Able2Do Anything: Sports

Meet the disabled teenage coach teaching kids how to swim

Nathan McKechnie poolside holding a medal

Nathan McKechnie is at peace when he’s in the water, in fact it's where he excels the most - but on dry land life can be a struggle.

Living with ADHD, autism and dorsal stream dysfunction growing up was isolating and tough.

His mum, Mandy, would see him stand in the corner with tears rolling down his cheeks; she knew something had to change.

Now 18, Nathan holds a record for disability swimming in Scotland after joining a local group when he was younger.

“We found a disability club and he quickly moved up the ranks and it gave him confidence and made him believe he can achieve the things he wants to achieve in life,” Mandy told BBC News.

Mind you, we guess some of the older members were not too pleased being thrashed in the water by an inspiring teenager.

“I was a wee 14-, 15-year-old boy and I was competing against a 42-year-old, and I would beat him," Nathan recalled.

"He wasn’t too happy about it but it was a fun experience.”

Nathan was chosen to compete in the Special Olympics due to be held in Liverpool 2020, but then lockdown hit, unfortunately he never made it to the games.

There was more hard luck round the corner, in 2023 he was diagnosed with a hole in his heart putting a spanner in the works when it came to competitive swimming.

“I couldn’t come to terms with it to be honest, I very much just distanced myself from swimming completely.” he said.

"My teacher then said there was a coaching opportunity for swimming and I jumped on top of that as soon as he said so.”

With his school days behind him, Nathan now coaches disabled and non-disabled children in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, as part of the national Learn to Swim programme.

“I have kids tell me, 'I’m in swim club now', and just to hear that really brings me joy and pride.

"I think to myself, I helped you get there. I just really makes me feel good about myself,” he told the BBC.

"You’ve got to play with the cards you’ve been dealt. You can’t change them, but you can use them to your advantage.

"I’m proof of it. I can stand here and say it doesn’t matter what you have you can do anything you set your mind to.”

[ To find swimming lessons around the UK visit the Better.org website ]

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