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Minreet Kaur wants to ‘help make change’ as aquatics aims to be more accessible

Minreet Kaur admits she is ‘excited’ by the work being done to make aquatics more accessible and inclusive and wants to be a role model to ‘help make change’.

As part of the England Swims campaign, the national governing body for aquatics, Swim England, is sharing stories of individuals, their perceptions of the sector and any barriers they face to participation in water-based activity.

Minreet recently changed careers and has since completed her Swim England Qualifications Level 2 Teaching Swimming with Triton Training, as she hopes to inspire Asian women to achieve a vital new life skill.

As a member of the Sikh community, Minreet says that not many parents from the community signed their children up for swimming lessons.

Here she explains some of the barriers she faced when she was younger and how she now helps others to overcome those barriers since becoming a swimming teacher.

“For me, when I was younger I had swimming lessons through school. My school had a swimming pool and I just didn’t really enjoy them, I never wanted to go because I felt I was the only person of colour at the time swimming,” Minreet said.

“Not that I was the only person of colour in the school, I just think most people within my community didn’t sign their children up for lessons, I didn’t see anyone like me there.

“Also, I was very paranoid. I think being Asian there’s just this thing where you don’t really want to show your skin and costumes back then were so different to now.

“I felt very paranoid and culturally it wasn’t the thing that women did.

“I had fear and anxiety, I wasn’t confident in the water. This whole thing of showing skin, I hated it. It’s only now in my 40’s that I feel comfortable wearing the swimwear that I do.”

I wanted to help people

As swimming pools began to reopen following the easing of Covid lockdown restrictions, Minreet got back in the water.

After swimming at the pool at her local gym, she recalls being approached by a number of people who asked if she taught swimming.

This was one of several reasons why Minreet decided to complete her swimming teacher qualifications.

She said: “I knew there was a need for South Asians to start swimming. My call to do it wasn’t because I loved swimming, it was because I wanted to help people.

“I think the biggest thing for me was knowing that other people out there like me want to learn and the way to bring them in is to make them feel included rather than excluded.

“In my community, the Sikh community, I don’t think I’ve seen one swimming teacher. That’s a big thing because if some people don’t speak English they can come to me and I can do a lesson in Punjabi.

“But also, I think they can feel that someone understands them because they’re from the same community.”

Culturally the sport hasn’t been promoted

Minreet shared some of the stories she has been told since she started her journey as a swimming teacher.

“I’ve had a lot of different stories. Some of them had parents that didn’t encourage them from an early age,” she added.

“For some of the women, it was the case of their parents not wanting them to wear the costumes, showing their skin and what would people say because it doesn’t look very good to their culture.

“I had one person say her mum had said to her that a priest had said to keep her daughter away from water until she was 21 or she was going to drown.

“Some of the elder women said they never had time to learn to swim because they were bringing up their families.

“It was too expensive for some people because they wanted one-to-one lessons and others just don’t know there are lessons available fairly cheaply at your local leisure centre.

“The main thing really is that culturally the sport hasn’t been promoted for them.

“A lot of Asian people have long hair too, so there’s a lot of problems putting on the swimming caps and them not wanting to wash it so often, little things like that.

“Showing skin is a big thing and even now I get women that have something to cover them up and there is something available to do that now thankfully, but it hasn’t been long that there has been and it’s put off so many people from coming swimming.

“Fear, confidence and anxiety of the water is a big thing too. Things that people are not really aware of but there is a solution to.”

Moving in the right direction

On the England Swims campaign and other work being done throughout the aquatics sector to improve diversity and inclusion across water-based activity, Minreet explained that it is ‘so needed’.

She continued: “The younger generation are so lucky that they’ll be able to come in and swimming will be so diverse.

“I think it’s really needed, I can’t wait to see what comes with it and I’m really happy I qualified at a time when Swim England want to become more diverse so I can help be a role model for others and help make that change.

“Seeing all these new people come in and wanting to be in the water more, it’s really needed.

“I’m so excited to see what’s to come and to see more people that look like me in the water.

“It’s just going to be so amazing and hopefully this time next year we’ll see a real change and we’ll be moving in the right direction.”

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