Friday, 23 February 2018

Poor Little Billy Elliot!

I'm not much good at swimming - but we have been away at a Conference for a few days and on two afternoons, I grabbed a moment to swim 10 lengths of the half size pool [OK that's only 5 lengths - but it was all I could manage in terms of time and energy!] This is a picture of the pool from the hotel website.
Despite being a passionate Baptist, I really don't like having my face under water which doesn't help my technique!
The hotel pool is used in the afternoons by swimming teachers - they rope off a couple of lanes for the classes and hotel guests can use the remaining space. The first day there was a lovely group of toddlers and Mums - how I wished I'd had Rosie with me! They were singing the tune of The Wheels on the Bus, with verses like "We we swim our feet go Kick!, our arms go Splash!" etc. There were about 7 other 'regular' swimmers swimming up and down
On the next day, just myself at first - and then one little boy [aged about 6 I'd guess] arrived for an after-school lesson with his gran and an instructor.
"You are going to learn to do your breaststroke properly!" barked the instructor.Was she looking at me when she said this?  Slight panic on my part, that's the only stroke I can do [apart from floating on my back, and doggy paddleNo, it was directed at the Little Splasher the other side of the rope.
""Pencil! Star! Bend! Snap!" she shouted, over and over and over. It's very hard to ignore that, and not find yourself getting into the same rhythm. Her shouting speed was slightly faster than my gentle style, I found myself getting quicker!
But poor little Billy Elliot - his major problem was his feet "Do NOT point your toes! They MUST be at right angles! Legs like a FROG!"
But he could not get it right. At this moment, the lesson took an uncomfortable turn. The entire focus was on his pointy toes. "You are a frog, not a ballet dancer!"she berated him. A few moments of splashing. 
"RIGHT angles, NOT pointy toes!"
Then..."STOP pointing those toes!"
Then..."Do you want me to bring you a frilly pink tutu next week, to wear while you are swimming?"
For the next few minutes, this tirade against Darcey Bussel and friends continued.
I hoped desperately that the little boy was OK with her teaching style. I'd got to the end of my ten laps. I could probably have done a few more, but I was feeling quite miserable - I knew my swimming style was a long way from perfect, but eavesdropping that sort of lesson wasn't helping at all. I felt quite inadequate - more like a snapped pencil than a star. 
I appreciate that with their waterlogged ears, she probably needs to shout to her pupils ...but I somehow wished there had been more encouragement, and less harassment.
And what if he does want to be a ballet dancer, and is learning to swim to strengthen his muscles and improve his flexibility?...


  1. If that was my daughters swimming teacher I would have made a compaint and and found a different class. However I never needed to do that. She had lovely teachers who were in the pool with the class. They did group work and individual work to make sure that they understood the instructions and used lots of encouragement. All the children loved going and and had fun at the same time, as it should be.

  2. Ballet teachers in my experience are always very strict. When I used to take my daughter to ballet classes in Chiswick (girls and boys came from all over to attend if they were lucky enough to win a place) parents were allowed to watch the last class of term. One set of parents had to leave promptly for the next class to enter. We were a little slow. One of the teachers briskly walked in, clapped her hands and, in a crystal sharp 1950s BBC accent, called out “vacate”. We did.


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