Water polo

The Art Of Water Polo

The Swim For Your Life Art Series

We’re featuring a collection of artworks in our swim for your life art series, each piece represents a water-related happening in Ruth Smith’s life. Below is ‘The Art Of Water Polo’ story.

I was about 14 years old when my local swimming pool, in Wingham, decided to have a water polo competition on Sunday afternoons. Just a few people getting together who had played a bit before moving to the town and anyone else who wanted to give it a go. Of course, I turned up….anything in a body of water and I’m there.

By the end of the first summer, we had a full on competition with 10 teams. We had raised money for goals, hats, even a Wingham Water polo t-shirt. It was great!! Although not a sport for the fragile.

Womens Water Polo

Women’s Water Polo Photo: Getty Images

Not everyone could see what was happening under the water line. Least of all the referees. With all the splashing, on purpose or not, the underwater antics were vicious at times. Swimming attire would constantly be reefed up one’s body in such a manner that we often considered just wearing a G-string bottom. The knee length swimmers of today would have been appreciated back then.

The funny hats were an absolute God-send. I certainly would not like to be hit in the ear with a ball thrown at high speed. It was bad enough when it hit you on your forehead. We all had to take our turn at being the goalie. Now that’s a tough gig. Being able to raise your body so far out of the water to stop a speeding ball towards the goal, is not easy.

Swimming polo-stroke at speed for 10-15 meters is also a skill which we practiced. To help build the strength in us, my coach would make us swim across the 6 lane pool and climb out. Dive in, climb out, and repeat. However, the climb out was nothing like a climb. We had to put both hands on the edge of the pool and move in such a way that the next thing to hit the pool edge was our feet. It was more like a jump out onto our feet. No elbow or knee to help us.

While physically a demanding sport, I loved it. I went on to actually teach a young boy to swim in Wingham who also played water polo at a high level. He went on to become an Assistant Coach to the Olympic Water Polo men’s team.

Aussie Stingers vs Aussie Barbarians Video

Swimming lessons lead to fun water activities

The one valuable lesson I can say I’ve taken away from all my years of swimming lessons and training is that it can lead to many fun water activities and help improve confidence, my water polo days leave me with priceless memories.

High-quality consistent lessons lead to confidence in the water and participation in water sports. If you’re interested in finding out more about our swimming lessons and programs you can call us on 6680 1614 or alternatively fill in our contact form for a prompt response.


Halliwick and Disabled Swimmers

The Halliwick Concept and the Benefits of Aquatic Therapy Exercises

It was while I was completing my first degree at Wollongong University, Sports Science, that I was involved with working with people with disabilities in the water. I took an elective which involved this work and I never looked back.

Working with hydro therapists, physios, special education teachers and great teachers of swimming, I found a world I enjoyed. This lead me to do further study in Halliwick, which is a specific method of working with people with disabilities in the water. Mainly severely physically disabled. The Halliwick Method originated in Austria and I was lucky enough to attend workshops by James McMillan who developed the techniques. My luck continued when I worked in a swimming club devoted to people with disabilities in London. I learnt so much.

The belief of “The Halliwick Concept” is that significant benefits can be gleaned from water  activities, and in turn has influenced aquatic therapy.

Rotational control is the most important part of the Halliwick 10 point program. This program provides the relevant learning fundamentals that are required the achieve the benefits.

The benefits are social, recreational, physical, personal and therapeutic and can help kids and adults with both physical and metal disabilities.

The technique was cited by Susan J Grosse in 1986 as " Water Freedom for the Handicapped"

Benefits such as:

  1. Learning to react appropriately in the water.
  2. The ability to control left- right movements.
  3. The ability to control movements such as, lying down, standing up and rocking in a chair.
  4. Rolling over from supine to supine.
  5. The ability to control a corkscrew movement.
  6. Understanding that water supports the body and you won’t sink.

As has been mentioned before, the paintings which hang on the walls of the swim school are snap shots of all the things I have been able to do because I learnt to swim. Working with people with disabilities in the water is a pure gift and one I will continue to be involved with.



"The Halliwick Method" by James McMillan

Why did i become a lifeguard


I was blessed with the country secondary schooling I had. At Wingham High it was compulsory in the summer that the whole school would walk to the local pool and participate in swimming for sport. Our local pool was not heated and we could only swim in the summer months. As I was a very proficient swimmer, along with 3-4 others, we started doing our Royal Life Saving medallions and certificates.

