To assess the meaning of the swimming metaphor in Miranda July’s short story “The Swim Team,” think about how it alters the narrator’s position in the town. Before the narrator became the swim coach, she does not appear to be moving through life with much purpose or meaning. She’s stuck in a town and is without a job or a clear identity. The people in the town don’t even know her real name. They think she is called Maria.
After the narrator becomes Elizabeth, Kelda, and Jack Jack’s swim coach, her life acquires direction. It provides her with a duty and a way to organize her days. Although the lessons only comprise two hours a week, the narrator confesses that she spends the rest of the week thinking about the swimming lessons.
As the question notes, the swim lessons do more than provide her with a tangible activity that propels her through life; they also turn her into a leader. The narrator is not just a swim coach: she is the water itself. She is responsible for coaching her three students and for creating the imaginative environment in which they learn how to swim.
Consider how the narrator’s swimming lessons have less to do with accomplishing the impossible and more to do with imagination and creativity. As the narrator reveals, it’s not impossible to teach people how to swim without a pool; it merely involves ingenuity on the part of the narrator and belief in the narrator from her students.