Adults taking the plunge to learn how to swim
Coach Jon Caswell, left, with students in his Mastering Masters class, including Jesse Booth, seated.
EVAN WILLIAMS/ FLORIDA WEEKLY Although Bettina Whyte tried to take swimming lessons a number of times, as a child and later in college, it never stuck.
“My parents weren’t really water people,” she says. “I think a lot of it was a fear of water.”
As a former crisis manager, it was Ms. Whyte’s job to go into public companies that were sinking financially, take them over and figure out how to either save them or lead them through bankruptcy. When it came to getting in real water, though, she wouldn’t even put her head under.
Now 63, Ms. Whyte learned to swim five years ago with instruction from Monica Cardwell, a private teacher who works in the Naples and Bonita Springs area and is the former aquatics supervisor at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Ms. Cardwell is also a certified lifeguard and massage therapist.
Jesse Booth, 70, is taking the plunge to go beyond his rudimentary swimming skills. “The first thing she said to me was, ‘Put your head under water and blow bubbles,’” Ms. Whyte recalls. “I looked at her like she was an idiot. I said, ‘I can’t do that. I can’t put my head under water.’”
Now she tends to swim about a half mile per day and considers this later life skill “my greatest achievement.”
Other adults who are improving their ability to swim might not have started completely from scratch like Ms. Whyte, but they’re taking the plunge more often for their own reasons.
Naples resident Jesse Booth, 70, felt he was never any good at swimming. “It worked, but it wasn’t efficient,” he says. “I never had any type of instruction.”
Mr. Booth is taking swimming lessons for the first time, along with a group of 10 others, at a new Naples clinic for inexperienced adult swimmers. They pay $35 per month to meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings under the direction of Jon Caswell of T2 Aquatics and Naples Swim School, at the YMCA Norris Aquatic Center. Coach Caswell, a former head swimming coach at Providence College in Rhode Island, started the clinic in June.
Called Mastering Masters, the lessons can be a prelude to T2’s U.S. Masters program, which is more competitive and holds monthly meets, or just for fun, exercise and learning fundamental strokes. Mastering Masters is for ages 19 and up, although many of the students are in their 30s to 50s, according to Wyn Saunier, T2 Aquatics director of operations.
“It’s for people who aren’t swimmers,” Mr. Saunier says. “We’re talking a step up from basic water safety.”
Brian Mayotte, 36, competed in a recent triathlon in Naples that involved a quarter-mile swim in the open ocean. “I could swim the distance, I was just terrible at it,” he says about the effort. So he enrolled in Mastering Masters in hopes of getting good enough to finish such a swim comfortably. “What you learn here is how to reach, how to maximize your stroke, maximize your kick,” he says.
At a recent session, Coach Caswell has the group start off with a 10-minute swim. After a break, they swim shorter distances, alternating between faster and slower paces. He asks the participants to count the number of strokes it takes them to get to the other side of the pool.
“I try to teach them how to get to the other side of the pool with the least number of strokes,” he says.
Mr. Booth is learning how to be a better swimmer after being forced away from other types of fitness. He’s always been an avid runner, and used to work out at a gym almost religiously, three or four days per week. But within the last five years, pain in his body forced him to give that up. His doctor prescribed a low dose of steroids to help alleviate the pain. Looking for alternative ways to exercise, Mr. Booth found swimming reduced his pain, also enabling him to cut back on his medication.
“I look at swimming as something that could replace other things, because I think you can swim later in life,” he says.
After the initial 10-minute swim, he pops up from the water into the humid evening air, out of breath. “I’m feeling it,” he manages to say. ¦
>> What: Swimming lessons
for ages 19 and older
>> When: 7:30-8:15 p.m. Tuesdays and
Thursdays starting in September
(slightly different hours in the summer)
>> Where: T2 Aquatics and Naples Swim School,
at the YMCA Norris Aquatic Center, 13275
>> Cost: $35 per month