Swim teacher Emma Dobson, who left her career as an architectural technologist to put her family first after her daughter Zoe was diagnosed with the rare children’s cancer Neuroblastoma.  Zoe sadly lost her battle with the disease but when Emma was ready to return to work, she was keen to ensure those new-found priorities would remain - so she became a swimming teacher after first becoming interested in a change of career when taking Zoe to her first swimming parent and child classes.

Emma Dobson

Emma Dobson

Her job is now rewarding, flexible, and gives her the opportunity to support young children in learning an invaluable life skill. 

In light of this, Swim England are launching a new campaign joining forces with 10 leading leisure operators to inspire more people to become swimming teachers and support the nation post-Covid to become healthier, happier, and more physically active. 

Swim England’s new research shows 96 per cent of swimming teachers in the UK love their job – and are more likely to agree being on poolside gives them happiness, fulfilment and a good work/life balance compared to national averages. 

We caught up with Emma to talk to her about her choice to empower herself, changing careers to suit her needs and how doing her true passion has transformed her life.

Has swimming always been your exercise of choice? 

It was up until my late teens. In my 20's and 30's I did not participate in much sport at all. It was not until a few years ago when I started swimming again and even more recently cycling. I took part in my first ever Super Sprint Triathlon last year and due to give my first Sprint distance Tri a go in just a few weeks time. Swimming is a great all round sport suitablfor all ages – it has so many wider health benefits both mental and physical, and something I know well is that it creates a bond if you’re taking part as a family. 

Why did you not want to go back to your previous job as an architectural technologist when you were ready to return to the workplace? 

I did not believe that it would fit in with family life as much as swim teaching and certainly would not bring the same level of job satisfaction. This was proven right - I would urge anyone to reflect, as we come out of the pandemic, and think about what can really make them happy in terms of what they do for work, and how they choose to spend their time. For me, it’s swimming teaching, and I it’s without doubt the best decision I have ever made.

Your experience swimming with your daughter seemed to spark your interest, so was your goal firmly fixed in your mind straightaway and what did you do to set the wheels in motion? 

Taking Zoe swimming definitely sparked the interest, however, changing careers would not have been a feasible option so it felt like a bit of a pipe dream at the time. It was not until she passed that both the motivation to do something that I really enjoyed and that really mattered became a real priority for the future. So it was at that time I decided it had to be worth investing the time and money in myself to allow a better family balance and rewarding career in the future.

For those who don't know- what is the process to becoming a fully qualified swimming instructor? 

You need to either complete the Swim England Level 1 Qualification initially to be an assistant teacher and then complete the level 2 to become a fully qualified swimming instructor.

How long does it take and what qualifications do you need? 

The time taken and cost varies depending on whether you opt for a face-to-face course, blended learning or the online and virtual option – but Swim England are supporting more and more people with accessible routes into teaching as a career.

What advice do you have for other women who are looking for a change in career? 

Making any sort of change can always be scary but do your research, believe in yourself and do what's right for you.  Making the change to become a swimming teacher was the best thing for me and I love how rewarding it is and how it fits around my life.

When is the best time to get your child into a swimming pool? 

Anytime! You can take your child swimming when he or she is a baby and carry on as they get older.  But don't think if you haven't done it when they are young that you can't start now. Children (and adults) of all ages can benefit from swimming. It is a great healthy fun activity for the whole family which can be enjoyed together or as individually. If you have young children, attending a parent and child class can be an amazing bonding activity without the distraction of phones, chores or other siblings.

If you had to give an elevator pitch to someone and offer them a reason to become a swimming instructor what would you say? 

There are so many reasons but for me it is such a rewarding way to pass on a lifelong skill. We facilitate an activity that may bring joy in the moment, a safety skill in the future and a way of staying healthy in adulthood. I love meeting lots of different people from all different backgrounds. This includes not only the swimmers and their families but other teachers and support staff that are found within the swimming environment.  Although my preferred swimmers are babies and preschool children there are so many other routes available once you have become a swimming teacher - adults, synchronised swimming, competitive coaching, water polo, swim coordinator, school swimming etc. 

How does it make you feel to see children progress in the pool? 

Seeing a child achieve something that they never thought they could, even if it is as simple as putting their face in the water makes me proud of them and gives me a sense of happiness and fulfillment to have been able to support that development.   

Swim England's new research found that swimming instructors are happy and fulfilled in their working life and have a good work/life balance so to what extent do you agree with these findings?

100% I would definitely say that is the case for me and would recommend it as a career path for anyone who is interested. A lot of people will be considering what they are doing and their choices around their career, and if doing something rewarding is your priority, there’s nothing better than being a swim teacher because it is so important that children learn to swim and can always be safe in the water.

What is next for you? 

I would love to carry on teaching.  As my children grow more independent I expect that I will have more time to diversify within the industry and start working with different groups of swimmers.  Also all being well if I manage the aforementioned triathlon I might give another one of them a go!

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