Last week, I was honored to re-introduce Kenneth, our founder, and his heart for building confidence in children, fostering growth in his students, and expanding the reach of the Foundation. He champions the mission of creating miracles in the lives of children and adults, including those with special needs.
This week, I am excited to showcase Aviva Alvarez-Zakson, one of our LA swim coaches with an unbridled love of the water. She, too, is another passionate advocate for children with special needs and early swim training to reduce the risk of drowning.
Aviva has been in love with the water since age three when her aunt gave her swim lessons as a birthday present. In fact, that is her first memory of swimming, when she jumped off the wall convinced she was able to swim.
Aviva: “My instructor grabbed me and immediately began reassuring me that I was ok, but I was confused as to why he felt the need to save me.The rest is history.”
Like many others, Aviva began swimming competitively at a relatively young age but never lost sight of the joy of simply being in the water. Her career includes over 16 years of competitive swimming. These include club teams, four years as a varsity swimmer at Santa Monica High School, and four years of NCAA DIII varsity swimming at Occidental College. While she is currently not competing, she’ll never say no to a friendly race!
After a debilitating injury during her junior year of college, Aviva turned to teaching swim lessons to remain connected to the water during her recovery. Under the guidance of her own swim coach, she taught all levels of swimmers from ages 3 to 13, sharing her love of the water with them. She truly believes that swimming is far more than a means of sport or exercise. Swimming is a gift, and she loves sharing this gift with others.
For Aviva, just like Coach Kenneth, confidence is key.
Aviva: “Swimming is all about confidence. You can read up on everything and watch a bunch of instructional videos, but if you do not trust yourself, you will not let yourself be vulnerable with the water. Swimming gets you out of your most basic of comfort zones (we’re land creatures!). With time and practice, you soon find yourself one with the water.
I asked her a few more fun questions about her swimming life.
Describe your best day ever in the water.
There are too many! But some of my favorite days in the water were the days (actually, weeks) spent in winter training in college. It was about a month of almost nothing but swimming and pushing yourself to limits you didn’t know you had. Additionally, it was a month of being with my teammates. They are some of the best friends I have and the most inspirational and committed people I’ve ever met. Sure, there were days where it felt like we couldn’t possibly keep going, but making it through those days made them the best.
Describe your hardest day in the water?
My junior year in college, I had a horrible hip injury manifest itself that eventually needed surgery. I spent many practices angry at myself for not performing well. I was angry at my body for failing me. At my last practice before the surgery (the night before) I was nervous and very sad about the possibility of not being able to return to swimming. I was very lucky to be able to return to swimming, and that I had such a supportive team. They let me play cheerleader while I recovered and helped me keep my goals in perspective when I returned.
How has swimming made your life better?
Swimming has made my life better in every way. Through swimming, I found a constant support and some of my best friends. I learned time management and how to prioritize. I discovered the importance of collaboration and working with others with whom you may disagree. And, I learned a physical skill that my body literally refuses to forget.
At One with the Water, we employ coaches who love, on an elemental level, the experience of swimming. Their passion for the water translates to a love for teaching and sharing their skills. Aviva is one of those swim coaches. Her desire is to pass her knowledge onto others while employing different teaching strategies. For her, swimming is a necessary skill for everyone. The ability to swim is key to survival and enjoying everything life has to offer (especially in Southern California). Seeing a skill click for a student creates a rush of joy and accomplishment for them both!
Want to help us make a child’s life better? Partner with us today to teach economically disadvantaged children, special needs children, and Service-Disabled Veterans to become One with the Water! Be a hero today! When you donate now, you can help reduce the risk of drowning for children by up to 88%! Be a hero and help us save the life of a child.
Molly is a member of our creative team, mom of four water-loving babies, and a fierce advocate for CPR training and really early swim instruction.