Swimming has played a big part in Holly Licuanan’s life. The Learn To Swim (LTS) Team Leader at Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre has been surrounded by swimmers – namely her mother, a swimming teacher whose footsteps she’s followed in, and her brother a former competitive swimmer. Not to mention growing up on the Gold Coast where she enjoyed an idyllic beachside upbringing. Having recently joined Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre, Holly brings her passion for the water and teaching to the families of the Inner West and today she tells us more about herself and what she loves most about making the move back to Sydney.
Tell us about yourself and where your interest in swimming started.
I was born in Sydney but moved to the Gold Coast at the age of two and it’s where I grew up. My father is an immigrant from the Philippines and my mother is Australian. When I was a young age, my mother began to teach swimming – in fact she still does – and not surprisingly, my brother and I have swum since we were babies and progressed through Learn to Swim (LTS) to squads, so we’ve been in the water since we were quite young. When I was 16 and studying in high school, I actually started to teach swimming and I’ve worked my way up from there. My brother, who was a competitive swimmer up until this year (2023), and I have also worked alongside my mum teaching swimming on the Gold Coast – so you could say a passion for swimming runs through the family. I have a degree in Marketing and Public Relations but have always had a love for swimming and teaching so decided to make it my career.
What made you get into Aquatics?
My mother paid for me to do my AUSTSWIM course (NB. AUSTSWIM is Australia’s national organisation for the teaching of Swimming and Water Safety) at the age of 16. She wanted me to follow in her footsteps mainly because, as she tells me, I have “always been bossy!”. I found teaching the sport I grew up doing very natural and I quickly fell in love with it.
What drew you to managing Learn To Swim (LTS)?
After teaching swimming for numerous years, I progressed to supervising other swim teachers whilst on the Gold Coast. When I decided to move to Sydney, I saw a job ad for a Swim School Manager position and decided to go for it. In my role there, I was fortunate enough to build a program, learn more about management, and go on to be a Regional Swim School Manager. I enjoy creating programs and leading and teaching new instructors the most.
You grew up on the Gold Coast – what was it like growing up there? Do you miss anything about it?
Growing up on the Gold Coast is exactly how you might imagine it to be: sunny and hot. As a kid, I was constantly outdoors, at the beach, in the bush – it was that type of that laidback Gold Coast upbringing. I miss the beaches on the Gold Coast and working at an outdoor pool in the summer.
What made you decide to move in Sydney?
I moved to Sydney to escape the humidity of the Gold Coast and to live somewhere a little more fast-paced. Most of my family lived in Sydney when I was growing up and as a result we were back and forth a lot. So in some ways, Sydney has always felt more like home than the Gold Coast.
What do you love most about working in the Inner West?
Working in the Inner West means there’s a wide range of families that swim with us – families from different backgrounds and ways of life. I also love that we offer “All Abilities” classes which are one-on-one class for students with special needs. We also host Special Olympics sessions for these students once a week. Just last term, we had an All Abilities student come through from Royal Life Saving who was a refugee with special needs. We were able to work with Royal Life Saving to provide her with a term’s worth of swimming lessons through one of our instructors who specialises in ‘Access & Inclusion’ classes.
What makes Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre (AKAC) different to other places where you’ve previously worked?
I previously worked in a school and then a gym so it’s a nice change to work in an aquatic centre where everyone has knowledge about swimming and pools, not just me. AKAC is mostly swimming and aquatics, so it’s great to be surrounded by the things that interest me that most.
What do you love most about working as a LTS Manager?
I love training new teachers and creating new ways to teach students. When we have new instructors come through, I enjoy mentoring them and collaborating with them on how we can give the best service to our students and community. I’ve been teaching for a long time and always love helping instructors understand the program and what we are teaching and why.
What are your favourite places in the Inner West?
I love the food in the Inner West! You don’t get the same diversity of food on the Gold Coast like you do in the Inner West.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give a parent when first getting their child into the water?
Lean into it and don’t be afraid. Kids can sense fear and apprehension so if the parent is trusting and excited about being in the water then the child will be too. Also – be persistent! Swim through winter and make it an enjoyable experience for your child. Also, do some swimming outside of lesson time – practice makes perfect!
To learn more about Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre and the Learn To Swim Programs, visit www.innerwest.nsw.gov.au/explore/aquatic-centres/annette-kellerman-aquatic-centre