Four weeks ago, an eight-year-old boy came to my house for swim lessons for the first time.
I had never met him before, and his mom had seen something I had posted regarding lessons on Facebook, and that’s how we ended up meeting each other.
This kid was petrified of the water.
I am not lying when I say I have never seen anyone who was so scared of a pool. Ever.
And I’ve spent a lot of time in the water with hundreds of kids.
This guy very reluctantly put his feet onto the top step that first day, but getting him to come all the way down into the actual pool was a challenge.
Forget putting his face in the water.
By the end of the first lesson, I had managed to get to him to take a couple steps away from the side of the pool while I held his hands.
I felt so bad for this poor kid. He was sweet and polite and he wasn’t shy at all. But he was genuinely terrified in the water.
His mom had arranged for three lessons with me.
By the third lesson, we had established some trust, and the mom was so happy that he was developing any confidence at all, that she asked me to do ten more lessons with her son.
There are some kids who I look forward to doing lessons with more than others.
Some kids you really bond with. Some kids are just a pain in the ass. So some lessons go by really quickly, and some lessons just drag by.
Lessons with this boy flew by. I never dreaded them. I never found myself checking my watch every 5 minutes.
He was just so brave. And he worked so hard.
After the second week of lessons, he was putting his face in the water and stepping away from the wall without holding my hand.
After the third week of lessons, he actually swam across the width of my pool, and was able to take a breath and keep going.
He was jumping in from the side and getting diving sticks off the bottom of the pool.
I couldn’t believe it.
So last week I told him I had a goal for him.
By his last lesson, I wanted him to swim across the pool. The long way. Across the deep end. Unassisted.
I think his mom may have thought I was a little bit crazy.
Today we had our thirteenth lesson. The last one.
He knew what I was going to ask him to do, and he was very nervous.
I had him start in the deep end so he would get the scary part over with first.
And he was definitely very scared.
He said to me, “I don’t think I can do it.”
Just as I had on so many other occasions, I said to him, “I would never ask you to do something you can’t do. And you are always safe.”
Then I told him to focus not on the feeling of how scared he was, but on how awesome he would feel about himself when he made it across the pool.
It took several minutes for him to build up the nerve to push off the wall.
I was just a foot or two in front of him the entire time.
He did exactly what I told him to do.
Four strokes, then take a breath. Four strokes, then take a breath. Four strokes, then take a breath.
And about twenty seconds later, he was at the other side.
He fucking did it.
His smile was from ear to ear, and he said to me, “I can’t believe I just did that.”
I wanted to scream and jump for joy and yell out “OH MY GOD THAT WAS AMAZING!!!”
But I was crying so hard I couldn’t say a word.
I’ve never done that before.
I spent a total of six and a half hours with this guy.
And in six and a half hours, he went from being terrified of stepping foot in a pool to swimming across the whole effing thing.
It was a really big moment. And I got to be a part of it.
And the reason why I share this story isn’t because I think I’m some kind of amazing teacher.
It’s because I think most of us have no idea how much we can really accomplish.
Today the biggest moving-out-of-your-comfort-zone-moment I have ever witnessed was given to me by an eight year old boy, and I will never forget it.
Don’t doubt yourself. You are capable of overcoming anything.