Pride of NZ Awards: Swimming coach nurtures students from fear to victory

Tina Stam is now training students for this October's Kapiti Special Olympics.
Tina Stam is now training students for this October's Kapiti Special Olympics.

Community Spirit category
As Tina Stam sits in her Paraparaumu home rifling through a stack of photos dating back as far as 2001, she introduces each individual in the images, proud as she explains their journeys.

"This is James, and this was his first time at the Olympics," she says, pointing at the beaming face of a man with a gold medal draped around his neck.

"I taught him for 10 years, and when he first came to me he was so scared of water he screamed the pool down, but he loves it now."

James, one of many students taught to swim by Mrs Stam over the past 18 years, is blind and disabled.

A volunteer swimming instructor for special needs students on the Kapiti Coast, Mrs Stam has been recognised for her one-on-one lessons at the Coastlands Aquatic Centre in Paraparaumu. She takes students through a range of activities including breaststroke, freestyle, kicking techniques and aqua walking.

At 68 years old, the Dutch grandmother and mother of two says her passion for her role stems from a desire to care for others. She has worked as a caregiver and her patience and persistence with people were the driving force behind her nomination for a Pride award.

"The highlight of my volunteer work is the joy it brings to the students, who look forward to their lessons every week," she says.

Before moving to Kapiti 15 years ago, she would travel from Hutt Valley once a week to provide free lessons for students at Raumati Pool.

Having trained students to compete in a series of Special Olympics events across New Zealand, Mrs Stam is now training students for this October's Kapiti Special Olympics.

"At the moment I'm training a 52-year-old student who I've taught for years, and he's really good at swimming now. I'm like a friend to them, and it's very rewarding."

Pride of NZ Awards

The awards recognise ordinary Kiwis doing big things in their communities. Anyone can nominate someone for one of the six categories, which honour bravery and heroism, community spirit, environmental leaders, emergency heroes and fundraisers. Visit prideofnzawards.co.nz. Nominations close on June 15.

- Kapiti News

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