Skills Active apprenticeship the culmination of a lifelong love of swimming

July 1, 2019

Mariano Garcia Nani has been teaching swimmers since he finished high school in his native Argentina. Now, his years of experience have been formally recognised through a swim teaching apprenticeship with Skills Active Aotearoa.

After teaching both kids and adults at the IMOS pool in Buenos Aires, Mariano decided to make a big change, and came to live in New Zealand four years ago. He worked as a pool lifeguard and swim teacher in Auckland, before being promoted to assistant coach. Then he moved to Gore two years ago to take up the role of head coach at the Gore Multisport Complex.

As head coach, Mariano spends a lot of time planning, creating sessions, and setting objectives for his learners. He takes his swimmers through the theory side to help reinforce the concepts they are using, and he develops templates for his competitive swimmers, who work through training cycles in order to prepare for regional and national contests. Mariano also uses templates for his other swimmers – juniors, masters, and those learning the basics.

“A typical day would start around 7am, or some days at 5am in order to do the morning sessions. I coach in the morning, afternoon and evenings. My days are long and intense.”

Swim teaching provides lot of challenges, Mariano says – identifying and articulating the details of a swimmer’s stroke, and communicating with every learner in a way that’s meaningful to them.

Mariano say he gets all kinds of different learners at the swim school, and loves to analyse their needs and adapt his teaching to suit.

“There are the hyper-energetic ones just waiting to push off the wall and swim fast as they can, the ones who are off in their own world, the ones who listen and memorise my every instruction, and the ones that challenge me every day in class just to test how grumpy I am!”

Completing his Skills Active apprenticeship was “great, and a lot of hard work”, according to Mariano.

The training brought up many questions that required time, research and contemplation. In the process, it prompted Mariano to think more deeply about the “why” and the “how” of his teaching practice, and it also increased his focus on adaptive aquatics – teaching swimmers with disabilities.

“It opened up my horizons, going through the programme, particularly in relation to swimmers with health conditions. I became aware of the need to focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

“As teachers, we should be looking at swimmers with disabilities as swimmers who happen to have a condition, rather than swimmers who are unable to grow, learn or improve.”

Mariano enjoyed putting into action the concepts he was learning through his apprenticeship. He also started recording himself teaching, and found it a valuable way to look back at his methods and find areas he could keep improving on.

Mariano’s game plan for the future involves continuing to learn and grow his skill set, and eventually becoming a high performance swimming coach.

“I love the intellectual challenge of identifying the flaws or the strengths in a swimmer’s stroke, and I love the challenge of finding the right way to communicate with every learner so that it’s meaningful to them.

“Most of all I love the purpose of teaching, and being a fellow traveller as people go on their journey of learning and growth.”