Can one conquer their fear of the water in three hours? We don’t know for sure. What we do know is that water phobia is a serious condition, one that can stand between one and a swimming pool. But for those who might have the condition and would love to kick it to the curb, a local academy, Beginners Swimming Academy claims to have the solution to getting new swimmers to conquer water phobia, and even learn how to swim in three hours flat.
BG Style recently joined five new learners who we were told were going into the pool for the first time. The session, which was held at Planet Lodge is run by Dithuso Selepeng, and is one of the many that have been taking place in areas such as Kasane, Selebi Phikwe and Kanye, where beginners were given new lease on life through swimming. Kick-starting the session with a briefing, all the five women appeared nervous. If you have had issues with water, you would understand what goes through the mind of someone who is entering a swimming pool for the first time.
Hanging on for dear life on a wall, the swimming learners were first made to feel comfortable in the water. This is very important, because before you do anything, you need to feel safe and comfortable in the water. They were then taught the basics such as the correct breathing and floating techniques. With each step, it seemed as if it was impossible. While some were initially scared as a lamb being taken to the slaughter house, others listened to the instructor and let go of their fears.
The big moment came when they had to now glide in the water unaided. If you have ever had a near encounter with drowning and you are watching someone who is unfamiliar with water splashing around, you know that your body goes through strange motions; you are afraid as if you are the one who has to do the gliding and you have difficulty breathing. But we did see that some embraced this challenge and indeed learnt how to swim. In an interview, Selepeng explains that the academy came about after he conducted research and decided to create a swimming culture amongst Batswana.
He says that during his research, which has been going on for 15 years, he established that there are factors such as lack of sports development structures and trained personnel that hinder the growth of swimming. “We have taken too long as Batswana to develop and promote swimming as a sport and for recreational purposes,” he says. He further says that other factors include myths that are associated with stagnant water. In some areas, snakes or supposed “mermaids” associated with water are used to keep people, particularly children, from playing in water.
Selepeng explains that his research has established that everyone is a natural swimmer and that they would all love to swim. “I discovered that we don’t swim because we have not been allowed to continue swimming after we are born. This leads to all non-swimmers forgetting how to swim,” he says. Selepeng points out that beginners can learn techniques such as floating, breathing control, gliding and kicking just like a basic course that would taken a learner quite some time instead of his three hours.
He says that safety measures in place include clean and safe pools, no running around the pool, no swimming with bleeding cuts, no swimming without a life guard and no diving in shallow water. He also says that instructors always need to have CPR knowledge.
He further says that the academy has been operational for four months now and it has caught the spark nationwide especially in adults. “It is also running parallel with the study to accomplish teaching 500 adults how to swim in less than three hours,” he says. Selepeng expresses hope that the idea will develop a wider appeal.
“It is still new and the hope is eventually to catch the interest of sports scholars to help with professional conclusion of the study and publish and deposit a written Programme around universities in the world. It has caught the attention of a University Of Botswana professor and a sports scholar, who is also a Deputy Vice Chancellor,” he says. “The idea is for him to have a closer look and attend sessions, his final word will determine if our country goes on the world map with a worldwide finding that will enable easy teaching of swimming in adults as well as to bring down the rate of hypertension, Obesity and other related disorders as swimming is the best form of exercise,” he adds.