I am a coach. My world revolves around helping people to become better. It is a job that I feel very privileged to be in and in the last 20 years that I have been doing it I have experienced all sorts of pupils and improvement rates. Over the last year I have met someone who has made the most progress I have ever seen. This is a story about a growth mindset and how you can always get better. It’s a story about inspiration and hard work and blowing old dog and new tricks out of the water.
My mum and I started taking swimming lessons together last year. She had turned 60 and she told me she wanted to learn to swim. As a runner, occasional tennis player and fitness enthusiast I decided selfishly it would suit me too as something I could do to help me tick over in the times of injury that have become ever more frequent.
There was another dimension to this as well. When I was growing up my parents allowed me to have swimming lessons. My mum would never had access to this luxury growing up as one of ten children. I felt like I had to make sure we would do everything to help her learn to swim.
We started about August or September a few weeks after her birthday. We had found a coach through John from Fusion Triathlon Club in Glasgow called Jenny who has been absolutely amazing. On the first couple of lessons my mum literally could do nothing. She travelled back and forth 5 m between the side of the pool and the lane divider.
We carried on till about November time before postponing lessons for a while due to our transaltlantic commitments with grandchildren and nephews abroad.
Fast forward to April 2015. My mum is asking to go back to swimming lessons. She says she has hit a wall, she has been practising 3 times per week and she feels like she is not getting any better. I email Jenny who is busy sitting finals. We resume lessons eventually in June.
We jumped into the pool for the first time in seven or so months. My Mum had been practising 3 times per week and although I had absorbed this information on some sub conscious level, I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to behold. Neither was Jenny. The three of us all started swimming up the pool and Jenny and I both stood up in shock or surprise or maybe celebration as we watched my mum swim confidently ahead. I think we broke out into spontaneous applause. We were witnessing at first hand the 10,000 hour rule, the “if at first you don’t succeed”, practice makes perfect philosophy embodied in one moment in a swimming pool in Maryhill.
I’m going to stop going on in a minute but before I do I need to tell you one more thing. At the end of the lesson I joked with my mum about having a race up the pool. The 25 m pool that she couldn’t even do a fraction of a year ago. Not only did she make the full length, she also thrashed me. I need to get practising!
Mum, you’ve just turned 61 today and in my world you have achieved more than I think I have ever seen before. I am so proud of you and you are living proof that with the right kind of practice, quality coaching and perhaps most importantly the belief that you can always get better, you can achieve whatever you dream of. Happy Birthday!!