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Blog guest: Vanja Petronijević – Swimming and trust

Working with children and babies in the water requires expertise and endless trust of not only the youngest swimmers but of their parents as well. Yes, this is something which takes some time to gain and takes a second to lose. Half a decade ago, I made a question out loud: Who are to be entrusted with the work with babies in the pool? Who are to be entrusted with the just started story of the Baby Swim Club-a? His name emerged right away – Vanja Petronijević!  He justified my trust when it comes to the swimming and working with the youngest ones, back then and now, a decade later.

For Swimming Dad as a #Blog guest, Vanja Petronijević is telling us about the role of trust in swimming and where it has brought him. He is telling us who he would swim with blindfolded now and whether he has ever lost trust in swimming, and how important it is to gain the trust of parents for a smooth work with their children.

When he was still a young swimmer at the SC “Valis” from Valjevo, Vanja got my trust in the pool and around it. He justified my trust back then when he was a part of the Serbian national swimming team where he was swimming for three years under the flag of his homeland. During nine years of his swimming career he gained the status of the Serbian national champion in three different age categories (pioneer, cadet, and junior).Vanja Petronijević participated in the 2008 European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Belgrade, where he swam 50,100 freestyleand 4x100 freestyle relay.

He started his coaching story ten years ago in the SC “Partizan” (Belgrade). After the first six years of developing his coaching skills in Serbia, he continued to gain his professional knowledge and swimming experience in Dubai. His commitment to swimming and energy Vanja has been transferring to children on daily basis for a decade now, using all the aspects of the Learn to Swim Programme. This is his story about swimming and trust!

Trust in swimming has brought me to… ?

Persistence and devotion! Waking up at the crack of dawn and having two successful trainings before an average person gets up from bed, giving your best in every jump, stroke and turn, and believing that all the efforts will pay off and bring me to the medal, have become my daily routine which has taught me how to be persistent and devoted not only in swimming but in other spheres of life too. This is why I’m using the -ing form when I’m talking about my swimming habits, which have also become my life habits.

The knowledge, skills and techniques you acquire at one point are rarely forgotten if they have helped you on your way to a success, whatever that success is at that point. The trust in swimming, when bearing in mind the saying “the more you give the more you get”, has helped my cognitive and emotional development, and as a consequence it has shaped Vanja as a person who is persistent and devoted to his goals, for which there are no limits, who never has second thoughts, who never gives up and who always boldly goes forward.

Trust in swimming will bring me to…?

I gained a full trust in swimming very early, back in my adolescence, which was not the best period when one can be sure about anything. For me back then swimming was a safe ground, a place where there was not conflict of different views, a safe place where I always felt well. You must be very lucky to feel as safe about something or someone as I felt about swimming. That trust, together with patience, devotion and love I feel about my family, the same way they feel about me. When we talk about the future and all those things coming out of my trust in swimming, I would say that it is expending of the family. I am a person who sets his goals quite vividly and focuses all his attention to achieve them, sooner or later, and one of my goals is to do my best to make my kids have that trust in me in the future, home and the life to live the way I was lucky enough to have very early thanks to swimming.

How important is parental trust for children’s smooth swimming? What do all three sides (parent, child, coach) gain from that trust?

The magic trio consisted of a child (swimmer, athlete), parent and coach is crucial for the entire bio-psycho-social development of the child. The topic is quite extensive, but the mentioned trio requires a nice harmony, respect, pleasure, and mutual trust of each one of them. Parents are role models to their children and that is exactly why it is crucial that they support and help the children. In this way parents show their trust in children and provide them with ideal preconditions for achieving their full potential. I would never change my parents for anything in the world, because without their continuous support I would have never gained self-respect and persistence I have now and use in all spheres of my life. With my efforts, work and discipline as a swimmer I fully deserve the trust of both by parents and my coaches.

As a coach I’ve had several cases when I could feel a lack of trust in the mentioned trio. I was trying to make them trust each other again and offer an explanation of the mistrust, to bring the positive side to the surface and try, as much as I could, to focus the trio on the right things and regain the necessary trust.

Has swimming ever let you down?

I will use the same expression you did in making the question, because it best describes the way I felt in the situations when I was giving my best in the trainings, when I was disciplined and erased from my vocabulary the expressions like – I can’t, I don’t know, and I don’t want to - and somehow my results in the competition race were still poor. I felt let down! Those were tiny defeats for me, lost battles which echoed in my head every time I was trying to figure out why it was happening. And I struggled there. There were no reasons, and this is why I felt I was losing trust in swimming. If those small battles and poor races which brough me no success had persisted without any valid explanations, they would have taken me to the lost war, and my trust in swimming would have vanished, without even noticing that. Those things happen when you don’t pay them the necessary attention and at the moments when you least expect them to happen.

However, I had the best coach ever. He was always ready to take an initiative, trying to explain even those things which seems inexplicable. I would always feel better after having a constructive talk with him. He knew how to explain in simple words why the results were missing and why it was not the end of the world. The goal we both had for me was not lost, but delayed, and this is what I needed to learn how to understand. Out of a sudden, the boy did not feel let down anymore.

Who would you dare to swim with in the pool blindfolded (and why)?

If you asked me who I would like to be in the pool or swim a race with, I believe I would need some time to think. When I look around at the champions in the world of swimming, and the very sport itself, it is quite difficult to make such a decision and choose only one swimmer. However, as it is a matter of trust and swimming blindfolded, the circle of possible choices narrows down since I couldn’t choose Michael Phelps, Katinka Hosszu, or Jusein Bolt, or Messi or Djokovic.

I wouldn’t think much before naming the person with whom I have swam miles and miles in the pool, and open water, and that person is Anđelka Petrović. I can’t even tell how many times we have swam shoulder to shoulder and “pulled” each other forward in order to take the maximum of a training. Anđelka has always been there during my trainings and competitions in my whole swimming career, sharing with me moments of happiness and sadness, and being a true friend all the time. Based on my experience with her, I have plenty of reasons to believe that Anđelka would lead me accurately in the water and wouldn’t let me bump into anything while swimming blindfolded.


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