As we prepare to launch Southern Swim School, we sit down with our Head of Swimming, Leanne Oakley, to learn a bit about her background and what drives her to make our program successful.

How did you originally get started in the world of swim teaching? 

I started teaching at “Helen’s Swim School” at Taren Point while completing my HSC. My PE teacher (Tom) owned it with his wife Helen who was an amazing teacher. I then moved to Fitness First at Sylvania as I started at university and taught thousands of kids over the years that I worked there as a teacher and coordinator.  

Are you nervous about launching a new swim school? 

No, I am lucky to be able to say that I have done it before in my time working at Pymble Ladies’ College as the Swim School Coordinator. The College built a 38 million dollar Aquatic Centre, and I was on the planning team for the design and build and had the responsibility of setting up the Learn to Swim Program from scratch. The program is now regarded as one of the leading programs in Australia. I was also lucky enough to travel around Australia and some areas in America meeting some of the biggest and best industry leaders and seeing their programs.  

Why Southern Swim?

Being a shire girl, I have always wanted to do what I love back here in the Shire. I am looking forward to bringing a quality, challenging and proven program.  

What do you most enjoy about managing a swim school? 

Seeing the joy that learning to swim brings to all children and their families. Unlike other children’s activities, swimming is a life skill that all children must learn and love.  

Do you expect to be regularly teaching in the pool?

Yes, teaching is my absolute passion. I will be in the water for some regular teaching shifts, particularly as we launch the program, and also will be in the water assisting and training my staff at different times.  

What are the lessons you have learnt from teaching your own two children how to swim?  

I have now learned a lot more about children just being children. I have learnt more about their development, their milestones that they achieve and just in general how unique they all are. Being able to teach my own two children has reinforced what young children are capable of in the water with quality and consistent teaching.  

What are the biggest questions that parents ask in terms of swimming lessons and what are your answers to these questions 

1. What age will my child be able to swim independently? Answer: I am confident in saying that If you start your baby in regular swimming lessons at 3-4 months of age, have a consistent and positive approach with them in the water and have them in lessons twice a week, they will swim independently between the ages of 20 months- 30 months.  

2. When will my child go into Squad? Answer: when they are technically ready!! One thing our program will never do is hold a child back from moving up levels if they are ready for it. Technique will be our focus in all levels of swimming. A child with good technique will be able to swim longer distances with ease.  

3. When will my child be assessed? Answer: Our assessments will be ongoing. Your child’s teacher will be assessing your child every lesson. Myself (Head of Swimming) and Brooke (Learn To Swim Coordinator) will be on deck all the time assessing children and monitoring their progress. Any questions, just ask us!  

What do you look for in a swimming teacher?

A big smile, a big voice and passion and dedication to their job.  

How did you learn to swim yourself?

I’m one of a big family, and we were lucky enough to have a pool at home, and spend most of our summers at the beach. I also did Nippers and squad training. One year my mum and dad organised some private lessons at our (unheated) family pool. I still remember how cold some of those mornings were! That private teacher is actually now one of Carlile Swimming’s most experienced and respected Head coaches – Michelle. Just having that expert teaching really helped me develop my swimming technique and love for swimming, and I aim to replicate that here!

A bit about yourself….

  • Favourite aspects of the Shire? The people, the beaches and the parks  
  • Favourite sports teams: Cronulla Sharks, Melbourne Demons 
  • Favourite hobbies: exercise, watching sport  

Favourite swimming memories

I’ve watched pretty much every Olympics swimming race since I was a kid, so it’s hard to narrow it down, but I’d have to say Kieren Perkins 1500m at Barcelona and Atlanta were what started my love for swimming.

Then the Sydney Olympics was one of the best times of my life. I was lucky enough to carry the Olympic torch at Kurnell and volunteer at the Athletes Village. The 4×100 mens relay and Susie O’Neill’s 200m freestyle victory were two unforgettable moments, so I’ll go with those!