Stroke by Stroke
One young Member’s journey from aquaphobe to water bug has seen him progress both in the Sky Pool and on dry land.
Poised on the edge of the Sky Pool, Isaku Takagi has the same thoughts he had before his first swim lesson three years ago. The 13-year-old worries if he’s fast enough, particularly with all the people watching.
But when the race starts, Isaku is only focused on swimming as hard as he can.
Watching from the pool deck at September’s Summer Endurance Open, Isaku’s father, Leo Takagi, was less concerned with the young Member’s results as he was excited about his participation. The day, he explains, was another milestone for his son, who is diagnosed with autism.
“Obviously he’s physically stronger now, but for me I think he’s become more open, friendlier and more confident with the people he’s with [at the Sky Pool],” says Takagi. “We see that positive change.”
It all started when Takagi noticed his son falling behind in mandatory swim classes at his local school. Takagi wondered if extra lessons might be the solution.
“Just like any child, [Isaku] needs to do things sometimes on his own to build confidence,” Takagi says.
The Club’s aquatics program immediately came to mind, but Takagi wasn’t sure if the instructors would be a good fit with Isaku’s particular needs. As it happened, instructor Mack Shibazaki had taught autistic students before.
“We just kept it very simple at first,” Shibazaki recalls of those first lessons. “We focused on [submerging] and kicks and hand movements. Then, maybe three or four months later, he eventually put it all together and started swimming on his own.”
While Isaku has progressed to more advanced techniques, he’s still fond of the weekly lessons in the pool alongside his very first Club instructor.
“[Mack] is very kind,” says Isaku. “He teaches me all the strokes and swims by my side. He makes me feel comfortable.”
“It was amazing to see him become encouraged by [realizing] that he could do these things,” says Isaku’s father. “It was a great turning point for him.”
As the months went by, Isaku made strides away from the water as well. He became more talkative with Sky Pool staff and more open to communicating with fellow swimmers, who helped him with his strokes.
Soon enough, Shibazaki recommended that Isaku take the next step and join the Club’s swim team.
“The whole Sky Pool was very supportive,” Takagi explains. “It was literally the first time Isaku’s been put in an environment where he has to regularly train and get better as an athlete. I think there are moments when he feels, in his own way, that he’s part of a team.”
Today, Isaku is a long way from the days when water confidence was his biggest hurdle.
“There are still lots of things [about swimming] that I do not understand,” says Isaku. “But I will continue to do my best. Ganbaru!”
For more information on programs for swimmers of all levels, visit the Club website.
Words: Owen Ziegler
Top image (Yuuki Ide): Isaku Takagi