Benita Adesuyan finds how one Dubai-based academy is bidding to turn kids and adults into perfect swimmers.
In Dubai we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to water sports. Jet skiing, sailing, banana boats, scuba diving, and even surfing the waves in order to experience the waters and keep fit are options, but a basic requirement for them all is being able to swim. A lack of confidence in the water can make a plethora of recreational sports and activities look more like a death wish than a delight.
Hamilton Aquatics is one of the largest swimming academies in the Middle East and it works in conjunction with schools to provide expert coaching for children and adults. The company recently held a Water Safety Awareness week in locations across the UAE to make children aware of the potential dangers in the water as well as teaching them how to respond safely and help others.
Katy Little is Hamilton Aquatics’ head site manager and has been a swimming coach in Dubai for two years. Based at Jumeirah Primary School, she manages the swimming programmes and she has seen an increase in demand for swimming lessons in children and adults. ‘We’re constantly adding people to our programme. Every week people want to join – we have to do assessments first, we don’t just book them straight in, regardless of how old they are.’
At the school, children as young as five and six are having lessons in the school’s outdoor pool, and are assessed under the watchful eye of the coaches. The class sizes are kept small for the benefit and safety of the students as well as to enable the tutors to give nervy students the necessary attention. Katy explains that for the youngest learners, Aqua Tots that are generally aged six and under, the class ratio will be capped at five to one.
The coaching method at Hamilton focuses on body position, legs, arms, breathing and timing for every stroke. The instructors teach adults and children using the same structure each week learning the mechanisms of a new stroke. ‘We follow long-term athlete development. We would much rather the children swim shorter distances with excellent technique than thrash them up and down the swimming pool with sloppy technique,’ says Katy. ‘We don’t believe you can acquire speed or strength unless you have technique.’
In Dubai children learn to swim at school and it is part of the curriculum, however many adults may not have had the opportunity to learn or didn’t receive a good quality of tuition, but it’s never too late. Hamilton Aquatics began adult lessons last year following requests from parents who were bringing their children to classes and after terms of watching their kids progress, decided it was time they took the plunge, too.
‘When you’re an adult you are so aware of everything – the dangers of being in the water, what can happen, so to get over that fear is much harder,’ says Katy. ‘But the fact that you’ve signed up and you’re in the water – you’ve done the hardest bit. Fear of deep water is a common issue for adults. They’re fine when they can stand up in shallow water, but the minute they’re in deeper water, that’s when panic sets in.’
At the adult’s class at GEMS Wellington International School, Al Sufouh, the new learners have similar experiences of being nervous in deep water or struggling with breathing techniques. Adult tutor Annie Fieldsend shows us how to manage breath and is incredibly supportive in helping water-shy adults relax as she breaks down the breaststroke.
Swimming is well-known to be a great way to stay fit, so learning how to do it properly can give you the confidence to the try other sports. ‘It’s a life skill,’ says Katy. ‘It’s something that can save your life. Ultimately we want to teach people how to swim safely and correctly and efficiently.’
Hamilton Aquatics, locations across Dubai including GEMS Wellington International School, Al Sufouh, www.hamiltonaquaticsdubai.com (04 450 8832).
Other places to learn how to swim
Swim Academy UAE
Try the swimming development classes for children and adults here. This academy also has technique sessions for advanced swimmers and triathletes.
Dhs900 per 11 week term for adults, Dhs800 for kids. Locations including Dubai International Academy, www.activeuae.com (050 559 7055).
Speedo Swim Squads UAE
Coaching all levels from babies and novices to international competition standard swimmers. Swimmers here are encouraged to participate in competitions as they gain confidence.
Dhs50 per session for adults, Dhs58 for children. Locations including Collegiate American School, Umm Suqeim 2, www.speedodubai.net (04 354 9525).
Fitness First: The Swim Academy
This academy has 200 classes across Dubai. It also offers a ladies-only class at the Fitness First Mirdif City Centre Club.
From Dhs60 per session. Locations including Fitness First Burjuman Centre, Sheikh Zayed Street, www.fitnessfirstme.com (800 3486377).