Promise me someone is teaching boys to swim?

swim, swimming, Michael Phelps, boys, girls, gymnastics

Michael Phelps; somebody taught him to swim.

Something’s been bothering me recently. It’s a little something that occurred to me a few weeks ago while taking my daughter to her weekly swimming lesson; very few boys were being taught to swim.

It may just be some freaky anomaly at the pool we attend, but I noticed a chronic lack of boys. There were a few in the basic, beginners class but that was it. There were none in the intermediate or advanced classes.

My daughter also does gymnastics. In the world we live in, where some tight gender expectations still exist, you kind of expect there to be a heavy gender imbalance. There are one or two intrepid boys in her class but otherwise, all female.

What, however, is going on the swimming pool? I’d never have assumed this was a girls-only activity. Based purely on my anecdotal evidence, this seems to be the case.

Swimming lessons are an interesting one if you’re a dad. As a stay at home father, I occasionally go to the pool with my toddler during the week in addition to taking my eldest at the weekend. During the week I can be the only guy in the pool with a kid but come the weekend, the dads come out in huge numbers. Swimming is one of those weekend activities that seems to have the word dad written all over it.

A while ago I got talking to a dad at the pool. He had a son in the same class as my daughter. He thought it was vital his boy learn to swim.

I clearly remember the words he said to me; “If my boy fell in the water and anything happened to him, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I hadn’t taught him how to swim.”

Interestingly, I haven’t seen this guy for a very long time. I have no idea if his kid is still receiving lessons but I assume not.

I only have daughters so I have no idea what goes on in the minds of boys in the 21st century. Are girls simply more enthusiastic swimmers? Do us parents think boys only need to learn the basics? Could it be some kind of body confidence thing; boys don’t like changing rooms?

I’m perfectly prepared to accept that our pool may be a freaky anomaly. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts none the less.

Pic credit; Linus Egger. Reproduced under Creative Commons agreement.

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  1. Jason Scott
    December 28, 2015 / 1:35 pm

    We’ve observed the same thing. A class full of girls and only one or two boys. Girls seem keener to learn more swimming strokes whereas boys get the basics then give up.

    • John Adams
      January 2, 2016 / 6:53 am

      It’s strange isn’t it? I thought swimming was a very gender neutral activity but maybe it isn’t. I went to a school with a large river thundering past at the end of the school yard so ALL boys and girls were taught to swim from a young age. Maybe for other kids it is a gender thing but with my background it isn’t?

  2. December 28, 2015 / 2:35 pm

    I had noticed the same situation at my son and daughter’s pool. It’s a pretty even mix in the beginners class and then, as the classes go up, the boys disappear. My son is one of 2 boys in his class of 6. His older sister only has 1 boy in her group and there are no older boys at all.

    At the recent swimming trials that they had at school to enter the Croydon swimming gala, I believe that the year 5 and 6 entrants were almost entirely girls too.

    Are the boys off doing ‘boyish’ sports such as football, cricket, cross-country?

    Swimming is the only activity that both of my children have to do – for the reasons that man at your pool expressed.

    • John Adams
      January 2, 2016 / 6:56 am

      Bizarre isn’t it Helen? I would never have thought swimming was seen as an activity with a gender divide. I attended a a primary school with a large river running at the end of the school yard and so all kids were dispatched to the local pool from a very young age and swimming certificates were regularly handed out at assembly to boys and girls. I can see why some activities would be considered girly or for boys but swimming??? I just don’t get it.

  3. Sue Barsby
    January 5, 2016 / 11:01 am

    When we were able to take E to lessons (we’ve stopped for a while now and I’m trying to do it myself – she didn’t respond well) practically everyone else in the pool had sons. They were also mainly dads. These were at weekends. When we go during the week, it’s more mums and a mix of children – whoever is available. So I’m not sure what to draw from that? If we average out our anomalies, then it looks like all bases covered.

    • John Adams
      January 6, 2016 / 6:05 am

      This sounds familiar to me, but my question would be what age are the kids? Do you see many seven or eight year old boys in the pool? Once school starts their swimming lessons seem to come to a juddering halt. It simply concerns me that it may be seen as a girly pastime when in fact it’s an essential life skill. As I’ve mentioned in other comments, I went to a primary school which had a river at the bottom of the playing field. All children were taken for weekly swimming lessons and there was no girl / boy thing; we all elarned how to swim and all had to go up and collect our latest swimming certificate in front of the whole school at assembly. My concern is some boys are encouraged to think of it as girly.

  4. January 5, 2016 / 2:50 pm

    it may be down to the time of day- if the lessons are after school then the boys may be doing after school sports activities. I’ve taken our kids to swimming lessons at 9am on a Sunday since our 8 year old was 3 and the split is probably 60/40 in favour of boys at the older end, with 50/50 at the younger (4 and 5 year olds) end.

    • John Adams
      January 6, 2016 / 5:59 am

      I don’t know what to make of the situation Alex. I either go weekday mornings or at weekends. If you read the comments here there’s a mixed bag; some people have spotted what I have, others have seen the opposite. My primary school had a very fast stretch of river right at the end of the playing field. All kids were expected to swim so I grew up in a bubble where swimming was just a thing, not a boy or girl thing. Some people, it seems, still think of it as a slightly girly thing which is sad.