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Jobs 101: Swimming instructor

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Who knew teaching kids how to swim could be such a fulfilling job?

Most of us have probably gone for swimming classes when we were younger. Thanks to my teacher, I had many fond memories of being in the water.

Youth.SG had the pleasure of chatting with Hester Mak, a fun-loving and caring swimming instructor, to find out why she enjoys teaching others to swim.

Who: Hester Mak, 32
Occupation: Swimming instructor from the Swimming Teacher Institute (STI)
Studied: Diploma of sports coaching at the International Sports Academy

Tell us more about yourself!

I like travelling because it really opens up my mind. I like travelling to Europe for its history, culture, food and the people! Hahaha!

I also like sports because it keeps my mind active and makes me healthy and happy. I do in-line skating because it uses a whole set of body mechanics that are different from swimming. I love trying all types of sports at least once, like stand up paddling.

Why did you want to be a swimming instructor?

I once had a part-time job working in a preschool, working with kids. I like dealing with kids and handling them.

Sometimes, I feel that some kids have low self-esteem, so by teaching them, it is like counselling them. I also like helping them gain confidence in the water.

I feel like this job provides a challenge, as I teach a lot of different people, including teenagers and the elderly. I've been doing this for about 11 years, and I really enjoy it!

Jobs-101-Swimming-instructor
HESTER USUALLY CONDUCTS AROUND NINE CLASSES A DAY. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ANGELA OUYANG

Could you describe a typical day at work?

From Mondays to Fridays, my day starts early in the morning at 8AM with primary school swimming programmes. I resume classes after school hours at about 3PM until the evening. In the evening, I will be teaching adults until 9PM.

If it is a Saturday or a Sunday, programmes can last through morning to evening. I conduct about eight to nine classes on weekends. So, I do have Monday and Friday blues actually. Hahaha!

Tell me more about the training programmes you are overseeing right now.

Every swimming class is customisable according to the kids' ability. Sometimes, you will need to inject fun elements into the session so they think that you're playing with them. They won't even know that you're also getting them to practice certain swimming skills.

I also teach trainees at the Swimming Teachers Institute, where they undergo a comprehensive course on the fundamentals on teaching skills and water safety, and how to be efficient and fun-loving towards their students.

We also have internships for trainees to observe a swimming instructor, like myself, teaching students in the pool, so that they can improve their skills.

Jobs-101-Swimming-instructor
DURING OUR INTERVIEW, I GOT INTO THE WATER
TO ASSIST HESTER DURING ONE OF HER CLASSES.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ANGELA OUYANG

What is the most memorable moment that you've had as a swimming instructor?

Sometimes, the students will write me a letter out of the blue, thanking me and saying that they will remember me years and years later because their swimming was very important to them. It happens pretty often because they associate their swimming [lessons] as happy memories.

It is very rewarding because the kids only meet you once a week. But when they see you at the pool, you can see them smiling at me and though I may be tired, it is all worth it.

Jobs-101-Swimming-instructor
HESTER IS ALSO EXTREMELY PATIENT WITH ALL HER STUDENTS,
EVEN IF THEY ARE A LITTLE DIFFICULT TO WORK WITH.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/BRANDON CHIA

What are some of the challengers that you've faced on the job? 

Dealing with parents can be a challenge, especially if they have rigid rules for their kids. Recently, there were parents who wanted to extend the class with their kid from 45 minutes to one hour and they didn't mind paying more, which I am okay with.

But after 40 minutes, the kid lost interest and started to giving excuses like wanting to use the toilet or drink water. I told the parents that we should try to stick to 45 minutes instead, but sometimes, they might not want to cooperate.

What advice do you have for youths who want to be a swimming instructor?

It is all about the passion. My advice is to follow your dreams, no matter how long it takes. It may take one or two years [to get settled into the job], but you will be achieving your dreams and you will be happy.

Educational requirements: You won't need a diploma or a degree from a polytechnic or a university. But you will need to get a proficiency of Swim Australia Teacher (SAT) issued by us at STI.

Qualities needed: Swimming instructors will need good communication skills. They must be responsible, have patience and be committed.

Salary range: It depends on the number students you have. If you only have one student at the start of your career, your starting salary will be about $2,000 on average.

Working hours: It depends on the number of students you have as well. It could range from one hour to nine hours per day.

Career prospects: Besides teaching other trainees, you get to branch off into other types of swimming, such as aqua aerobics, special needs swimming and even competitive swimming.

TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ANGELA OUYANG
BANNER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/BRANDON CHIA