The Swim Nazi

This summer, Samantha and Amelia took swim lessons from Ms. Conni (a.k.a. the Swim Nazi), a former head diving coach for UCI and private swim coach for the local nationally ranked swim team, the Nadadores. The Nadadores consistently send kids to the Olympics, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that their coaches mean business, hence the “Swim Nazi” nickname.

I had heard of Ms. Conni before from friends and people from church whose older kids were on the Nadadores, but had no idea she taught toddlers until I saw my friend, Crystal’s, 2.5 year old swimming like a fish at our neighborhood pool. Crystal herself had taken lessons from Ms. Conni when she was a toddler and now her little Kennedy does too.

I didn’t have any hope of getting in for the summer since I was told the Swim Nazi filled up her classes for the year once registration went out in January, but I contacted her anyway and was so happy to grab the last two spots in her very last session, even though we’d only get to do 10 lessons with her.

I heard from multiple parents that I should be prepared to cry– a lot– during the first few lessons after hearing stories of the Swim Nazi throwing babies in the pool while parents watched in horror, but it was nothing like that.

Samantha awaits her turn.

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Ms. Conni was awesome and Samantha and Amelia immediately took to her, although I could see where the nickname, “Swim Nazi” came from. She was waaaaaay harder on the parents than she was on the kids. She would demonstrate a skill to work on, like how to get the kids to float on their backs, and then every few seconds would yell at us, “Not like that! How do you expect her to float when you are holding her neck like a crane?!!”

I was yelled at a few times for using the phrase, “under water.” “THAT CREATES A NEGATIVE CONNOTATION! USE THE TERM, ‘GETTING OUR EYES WET!”

Ok, whatever.

She consistently yelled at people for saying “Good job!” and instead commanded us to describe exactly what the kids had done right and then say, “You did it!” The girls still love to proclaim, “I did it!” whenever they feel they’ve accomplished something.

The Swim Nazi even doled out parenting advice. “WHY ARE YOU PHRASING THAT AS A QUESTION?” she chastised Jake when he asked Samantha if she could swim to the edge. “JUST SAY, ‘Show me how you can swim to the edge.'”

There was one older child who had a really hard time letting go of his mom the first lesson and screamed for the first 15 minutes. She simply gave him some time to scream, and then swam over to him and yelled, “EXCUSE ME. STOP.” And he did! We were in awe.

Lessons were not for the faint of heart or for parents who couldn’t take criticism, but the girls thought Ms. Conni was fun (getting to play with pool toys and blow bubbles after the lesson won them over) and I loved that she spent most of the time teaching the parents so that we could practice with the kids outside of class.

I also loved that Ms. Conni was a total– well– Nazi– about pool safety and all of our lessons were geared around that. In the past, we’ve put the girls in “fun” group lessons where we mostly swam around in circles singing Ring Around the Rosie. While those lessons were fun, the girls didn’t nail down many real skills.

The only downside was that since the only time slot we could get into was 5 p.m., the girls were always completely exhausted and hangry afterwards, not to mention my preggo self.

During one of her hangry moments, Samantha threw a complete tantrum at the end of her lesson. Ms. Conni simply came up to her and said gently, “We have to be quiet so that we can find the kitty cats.”

I was totally floored when Samantha stopped mid-scream and immediately became curious about the kitty cats. Apparently, this stuck with her, because even now, if I tell her to be quiet, she will talk about finding the kitty cats. Total genius.

I told Ms. Conni that I would love to hire her to follow me around all day and give me parenting advice!

The very last day of our session was safety day and Samantha and Amelia were required to jump into the pool with street clothes and shoes on, the idea being that many drownings happen when kids fall in the pool by accident. The girls hated every second of swimming with their clothes on, but even with all that extra weight, they passed with flying colors.

On the last day, they were allowed to jump off the diving board, which I didn’t think the girls would be interested in. Samantha surprised me by begging to go off. She actually did a few little jumps on the board before leaping into the pool, where Ms. Conni was waiting to make sure she did her back float successfully and help her reach the edge. It was awesome to see her fully clothed, leaping into the pool, coming up for air, getting to her back and then swimming to the edge of the pool.

I didn’t get the first jump on video, but we did get her back float. Not very pretty, but she did it! Not bad for ten lessons.

After watching her sister, Amelia decided she REALLY didn’t want to try the diving board, but Jake tossed her in anyway. She asked to go a few more times after the initial shock wore off.

We will be back for round two next year!

Lots of love,

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