Lest I create a false impression, my difficulties in learning motor skills are not due to any physical handicap. In fact, by patient effort, I generally excelled in whatever I attempted to do. When I was learning to drive a bicycle, I had many an accident. The trees shuddered whenever I came near them. Nevertheless, I eventually learned to ride well. I had the same success in such sports as baseball, basketball, and volleyball. I still am a formidable competitor whenever I have an opportunity to play basketball with a group of young men.
But let’s turn to the subject that I wish to discuss: how I learned to swim. For several reasons, I found this skill especially difficult to learn, and it took several years.
First, whereas most children splash around in water at a very early age, I did not have an opportunity to swim until I was eight or nine years old. Before this, I lived in a rural area far from any swimming pool. There was a river on our farm, but no one ever encouraged me to enter the water.
Secondly, because of a personal peculiarity, swimming is not a congenial activity for me. I find that I am most comfortable when everyone else starts complaining that the weather is too hot. I have always loved to work vigorously in the hot noonday sun, though lately I forgo the pleasure after learning about the carcinogenic properties of ultraviolet light. In contrast, I feel uncomfortable if my environment is cold or even cool, and water is generally cold. Because of this, swimming has never been my favorite activity. Even after I learned to swim, I often felt chagrin when my playmates wanted to go swimming on a hot day instead of playing baseball.
At any rate, I was either eight or nine years old when I finally had the opportunity to take swimming lessons. For three weeks, a bus full of children drove to a neighboring town where the lessons took place.
In spite of the factors that I outlined above, I did not have a negative attitude. I was eager to learn. Nevertheless, it was difficult. I could not get the hang of it. Three weeks passed, and I still could not swim.
Swimming lessons became an annual event. It was not until the very end of the second or third season that I had an inkling of success. At the suggestion of the instructor, I relaxed and floated on my back. Then, with the help of the instructor, I more or less started swimming on my back, using the frog kick.
During the next season, I became quite adept in the elementary back stroke. The only disadvantage was that I could not see where I was going. An expert would probably have found fault with my form, but no one found fault with my speed.
Finally, my moment of glory arrived. I cannot remember which season it was, but it was shortly before the swimming lessons ended that year. There was a really race. I did the back stroke, and teammates performed the breast stroke, the side stroke, and the crawl.
I was first. I raced across the pool. When I reached my teammate, my opponent was only half way across. The margin was good enough to win the relay, even though the opposing anchor man was very fast and gained considerable ground on my teammate.
It took a longer time for me to learn the breast stroke, and I do not think that I learned the side stroke till after I became an adult. I never really learned how to do the crawl properly. I always used the frog kick instead of the flutter kick, but perhaps I still will be able to master this skill some day.
When my wife reads this article, she will be disillusioned. She thinks that I am an excellent swimmer.