My Journey with Sport Aberdeen: Shãron Mathers
At what age did you start your learn to swim journey with Sport Aberdeen?
I started aged 47 unable to swim a single stroke. My children had all been involved in Aquatics Aberdeen since they were each about 6 months old so I knew the system, and the admin and many of the teachers. When I decided that I was going to learn it was obviously where I was going to go. Many other “learn to swim” providers don’t have an adult program at all which is such a shame.
Where do you currently do your lessons?
I have my lessons at Cults academy every Tuesday evening
Had you any history of swimming before this?
Absolutely none. I was brought up in a little town in Perthshire with no public pool. Our closest swimming pool was in Perth which was a 40 mile round trip. My mum worked shifts as a nurse and my Dad worked offshore – it was impossible for them to commit to taking my sister and I to lessons so far away. We’d splash around in pools on holiday and paddle in the sea but neither of us could swim. My mum and dad can’t swim either. I think I can safely say I’m the first swimmer in my family.
How has the programme helped you gain confidence in the water?
Oh my goodness- it’s immeasurable. I’m not a confident person, I have very low self esteem and body hang ups that could sink a ship. The first week I went to my lesson I was petrified. In fact sending the first enquiry email I was petrified…!! We have a very friendly group at Cults, everyone is so friendly and super- encouraging of every other learner. Everyone has started from scratch and knows what an achievement it is to just come through the door. And hand-on-heart – no-one even notices how anyone else looks (unless you have a particularly gorgeous swimmie and I want to know where you got it….).
Swimming has genuinely changed my life. October 2017 was my very first ever lesson where we worked on getting my face in the water and blowing bubbles. March 31st 2019 I completed my Swimathon challenge – 2.5k or 100 lengths in about 90 minutes raising £400 in sponsorship. I have never ever pushed my body physically like that, and the confidence that I’ve gained in knowing I can set myself what seems like a ridiculous challenge, and meet it, has been amazing. All my family and friends, and especially Leigh-Anne my teacher have been so proud of me.
Did you feel there was a stigma around people learning to swim later in life?
Actually genuinely no – everyone that I ever told has been amazingly supportive. From my trepidation at going to my very first lesson to now, everyone has been really supportive and has said what an amazing thing it is to do. I work in a school and the pupils find it a bit strange that I’m having swimming lessons, but when I tell them that I swim 3-4 times a week and often do 1000m they are amazed.
What advice would you give to other adults looking to learn?
Absolutely do it. Yes it’s scary. Yes that first phone call or email takes a massive leap. Set up a direct debit to pay for your lessons – you’ll be more likely to go to that first one. And once you’ve made it through the door for your first one, you’ll realise you aren’t the only one, everyone is super friendly supportive and understanding and no-one cares how you look.!!