My brother has to start teaching in a new school next year. His specialist subject is English as a Foreign Language, which is handy as the school is overseas, but during the successful interview he attended just before leaving to come back to Australia for Xmas, they indicated there may be a couple of extra classes that they need him to assist with.
One of these classes is swimming and the idea has been a source of anxiety for him ever since he accepted the position. While he is a good swimmer, and certainly able to manage a small group of teenagers who are able to swim, it was indicated to him that the school prides itself on its success in inter-school carnivals and he has been concerned ever since about his ability to maintain this record of success.
‘It is the tumbleturn,’ he said, glumly. ‘I have never had to learn how to do one and I am not sure how I can demonstrate it. The water will go up my nose.’
‘How?’ I asked.’You just blow out of your nose while doing it, just like when you swim.’
He looked at me as if I was mad.
‘So you hold your breath all the time?’ I asked.
There was that look again.
I always try to be helpful in these situations and so for Xmas I bought him some pincher things for his nose, to prevent water going up it, and a secret weapon called The Thunderer.
The Thunderer is a smart, sliver, referee’s whistle. It is waterproof, contains a ‘speed pea’ – whatever that is – and a number of other features which seem to make it the ideal item in a coach’s toolkit. I assured him that short of a bicycle and a megaphone, there was nothing more that could command respect poolside.
To this end, we took to the pool at my parents’ flat this afternoon to learn and practise tumbleturns, which will enable his students to swim effortlessly into the lead as they manoeuvre at the pool wall, flowing from first to second length with the grace and agility of dolphins.
We three siblings were all in the tiny pool: myself, the brother in question and our younger brother, who is the only one of us who has actually done a tumbleturn before and was able to demonstrate it effortlessly. The other two of us were relying on a YouTube video we had watched, and of course, The Thunderer. I do not think the pool was designed for competitive sibling swimming and it was less like a school of dolphins and a little more like the water attractions at sea world as we thrashed about like walruses and most of the water lapped over the sides of the pool.
It took no time at all to establish that there were any number of drills that would need practice and repetition by his students to help perfect the tumbleturn. Not only was there the manoeuvre itself, but there was the approach, the breathing during the approach, the timing of the approach, the exit from the manoeuvre and the subsequent swim down the pool.
We practised it while swimming lengths, we practised it widthways and we practised it in front of our baby nephew, held safely in mum’s arms while sitting wisely behind a Perspex screen which was there to protect the gym equipment but also doubled quite handily as a flood barrier.
We also practised it with The Thunderer, each taking turns to deliver the coaching and short, decisive bursts on the whistle. I have to say that while our tumbleturns may not have peaked just yet, our whistle work was truly marvellous.
‘We can try again in a couple of days’ time,’ I suggested, ‘we should have this nailed by the time you actually have to teach them the tumbleturn.’
‘Oh I am not sure I will actuallly have to teach it,’ he said, ‘I just imagined that might be possibly what they might need to know.’
Well at least we have the tumbleturn now, and if that fails, there is always The Thunderer.