The opportunity to spend quality time with his children was the main driver for Abe Dyer to be heavily involved in their learn-to-swim journeys.
Dad to Ayla, 6, Neo, 5, and 2 year old Soul, Abe has always made a conscious effort to make swimming lessons ‘Dad time’. “When a child is born, there’s not a lot of initial dependence or interaction with the father, and I really felt that swimming lessons was the first opportunity for that to happen,” Abe shares. “It’s always been my chance to be alone with them, from when they were each young and I was in the water with them, through to when they no longer need me in the water. It’s still my chance to be with them one on one.”
Abe has been bringing his children to the AUT Millennium Swim School since early 2012, when his daughter was six months old. It was important for him and his partner, Becs, to have their children in the water early, especially as Abe didn’t learn to swim as a child. “It just wasn’t done in my family, culturally. You learned to swim through getting pipis or diving. I couldn’t do either, and the stigma of not being able to swim at school sports was real. I felt like an outcast, and I definitely didn’t want my kids to feel that.” Having been in that position gave Abe an appreciation of how important it is to have water confidence and swimming skills. When he joined the military as an adult, he taught himself to swim through watching others and YouTube tutorials. “All three of the kids are already better swimmers than I was in my 20s,” he says. “They know how to float, how to kick, how to breathe, they know what streamlining is. I’m a good swimmer now, but it was a really hard graft for me as an adult.”
With beaches such a large part of the Kiwi lifestyle, Abe wanted the kids to be confident in the water. Initially Ayla needed convincing as she was not a fan of being in the water, but with perseverance, she grew to love it. “It became normal because we persevered,” Abe recalls. “We wondered if we should continue lessons, but the teachers were so patient, and really made it a smoother transition than it could’ve been – she came to really enjoy it. The boys have grown up seeing Ayla swimming, so they knew what it was all about from the start.”
Abe relishes the time he spends with each of his children on swimming days. “On the way to lessons, we talk about what they want to work on, and then we do races to see who can get to the pool first. After lessons, we grab a drink and a macaroon and talk about what they learned.” Each of his kids has found a different enjoyment in being in the water – Ayla loved to be better, always beating what she did the previous week; Neo enjoys the achievement of mastering a new skill, and Soul loves playing and being social in the water.
With three kids going through the Swim School, Abe and his family feel a strong connection to AUT Millennium. “There’s a real Swim School community,” he tells. “Lisa was our first full time swim teacher who we got to know really well. I’ve watched Lisa’s kids go through high school, go overseas, and come back and teach my kids. It’s a top-notch facility, but it’s that family-type culture, and the quality of the teachers, which has kept us here.” There are members of staff who have taught all three Dyer children, and the kids enjoy selecting new togs and goggles in the Speedo Shop each year and jumping in with the teachers they’ve built good relationships with.
As the lead fitness coach at 808 House of Training, Abe has seen the growth of aquatic activities in the wider fitness industry. “There’s been an increase in events like sprint triathlons and biathlons, Crossfit has brought in swimming elements, and surf ski and lifesaving has become popular,” he says. “There’s so many different ways you can bring swimming into fitness, including for recovery. I don’t neglect swimming, and I use it a lot for my runners as recovery, aqua running, flutter board kicking etc.”
With Father’s Day approaching, Abe has his ideal schedule set. Following a solo work out, a family breakfast and day out is top of his list. “Getting out and doing something all together is top priority, taking the dog out to the beach, or a playground,” he says. “We can easily spend hours doing that, it’s pretty easy. It’s much better than staying at home.”
Abe encourages parents, especially fathers, to make time to bring their kids to swimming lessons, and be present. “It’s a really important way to bond with your kids,” he says. “I make it a priority to sit and watch their lessons. It’s their time, not time for me to switch off. It’s only for 30 minutes, and the most important person is in the pool. When Neo learns something, he has the biggest smile on his face, and as a parent, that’s awesome to see. Every dad should make the time to do this – it’s a great activity to share with your kids.”