It was Saturday afternoon and I was doing laps in the pool. There weren’t many people around. It was calm and I was selfishly glad to have the “slow” lane all to myself.
I looked up and saw a boy leaning towards me from the edge of the pool at the end of my lane.
“Yes,” I said.
“Do you know how to do a back flip off the diving board?” the boy asked.
“No,” I said almost laughing.
Then I recognized him. He had been with a group of other boys five minutes earlier who were all doing tricks, flips and fancy dives off one of the regular sized diving boards.
“Um, but you’re a professional swimmer right?” he said absolutely sure of himself.
I had to chuckle. I am the last thing that comes to my mind when I think of a professional swimmer. I don’t wear a swimming cap, goggles or a particularly sporty looking bathing suit. And I was swimming with a flutter board for goodness sakes!
“No, I’m just a hobbyist,” I explained.
Then I realized he might not know what “hobbyist” means. He looked about nine years old.
“Oh, so swimming is just your hobby?” he queried.
I said, “That’s right” (clever, he understood what “hobbyist” means).
“Well do you know how to do dives?” he continued.
“Um, well actually, no.” I had to think for a while. When was the last time I dove into water? Probably when I was a kid. I wasn’t sure I remembered how.
“Oh, well I can teach you if you want,” he persisted.
I hesitated. I didn’t really want to get out of the water. I was on a roll with the laps. I came here to get fit not really to have fun. Though there was that one time I went down the waterslide. I felt kind of silly – a grown woman at the pool on her own going down the slide. And I never go into the shallow pool (which looks like a lot of fun) except that one time my youngest sister was in town (and she threw a ball in my face). There seems to be an unspoken rule, or maybe it’s just in my mind, that the shallow pool is only for children or adults with children.
“Okay,” I said finally, pulling myself out of the water.
He taught me how to do a regular dive, a sideways dive and a squat-down-like-a-duck-dive. He explained how each one was done step by step and then demonstrated them for me.
“Okay, now I’ll try and you let me know how it looks afterwards,” I said hoping I wasn’t about to break my neck or fall flat on my belly.
Arms pointed, aim, lean, I’m leaning, I’m falling, falling, FALLING, no… I’m diving, toes together. SPLASH!
When I resurfaced, I heard my personal coach cheering me on:
“Wow that was really good. Doesn’t it feel good to learn something new?”
“Yes, it does,” I said smiling.
“Now what about this, just hop up a bit when you leave the ground and dive in,” he said encouragingly.
I started to try and do it but it felt awkward and scary. Like the first time ever trying to do a cartwheel.
“I can’t do it. I feel scared,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I won’t make fun of you.”
“I think I’ll just work on my regular dive,” I said decidedly.
I dove in again and asked him how it looked as I pulled myself out of the water. It felt more like a belly flop.
“It looked good. Eight out of ten!” he said enthusiastically.
“Well, I need to get going,” I said realizing twenty minutes had already passed since the diving lesson began.
“Are you sure? I have a lot more to teach you,” he sounded disappointed.
He seemed kind of lonely and just wanted someone to hang out with. I felt bad and also empathized with his loneliness.
“I’m sure you do. I really do need to go though. I have an appointment in half an hour. But thanks for everything.”
“My name is Ethan,” he said while extending his hand towards me.
“Nice to meet you Ethan. I’m Natalie. Thanks for teaching me how to dive today,” I said while shaking his hand pruned up from the water.
I left the pool quite amazed. Did that really just happen. Did a young boy just randomly teach me how to dive? I am someone who feels claustrophobic when I attempt to do the forward crawl and am too shy to practice it in the public pool. Diving…I feel like I conquered a small fear I didn’t even know I had until invited to try something new and go beyond my regular routine and comfort zone. I was reminded that no one is too young to be a teacher and or too old to learn.