Breaking Barriers – Real Life Stories

Back in February, we announced the launch of our #BreakingBarriers project, which was created as part of our continued commitment for promoting Inclusiveness, Integrity and Collaboration in grassroots learn to swim programmes.

Obviously when COVID hit and pools closed in March, the project was put on hold, but its back and below are three inspiring real-life stories all themed around ‘positively changing lives.

#BreakingBarriers in Teaching

The day Jade Kloppers met Matt Pike her life changed – he gave her the encouragement to start a new career in swimming teaching, the only barrier was that she couldn’t swim.

Jade, a mother of 4, was working as a pool deck assistant for a swim school in South Africa when she first met Matt, who was working there as a swimming teacher. Jade would help with getting swimmers dressed before and after lessons, and support Matt’s swimmers on the pool deck.

Jade recalls how Matt always told her that she was wasting her talent and would make a great teacher, and continually encouraged her to go on a swimming teacher’s course. The main obstacle, or barrier, was that Jade couldn’t swim and was scared!

Slowly, Jade overcame her fears and Matt patiently started to teach her how to swim. Jade said it wasn’t easy, and that she really had to push herself mentally and physically, but soon everything slotted into place, she grew in confidence and learned how to swim.


Today, Jade is a qualified Level 2 STA swimming teacher and works full-time with Matt at Swimmatix, a swim school he set up in 2014. Jade has also gone on to qualify as a Level 2 STA Baby & Pre-School Teacher and an Autism Teacher, and is currently training with Matt to be a STA Unregulated International Tutor.

“I thank God for giving me this opportunity to wake up every morning happy, doing something I love” – Jade Kloppers

Swimmatix is an internationally recognised STA Swim Star Swim School offering lessons for babies through to adults in Pinelands, Athlone, Rondebosch, Tokai, Muizenberg, Milnerton and Bellville – find out more here.

#BreakingBarriers to Empower Families

An STA Tutor that has been #BreakingBarriers during the pandemic is Annalize Butler who runs B.O.S.S, a specialist arm of Polaris Aquatic Training for BAME learners.

When pools re-opened in September, Annalize de-camped from London to West Bromwich, in the Midlands, to set up a 5-week pilot scheme at a private swimming pool with the aim of empowering families from the local BAME community.

Annalize trained her team of teachers, inviting parents and their children, typically of 4 person households, to come together and learn how to swim, and gain water confidence, as a family unit.

More than 100 swimmers from families all the over Midlands, some travelling for up to 1.5 hours from a 70Km radius, attended the weekly sessions. Many of the parents had not swam since they were young so were not water confident. Some were aquaphobic, or simply (parents and the children) had not been given the opportunity to learn to swim.

Providing welcoming and inclusive sessions (to build water confidence) played a huge part in the B.O.S.S teaching programme. The differing health needs of the learners – fibromyalgia, sickle cell trait and lupus – also needed to be considered too.

The family sessions provided a friendly, warm and secure teaching environment for parents to have fun with their children, all whilst learning new skills. In fact, 91% of the learners all received their first B.O.S.S swimming certificate at the end of the 5-week pilot.

Let’s hear from one of the families that have positively benefited from Annalize inspiring learn to swim family programme.

Inspiring a new generation of teachers

The second part of this #BreakingBarriers story, also includes Annalize encouraging the teenagers who attended the sessions with their parents to train to become STA swimming teachers – her aim was, and is, to increase opportunities for BOSS in aquatics, nurture talent and build water confidence in the BAME community.

Annalize, through her company Polaris Aquatic Training, a Safety Training Awards ATC, successfully qualified 3 young STA Level 2 swimming teachers at the Jules swimming pool, and began the journey of training a further 12 teachers. 16-year-old Kejai is being mentored by Annalize, and next year she hopes to be working with Aquabatix and the Jamaican national swimming team to develop programmes for swimmers and teachers in 2021. Subira, a mother of 3, wants to become the next STA tutor, to support Annalize who represents less than a handful of aquatic tutors with a BAME background in the UK.

Next …

Such has been the success of the pilot, Annalize plans to continue with the B.O.S.S sessions when pools reopen after the second lockdown, and extend the opportunity to other parts of the country. She said:

“The programme will also connect with charitable events including the Grenfell project ‘Family Swims’ programme, which was due to take place this year. Family swims will celebrate unity in sports with inspirational people and organisations who are passionate about working together, and creating a legacy for positive change. Similar to past projects where I’ve taught, the event will host some free-swimming sessions. If you attended the mobile pool on Coin Street in 2009, you may know what to expect.

As part of this, we are also looking for support from aquatic professionals who would like to offer skills, time and volunteer expertise for a 2021 summer event that will provide a community project especially for families in the North Kensington area. As part of this family swimming project, which will be open to people of all ages and abilities, we aim to find mentors in aquatics, and provide access to jobs and training.”

#BreakingBarriers – Never Too Late

Aged 71, Glenis finally faced her fears of swimming thanks to encouragement from her eight-year-old granddaughter.

Glenis recalls her #BreakingBarriers story here:

“After a long conversation with my eight-year-old granddaughter, she quite rightly told me I should face my fears and hence I decided to give one last go at learning to swim. I’d a couple of nasty experiences when I was a lot younger, so the thought of learning to swim really scared me.

I was terrified by the time I started my first lesson but armed with a noodle, two floats and my instructor’ Debbie instructor I somehow got through the first class and with lots of encouragement from Debbie, I kept going.

I realised that my main fear was sinking to the bottom on my front and not being able to breath. At the age of 71 I am now able to swim on my own, although not very far and not very elegantly, but I have achieved something that I never thought I would, and being able to be in water with my grandchildren is amazing.

Once I was able to float face down, 99 per cent of my fears disappeared and although at present because of the COVID pandemic I’m not able to do any swimming, wild horses will not keep me away from the pool when it is safe for me to do so.”

Thanks to Glenis’s swimming teacher’ Debbie Adams, from Adams Aquatics, for sharing this inspiring #BreakingBarriers story.

#BreakingBarriers, Community, Member News

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