Stormy Cozad Bradley was 16 when she started teaching swimming at the Pasadena High School pool for the Red Cross.
But because her students were the “criers” pulled out of other classes, she had to do a little convincing before they would enter the water.
“I, literally, talked them into swimming,” she said. “It was a great introduction into teaching swimming. I used the same techniques the other teachers used, but I spent more time gaining their trust and talking them into swimming.”
Fifty years later, Bradley is still sharing her love of swimming with kids, adults, and even a few criers. She loves taking a non-swimmer, someone even afraid of the water, and turning them into someone who dives in without fear.
“I love to see them conquer whatever was holding them back,” she said.
Where does that fear come from?
Oh, maybe when an uncle or older brother pushed or tossed someone into the water when they weren’t ready. Or maybe, as Bradley says, they just never got the opportunity.
She recalls one student telling her, “Teacher, I don’t know how to swim.”
“No, you just haven’t learned yet,” Bradley answered. “You will know how to swim. That’s the thing. You just haven’t learned yet.”
And learn, they do, under her watch.
Bradley, who moved to Kauai in 1973, has taught thousands of people, young and old, to keep their heads above water, how to float, how to stay calm and how to develop that smooth swim stroke and kick and breathe all at the same time.
She has taught for the YWCA and privately in pools from Lihue to Kekaha. She has taught the children of her past students.
“It’s really easy for me to teach a kid,” she said. “I’m know I’m good at it.”
Some, however, don’t believe they can do it. Bradley convinces them otherwise.
She tells the story of one young girl who could not put her face in the water. So Bradley told her about the “Deadman’s float.” Just stretch out your arms and legs and float as long as you can. Start in the shallow water. Nothing to fear.
So the girl practiced. And practiced. Goggles helped.
“She literally went from not putting her face in the water to swimming,” Bradley said.
Bradley learned to swim at age 5 and was very good. Never knew anything but a love of the water. She didn’t swim competitively later on, though.
“I tried,” she said. “But as soon as someone passed me, I slowed down. I have no competitive spirit. I prefer teaching people to swim.”
Trust is critical between coach and student. If the student believes in their instructor, if they have faith, they’ll succeed.
The best part of teaching children to swim, Bradley said, is when the light bulb goes on and “you know they know how to do it. They’re so happy and proud of themselves.”
Bradley is planning to offer swimming lessons this summer. She’s throwing a swim party at 1 p.m. June 7 at the YMCA for her past swimming students and those interested in meeting her or taking a swimming class at the YMCA.
Swimming, Bradley said, is the best sport, “because you can do it until you’re 90. It takes away the aches and pains. It’s not jarring to any part of the body. If you have issues, it relaxes you and strengthens you at the same time.”
And it’s also a lot of fun, too.
Information: YMCA, 246-9090 or Bradley, 634-8377