60 Second Interview: Swimming teacher

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Child taking swimming lessons

Catherine is the technical manager and senior swimming teacher at Puddle Ducks. She really loves her job, but it was a change of direction for her after leaving a career in finance. Her story shows just how important it is to choose a career that's close to your heart. 

Name: Catherine Charlish

Company: Puddle Ducks Swim Academy

Industry: Hospitality, leisure and tourismSport and fitnessEducation and teaching

What is your job? Technical manager and senior swimming teacher

How long have you worked here? 6 years


University: University of Chester

Degree subject: Dance, drama and theatre studies

A levels: Dance, drama and English literature

1. What was your first job?

My very first job was in our local village pub, I was a pot washer for £2.50 per hour! I started working when I was 12 for some extra pocket money! I quickly worked my way up and was soon promoted to a waitress, which gave me a great insight into customer service from a young age!

2. What did you want to do when you were at school?

During my early school years I always wanted to be ballerina, I started dancing at the age of 3. When I was about 7 I went to see Sleeping Beauty and fell in love with the idea of wearing beautiful dresses and dancing on pointe. When I was 13 I fractured my ankle which put a stop to all my dancing for almost six months. My ankle was never the same and my dancing career was pretty much over before it began. I only had one other job aspiration which followed me right through to my uni days and that was to join the police force.

3. How did you find out about the industry?

My son started swimming with Puddle Ducks when he was seven weeks old. Both my husband and I are very keen swimmers and have both represented our counties at competition level. Swimming was always going to be something that we did as a family and Puddle Ducks offered me everything I was looking for as a parent. It was my son’s teacher that inspired me to leave behind the world of finance, retrain and become a teacher!

4. How did you get there?

I can always remember going to meet Kerry to chat about the job she was recruiting for. She had such a passion for all things swimming and I quickly realised that I just had to be a part of the business. I got in the pool with my son's teacher for an in-pool interview, and loved it so much I lost track of time. I was due to stay for an hour or so, I ended up staying in the water for the full five hours she was teaching!

My job has evolved a lot over the last 6 years, I began by training as a baby and pre-school, teacher. It was an intensive week of training, lots of studying and in pool practice. Following my training I got back in the water and practised … lots! My STA assessments were completed and I was signed off to teach by Puddle Ducks a few weeks later. I started teaching my own classes a few weeks after being signed off and have never looked back!

Since then I have completed further training and gained my qualification in aquacise, I teach aquanatal classes weekly, it’s very close to my dancing background which is great and it sees me shimmeeing poolside weekly! I am also qualified to teach beginners, and advanced level swimmers right up to competition level. This gives me a great diverse and balanced role as a teacher.

Over the last two years I have been promoted to senior teacher and technical manager within our franchise. Along with my senior teaching team I manage our team of teachers, look after technical data for the business and support the recruitment and training process for new teachers.

5. What is a typical day like?

After dropping my three children off at school, I’m off to one of two places: the pool to teach, or the office to undertake my technical duties. I teach at a few different pools across our franchise and my travel to the pools usually involves me warming up my vocal chords singing along to the radio!

When I arrive at the pool I always catch up with the staff there, a great working relationship with our pool providers is fundamental to our operation. All the relevant equipment it then set up, and I’d then welcome our customer’s poolside before teaching them in the water.

If I’m working in the office I could be reviewing technical data, planning meetings or continuous professional development sessions. I could also be out and about at pools doing observations on our teachers, giving feedback on their teaching and generally catching up ensuring they have everything they need. I could also be mentoring new teachers and supporting them on their Puddle Ducks journey.

6. What’s the best thing about your job?

It’s difficult to narrow it down to one thing. There’s so much I love about my job! I love teaching children to swim, educating them and seeing them progress. I love my aqua teaching and sharing such a special time with mums to be. I also love being able to support our teachers and my franchisee within their role. I think it’s fair to say I love how diverse my job is!

7. What is the most challenging thing about your job?

The most challenging thing I think is saying goodbye to customers. They could be moving on to swim at club level, moving to another franchise or to another teacher. I invest a lot of time building rapport with all my customers so saying bye is tough!

8. What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?

Life is a journey so travel it well. Be passionate and believe in yourself because when you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything.

9. What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?

I wished I’d known about swimming teacher jobs earlier. It could have saved me years of unhappiness in other jobs!

10. Where would you like to be in 5 years?

I enjoy mentoring and supporting new teachers and I’m passionate about the future of Puddle Ducks. I’m really keen to progress to a programme assessor role and maybe even that of a tutor if the opportunity arose in the future.

If Catherine's story has got you dreaming of a career in the water, find out more about swimming teacher jobs and other roles in sport and fitness in our career zone.

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