for state. Ironically, to celebrate our first victory, my swimmers threw me into the pool; it soon became a tradition. During their excitement, only I sensed the remnants of my anxiety.
When I moved to Wisconsin, my coaching took a hiatus, but ten years later, I was back at the pool. My client needed to rehab a serious ankle injury that prevented her from continuing high-impact exercise, so I modified the successful techniques and workouts I had used before. It was very tough going at first, but she stuck with it. She swam three and then four times per week, slowly and gradually improving her performance and increasing her yardage. Six months later, she felt better than she ever had; swimming enhanced her wellness physically and psychologically more than any other form of exercise. How do I know? Because my client was ME! For the next 20 years, I was a dedicated fitness swimmer, and in 2007, I upped my game by joining Leah Nyikes’ masters’ swim team, Liquid N’Durance.
I was thrilled to join the Liquid Lifestyles coaching staff in 2013. That summer, I earned my coaching certification through Total Immersion to enhance the technical knowledge I had acquired over the years. My position at LL allows me to combine my passion for swimming with my love of teaching. I’m regularly at the pool to teach swim classes and private lessons or to coach masters. During the last four years, I’ve been privileged to work with many Liquid Lifestyles’ clients in different phases of their personal swim journeys. Some are competitive athletes focused on swimming faster and more efficiently, while others are teens and adults who want to conquer their fear of water. Many of my clients are motivated to swim for fitness, family, or fun. Whether they are learning to swim for a honeymoon or a bucket list, my swimmers’ growth is especially meaningful to me because I know from personal experience what it takes to go from “before” to “after.” No matter what your story is, I can help you transform your swimming and your lifestyle. I’d love to share my experience, energy, and expertise with you.