Skills Active Apprentice of the Year competition: A swimming career from Buenos Aires to Gore

October 7, 2019

Mariano Garcia Nani supports swimmers of all abilities to find and celebrate their swimming strengths, and he’s in the running for Apprentice of the Year with Skills Active Aotearoa, the industry training organisation for aquatics.

Each year, this award goes to a high-potential apprentice with commitment, passion and diligence, who has the skills and qualifications to improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders, through the medium of sport, recreation or the performing arts.

Mariano brought his passion for swim education from South America to New Zealand, where he now lives in Gore and works as head coach at the Gore Multisport Complex.

He was studying and working as a lifeguard after high school in Argentina, when he decided to give life in New Zealand a go. He spent some time in Auckland, first as a lifeguard, and then as a swimming instructor. When the Gore head coach job came up, he jumped at the chance.

“I’ve been coaching here for more than two years now, with triathletes, age group learners, Junior Squad swimmers, and Special Squad swimmers - those with different conditions such as autism, dyspraxia and chromosomal conditions,” Mariano says.

His work with people of all abilities was one of the motivators for Mariano to enrol in the NZ Certificate in Aquatics - Specialised Swim and Water Safety Teacher Level 4. This apprenticeship is jointly accredited through Swimming New Zealand and Skills Active. It includes an elective module on teaching ‘adaptive aquatics’ for swimmers with special conditions.

“I knew it was going to be useful when working with swimmers with different skills, and I also wanted to learn different approaches for my coaching philosophy.”

While working on this module, Mariano explored ideas around different swimmers’ strengths, and focusing on these, rather than trying to improve their weaknesses, or change their conditions.

He completed online lessons, researched different health conditions, recorded himself teaching and created scenarios where he helped swimmers with special conditions.

No matter who the student is, Mariano says he is passionate about being part of their journey and helping them grow as an athlete and as a person. He is also passionate about biomechanics, sport psychology, and finding the right way to communicate with each individual learner.

“I love teaching a skill that supports a healthy lifestyle. And I am also keen to work with swimmers who are seeking to reach the pinnacle of their sport.”

About the Apprentice of the Year competition

Mariano is one of three candidates for the 2019 Skills Active Apprentice of the Year. The winner will be announced at the Recreation Conference in November. Check out our website to find out more about the other candidates!


Media contact for Skills Active

Esther McLaren

021 195 5127

About Skills Active

Skills Active Aotearoa is the industry training organisation for recreation, exercise, sport and performing arts. We are a non-profit organisation, 50% owned by Māori shareholders, and funded by government to promote careers and workforce development in our industries, work with those industries to create world-class qualifications, and support workplaces to train staff.