First the Bronze Star, then the Bronze Medallion, Bronze Cross, Award of Merit, until I was the last one standing with another year of High School and another chance to get the top Royal Life Saving Society Award….The Distinction Award. It is an interesting exercise to look up these awards and understand what is required to pass them. Different rescues are learnt, detailed theory demanding high level understanding and a challenging swimming component. This was always a long distance swim made up of normal swimming and life-saving techniques as well which had to be done within a certain time frame. I had to go to Sydney to actually sit the theory component of the Distinction Award which was very daunting. I did get the award which was a very proud moment. I loved doing the awards and was very thankful to my school for making swimming a compulsory sport in our summers. And so, with all this knowledge and life saving techniques learnt,

I became a Lifeguard, initially around a pool and soon after at the beach. I preferred being on duty at the beach and would encourage anyone to get involved in that world, especially as a teenager.

The Royal Life Saving Society was formed in NSW in 1894 and in 1924 a dual system of lifesaving was established with Surf Life Saving Australia being responsible for ocean beaches and the Royal Life Saving Society Australia responsible for all other waterways. So we can see, from very early on, Australia took the safety of others in and around water, extremely seriously.

bronze-cross bronze-star-royal-lifesaving-societybronze-cross-fabric bronze-medallion

Swimming Stories


When you come to Swim For Your Life at Billinudgel you will see 10 paintings adorning the walls of the swim school. They tell the stories of my own swimming and all that I have done with it, when I learnt to SWIM WELL.

While my first foray into water is not hanging on the wall, it perhaps helped shape my long affiliation with water. My mum would lovingly tell the story that would happen every time the phone rang. While mum answered the phone, I would sneak into the bathroom, turn the bath taps on and get in clothes and all. I was 3! I remember burning my big toe as I had not worked out the cold tap that day.

So each month I will share the stories of the paintings and in so doing, hope to inspire our little swimmers to do something wonderful with their new skill of swimming. While this first story may not seem ‘wonderful’ it is a story worthy of hanging on the wall.

And so my love of water began early. I started training in the local swimming pool when I was 6 which, in those days, was 33 yards long. I still do not understand why it was only 33 yards but eventually it was lengthened to 50 meters.

As I am the youngest of 4 children, money was tight sometimes. The 4 of us swam and the training fees mounted up. As I got older it became my job to vacuum the swimming pool in lieu of my training fees. Mind you a 50 mtr pool takes a while to clean!!! Now I think about it, I don’t remember my siblings working their training fees off! Luckily for me, the pool was outdoor and therefore only open for 6 months of the year…..this meant only 25 vacuums!!! I got Christmas week off. I also got to keep any coins which lay on the bottom of the pool!

The job did not deter me from my swimming and perhaps it could be seen these days as ‘cross training’.


painting of pool at swimming lessons byron bay

Painting of  Ruth Smith in a diving bell vacuuming the pool.

Keep watch this summer

Matt Preston urges families to keep watch this summer


Matt Preston from “The words most costly pizzasays the truth is that last summer 14 children drowned in Australian backyard swimming pools., most often due to every day distraction. Distractions like simply going inside to check the oven, theirs no splash no cry for help. In less than 60 seconds a child can drown and the true cost of that pizza. It’s not just food that can distract, theres answering the door changing a nappy, making a cup of tea even just nipping to the bathroom. All of these distractions have tragically cost the life of a child over the past ten years not to mention others left with permanent brain damage. All these drownings and brain injuries entirely preventable with proper supervision. Not one outdoor pool is worth a child’s life.

So please this summer “Keep Watch No Matter What”



Images courtesy of Royal Lifesaving

Water Safety Warnings After Tragic drownings

Seven Drownings in the past week

Today we were reminded  by Simone Fox Koob from the Australian  about the importance of water safety for both non swimmers and swimmers.  We  have also  included The Royal Lifesaving Society ‘s tips below. As most of us are enjoying our holidays we should all remain mindful of being safe in the water. If you are with family and friends you can ask these questions 1. Who is allocated to supervise the group and what are there competencies in the water. 2. What is the  swimming ability of both Adults and children in the group.  3. Who are the competent swimmers in the group.

The Royal Life Saving Society has some great tips of  Water Safety during the summer for toddlers here.


Keep Watch Action - Supervision

Keep Watch Action – Supervision courtesy of Royal Lifesaving

Active supervision means focusing all of your attention on your children all of the time, when they are in, on or around the water. Supervision is not an occasional glance while you are busy with other activities, but being in constant visual contact with your child.

Depending on your child’s age, you may even need to be in the water and within arms reach at all times. For older children, be ready to enter the water in case of an emergency.

Parents are busy and often try to do many things at once to save time. But when you multi-task you can too easily become distracted and not give your full attention to the safety of your children.

Older children too are not equipped to deal with the responsibility of supervising children. It is an adult’s job and children of any age should never be burdened with the responsibility.

