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Come on in, the water’s fine!

By Team B&C

Jolene Blanche, Porvorim remembers being a water baby since childhood. As a tot she learnt to swim at two, and it was not in a fancy swimming pool but at the sea side and rivers. Her mother, she says, was always fearful of water and was determined to not let her little girl face the same fears. Looking at her skill in the water, she was enrolled in formal swimming class at six. She continued treading the water well and eventually became an expert. Today, Jolene is a coach to several would-be swimmers. She teaches swimming at Crown Hotel, Panaji and perhaps is the one of the few coaches who teaches full-time.

With swimming as an accomplishment for fitness and leisure catching up among residents, teaching swimming is viable earning option for several individuals.  Jolene says that she has been teaching for 14 years, although full-time for the past four-five years. Word-of-mouth from ex-students has resulted in a steady clientele and she never faces a dearth of pupils. She earns a regular living through teaching swimming, says Jolene.

Ground level checks reveal that giving private swimming classes is a secondary profession for several swimming experts. They hold classes in pools within hotels and also in government swimming pools. Swimming classes are carried out in Goa round he year but more students come during summer, point out coaches. Summer is actually their busiest time and several coaches take leave from regular office to devote time to their secondary profession.

The fee that they charge depends on the venue. If the class is in starred resort it can go up to Rs 10,000 for a 20-day course. Or else the fee ranges between Rs 5,000 – Rs 6,000 per student. Popular hotels for swimming classes are Cidade de Goa, Bambolim Beach Resort among others. Besides there are hotels in Porvorim and other places that have swimming classes as well.

Swimming, says a coach, is mandatory in schools abroad which is why most foreigners know to swim. However, in Goa, like elsewhere in India, people do not give it much thought and then regret later in life. However, the trend is changing as parents are making their children learn at a young age, says the coach. Many of her pupils, adds Jolene, are adults. People who are afraid of water want to take a dip into the pool when they go to hotels for the weekend. Adults signing up as students is the latest trend, adds Jolene.

Private swimming classes are popular because people want individual attention. The whole arrangement is a win-win for the student, teacher and the hotel which gets additional revenue. Hotels sign a renewable contract with a swimming coach and take a percentage of the earnings. Goans, says a coach, prefer a private class as there is more personal attention and is conducted in small batches. Cost is not the criteria among most parents as they consider it a one-time investment for health and good life.

There are many wrong ideas about learning swimming, and coaches say that it can be learnt by any individual aged 3 year onwards. They have observed nine month old babies taking to the water, although it should never be done without parental supervision, is the advice. Coaches recommend 3-feet for small kids and 5-feet depth for an adult. Swimming, they add, is easy to learn if correct procedures and techniques are followed. However, most people acquire half-baked techniques, which is why they never learn the sport properly. Breathing is most important and a qualified coach always begins with this basic essential while teaching swimming to a beginner.

Irregularity in income is the main reasons why expert swimmers do not take up teaching. Government jobs are limited in the sport and many experts have to take recourse to a full-time job. To become a coach it takes about four-five years of slog which is why there are not many who teach. Coaches advertise in newspapers and internet and get good leads of people who want to learn swimming.  Once they establish a name in the market they get sure shot references from people who have learnt from them.

Free style, breast stroke, back stroke and butterfly is normally taught at these classes. As per statistics, only five per cent of the Goan population can swim. It is a highly dissatisfactory statistic given the sea-side location of the state and the number of water bodies. People should come forward to learn swimming in large numbers, point out  coaches.

Though no formal education is required to become a coach there is a course by National Institute of Sports, Bangalore for swimming coaches. Hotels do not insist on certificate from NSI, however, they do look at experience and overall expertise of the teacher. The earning capacity of a coach varies from individual to individual. Some coaches like Jolene who have built a good reputation get regular pupils. Most coaches, however, say that income as a teacher is steady and quite lucrative during summer. They add that the main reason why they teach is love of the sport and money is not the motivator.

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