Royal Life Saving believes that one of the smartest ways to supervise children is to have a designated supervisor. Responsibility can be rotated and if there is a large number of children to supervise, leave an adult stationed at each different place where the children will play, to monitor that area effectively.


Seven drownings prompt urgent police warning on water safety

Seven NSW drownings in the past week have brought an ­urgent warning from police, in the lead-up to a statewide heatwave, for holiday-makers to stay out of the water if they don’t know how to swim.

Sergeant Paul Farquharson, of the NSW Marine Area Command said yesterday the drownings were tragic for both victims’ families and police officers who spent their Christmas recovering bodies and delivering the bad news to relatives.

“It’s upsetting and frustrating for the police to have to try to recover these people, search for these people, and then deliver those messages to the families that their loved ones have died,” he said.

“ The police haven’t been home to their families … They have been out looking for those of others who have become lost in the water systems.”

The body of a 25-year-old man was found yesterday in the Nepean River, near Greendale in western Sydney, after he was reported missing on Monday.

On Monday Geoffrey Blackadder, 60, from Grafton, tried to help save four children caught in a flash rip at Wooli Beach on the northern NSW coast.

Mr Blackadder was brought unconscious from the water by two lifeguards but after 50 minutes of CPR could not be revived.

Also on Monday, a 56-year-old man died at Merry Beach, on the NSW south coast; and a 27-year-old man drowned while swimming in a river at a picnic ground at Bendeela, in the Kangaroo Valley. On Christmas Day a 29-year-old Nepalese man drowned at Wattamolla lagoon at the Royal National Park, south of Sydney.

Police said a man drowned about 3pm yesterday in ocean baths at The Entrance on the ­central coast.

Last season, there were 53 coastal drownings in NSW.

 Quoted from “The Australian”
Water Safety on the holidays. Police recover the body of a man from the Nepean River

Police recover the body of a man from the Nepean River. Picture: John Fotiadis

How to Anti Fog Swimming Goggles



How To Anti Fog Goggles

Goggles are a great invention for swimmers. They protect your eyes from damage and allow you to see where you’re going underwater. I use to train and compete in the pool in the days when caps and goggles were never seen or used. Blood shot eyes at school was the norm. But these days there must be 50 plus different styles, shapes, colours of goggles one can choose from.

BUT, they usually ‘fog up’. Most goggles you can buy have a coating already on them preventing fogging, but the coating doesn’t last as long as the goggles do. The anti-fog coating can easily be wiped off and before you know it, your goggles have become foggy before you get to the other end of the pool.

What to do about this irritating problem??? You can buy an anti-fog spray and liquid and apply regularly to the goggles as per the directions of use. Does it work? In my experience, not very well.

Over my years of teaching and swimming I have come across a few varied ways by which people keep their goggles from fogging up. I will share them here.

  1. Baby shampoo – apply a small drop of the shampoo to the inside of the goggles, wipe the lens and then buff for clear vision. The baby shampoo is used as it is gentle on eyes anyway.
  2. Shaving cream – apply a small drop of shaving cream to the inside of the lens, wipe and buff again preventing fogging. I have not used this method personally but know others have.
  3. MY FAVOUITE and very cost effective. Good old saliva. Lick or spit on the inside of your goggle lens, rub with your finger and rinse. While this is a temporary solution, it is one that can be used on the go. At either end of the pool and while the teacher/coach is giving instructions.

Try these out next time and see which works for you.

Happy Swimming.




Swimming Coach and The Transplant Games

 Ron Spriggs, Swimming Coach and Living Legend.

I want to introduce a Swimming Coach who taught me most of what I know about swimming in water and teaching/coaching others. Ron Spriggs (Spriggsy) employed me on the pool deck of the Wingham Memorial Swimming Pool when I was 14. That was 36 years ago. He had and still has the ‘gift of the gab’, always called a ‘spade a spade’ and delighted in kids achievements, in and out of the pool. He taught me how to communicate with kids in a manner which allows me to get them to do what is needed, especially around changing their stroke. Spriggsy was a swimming coach with a difference he impressed upon me that you can never know what a child can do in the water and that they should not be pigeon-holed. One may be a natural breaststroker and the other a butter-flyer……just ask them to have a go and see what happens.

Spriggsy firmly believes “that swimming is not an end, but a means to an end. It helps prepare children and young people for future challenges in life.”

Spriggsy had a heart transplant 5 years ago. Admittedly he struggled during the recovery months and is continually monitored and/or travelling to Sydney for check-ups. He is back swimming himself and at last count was happily doing 1km most days.

He recently entered the Transplant Games. I never knew that such an event was held. This year it was in Sydney. Spriggsy had said that all sorts of transplant recipients can enter and there are certain events for the various recipients. I have been in awe of these people since learning about the Transplant Games.

If you have a lazy few minutes look the event up. You will be inspired and as I have been. Having a friend with a new heart and being privy to only some of his trials and tribulations gives me a better appreciation of the ease with which I go through life.

Check out the local hero’s in the Transplant Games.



ron spriggs swim coach transplant games

Learning to swim – What it feels like for a kid

Kids swimming lessons, what does it actually feel like for a kid who is learning to swim.

Kids’ bodies and physical abilities, sensory experiences, feelings, motivations, and perceptions of success all differ from those of adults, and they all affect how kids learn to swim. When we are teaching your kids to swim, take the time to put yourself in their shoes.

Let’s just IMAGINE for a little bit! We may have forgotten how to do this but let’s give it a try today.

Imagine that your head is large compared to the rest of your body. How does that feel when you’re trying to float or balance in the water?

Imagine that your limbs are short compared to your torso. How do you move through the water with limited leverage?

Imagine that your lung capacity is a lot smaller than a grownup’s. Does that make figuring out how to deal with your breath while you’re swimming more complicated?

Imagine that you’ve got not much mass, a lot of skin relative to that mass, and low body fat. Can you feel how fast your body loses heat to the water?

Can you feel how much less buoyant you are than an adult, thanks to your tiny bit of fat and small internal air flotation devices (aka lungs)? Wow, it’s not easy to figure out how to float! Big old head, not a lot of buoyancy.

Plus, your body is changing every single day. All that growing is exhausting! And you haven’t learned yet to predict when you’ll reach the end of your rope or to read the signs that tell you you’re getting cranky because you’re tired. You’re always surprised when you hit the exhaustion wall without warning. Every time.

Now move back into your own shoes! What a relief. Remind yourself that when we are teaching your kids to swim, their little bodies give them some extra challenges when it comes to learning to swim. Every child’s body is different and therefore slightly different challenges for them and the teacher during kids swimming lessons.

The better we, as teachers and you as their parents, understand what your kids are experiencing, the easier and more effective the process of teaching them to swim will be. Children are different than adults. (Surprise!) Understanding their differences will help us all put ourselves in your child’s place and try to respond to their needs. Responding to your child’s needs will help to make the learning process fun and effective for all of us.


Our qualified instructors provide kids swimming lessons weekly and on Saturday morning’s in the heart of the Byron Shire at our swim facility at Billinudgel.

We also have kids swimming intensives during the school holidays.

Contact Ruth on 02 6680 1614 for more information

learning to swim with tamara


Australian swimmers raised in country areas



Australian Swimmers are known for their competitiveness and tenacity in the water.

Our Australian swimmers have had some great successes and also some unexpected losses this Rio Olympics. Behind the scenes coaching methods, funding, training regimes and when to peak at what event all get scrutinised. Because we apparently came up short swimming Australia will be busy reflecting and instigating changes.

My blog this month picks a few Australian swimmers and tells a simple story that many  of our olympics swimmers come from regional areas and have been successful through hard work and good mentoring.

The Olympics have been great to watch. Perhaps not Australia’s greatest Olympics in the pool but still we got to see some great swimming!

I want to reflect on some of these Australian swimmers we have been watching. So many of them are born and reared in country areas. I have always been a passionate advocate for ‘country kids’ having the opportunities our ‘city cousins’ have and our country born swimmers need a mention.

Jarod Poort, the 10km Open Water Marathon swimmer learnt to swim in the family farm dam in Bowral.

James Magnussen was born in Port Macquarie and did most of his formative swimming training in Port Macquarie.

Kyle Chalmers was born and bred in Ashford South Australia .

Two of my favourites are older Olympians now. Leisel Jones grew up in Katherine NT, and I know a lot of her formative training years were spent in a backyard pool not much bigger than the pool at Swim For Your Life Billinudgel.

And what about our local hero, Petria Thomas. Born in Lismore and lived and trained in Mullumbimby. Even has the local pool named in her honour!

My own swimming career began in the creek on our family farm. My mum was terrified of water. So terrified she would not wash her hair in the shower. She could only wash her hair over the laundry tub. But regularly she would take the 4 of us down to the creek and let us have a swim. If one of us got into trouble, I doubt very much she would have been able to help us.

Australian swimmers are a fit healthy group and generally also do  better at school . Your children have a unique opportunity to  get so much from swimming lessons.

Join us on weekdays and Saturday mornings at Swim For Your Life Billinudgel.


Australian swimmers

Brittany Elmslie (top L-R), Emma McKeon, and Bronte Campbell of Australia celebrate their new World Record winning the women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay final race of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Swimming events at Olympic Aquatics Stadium at the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 06 August 2016. EPA/BERND THISSEN