Meet The Incredible Swimming Champion, Aderoju Ope-Ajayi

As a kid, and even now as an adult, I’ve always been afraid of water, deep collection of water like the sea, oceans, rivers etc. I don’t even know where this fear started. All I know is that if I’m driving on a bridge, or flying over water, my anxiety level increases. Which is strange because I’m okay with the swimming pools and the streams (the shallow ends).

I remember the day the bus I entered broke down on the Third Mainland Bridge (TMB). Now, if you’re familiar with Lagos, you know that TMB is not a very nice place to have car issues. Anyway, we all got down from the bus so that the driver could fix whatever was wrong with the vehicle.

As we were waiting, I noticed that some passengers were sitting close to the bridge. They appeared to be leaning on the bridge wall whilst gisting and laughing. One of them called out to me and asked if I was not tired of standing by the road. I told him quite clearly that it was better for me to stand by the road than to sit near the bridge where you’ll be so close to the ocean. No sir!

With this fear, I made up my mind to learn how to swim. The way I saw it, if I could at least swim, I would have a 30% chance of surviving should anything happen while flying or driving on the bridge. So, I put down swimming on my bucket list.

How did I meet Aderoju?

When I finally decided to learn how to swim, after my usual procrastination, it was a bit difficult picking a swim school. Not that there were a lot of them. The problem was finding one close to me. Luckily enough, I saw an advert placed by Dolphin Swim School on Instagram. I immediately made enquiries and booked my place for the next beginner’s class. It was as easy as that.

I spoke with Aderoju a couple of times over the phone, and she was warm and every bit a professional. So, when we finally met, it was as if we had known each other for so many years.

Of course when I heard that she was a highly decorated swimming champion, I just had to speak with her. As gracious as ever, she agreed to do this interview. So, sit back and enjoy my chat with Aderoju.


Meet The Incredible Swimming Champion, Aderoju Ope-Ajayi

Before we get into how you started swimming, you studied Cell Biology & Genetics at the University, but you currently work as Head of Sales and are a swim instructor. What made you decide to study Cell Biology & Genetics and how easy has it been combining your work as Head of Sales with swimming?

I opted for Cell Biology & Genetics because I couldn’t get in for Medicine. Lol… but seriously I was offered a scholarship somewhat to attend the University of Lagos so I could be in the Swim team. The University then was hosting the Nigerian University Games. Combining the Swim Instructor work and Being Head of Sales has been tough. It eats a lot into my family time and started taking its toll on me. I knew very quickly I had to take a decision quickly.

Did you always know that swimming was what you wanted to do?

No… I had no idea until February 2017. Even then it was still a thought. I think it finally hit me in May 2017. That I needed to get with the program and make this dream a reality.

Now to the question everybody wants to know, how did you start swimming? I ask because, in this part of the world, most parents don’t see swimming as a priority.

I accredit this fully to my dad. The Late Y.A Amodu. The coach of all coaches. He was very instrumental in this journey. He was then a sports enthusiast and one of the National Swimming Coaches & Nigerian Sports Official. He taught me all I knew about swimming. He encouraged me, pushed me, and made me love the sport.

There’s swimming for leisure and there’s competitive swimming. Did you start out swimming for leisure before deciding to compete professionally, or was competitive swimming something you knew you wanted to do from the onset?

I started off competitively with age group swimming for as far back as I can remember up until University days. In there, you try to fit in the leisure part of swimming as much as you can.

Meet The Incredible Swimming Champion, Aderoju Ope-Ajayi

Why did you stop competing at swimming events? Was it a case of “I’ve ticked this off my bucket list? Now let me be an instructor”? What was the motivation behind becoming a swim instructor?

I had to make a decision to quit swimming and focus solely on my studies. In Nigeria, it’s extremely hard combining both. When I went for the NUGA & WAUG Games, lectures and all were going on and catching up wasn’t as easy as I thought. My course advisor had to sit me down and made me decide which to go for. I kind of evolved into being an instructor. Family & friends tend to ask me to teach them as they know this is what I’m very good at.

How commercially viable in Nigeria is being a swim instructor? Is there a market for it? The reason I ask is because I personally think swimming is a lucrative area that most people are ignoring.

I think it’s extremely viable. There are not enough CERTIFIED Instructors to teach swimming. Most Nigerians, in my opinion have an innate fear of water from bad experiences, inherited or just imagined, and those fears make swimming seem like a really far/impossible achievement. Slowly, people are becoming aware that it’s a life skill and the benefits are massive.

Meet The Incredible Swimming Champion, Aderoju Ope-Ajayi

You would agree with me that not everybody can build a swimming pool and call themselves an instructor. What certifications or training do you have to undergo to be professionally capable of teaching people/kids swimming?

First off, you must have a good concept, knowledge & history of swimming and its techniques. You must have a track record of being a swimmer that can be verified. I would advise you get the following certifications, Water Safety, Life-guarding, First Aid, AED & CPR Teaching certifications. Also, be accredited with FINA (Federation Internationale De Natation).

Why do you think a lot of people are not swimming, or at least making an effort to learn? Is it a case of “humans don’t belong in water”?

As I said earlier, people are afraid of water. It can be real, imagined, inherited, they are afraid. There is a lot of misconceptions about swimming that needs to be corrected.

That’s one of main aim of the Dolphin Swim School. We want to de-mystify swimming and make it accessible to as many women & children as possible.

How are you able to juggle family and swimming? What is your typical day like?

For now, most of my swimming happen on the weekend, Saturday mornings and sometimes weekday evenings. Now I’m going full time, I would be having classes some week day morning, evenings and full weekends. I have more time to do school runs and spend time with kids during the breaks.

Meet The Incredible Swimming Champion, Aderoju Ope-Ajayi

Not many people know this, but you just resigned from your job to face swimming squarely. How easy was it coming to this decision?

It wasn’t easy at all. I have always been career oriented. I never thought I’d go down the entrepreneurial path, however after due reflections, spiritual guidance and several discussions with my family, mentors and business people, it’s something I KNOW I have to do.

Do your kids know how to swim? Is it a sport you envisage one of them going into professionally?

Yes they do, though my older son doesn’t like it as much. 😊 He is a football fan. He would definitely want to play football professionally. My younger son loves both. I see him swimming competitively and also playing football. He will sure have the best of both worlds.

At what age do you think children should start swimming? 

As early as possible i.e. 6 months. As parents you just need to take them yourself and spend time bonding with the kids in water. There are many resources online that can guide parents through this process.

You offer adult swimming classes (of which I’m your star pupil LOL), and will soon start kids classes in December. In terms of awareness and publicity, what are your plans?

Yes you are 😊. I am leveraging heavily on Social Media (Facebook & Instagram). Putting out newsletters and things like that. Because we are a small company, we don’t want to spend too much on marketing. Social media is good for us for now.

Meet The Incredible Swimming Champion, Aderoju Ope-Ajayi

Why the name Dolphin Swim School? 

Lol there is no major story behind the name. It was chosen a very long time ago. I just love the way dolphins move in water, they are smart, intelligent and gentle… they kind of typify what we want to communicate when we teach swimming.

Outside of your normal classes, which are on weekdays (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and Saturdays, do you offer private swim lessons and how often do you get requests for such?

Yes we do offer private classes. We get quite a number of requests for those. It’s for people that have their own pools and maybe want to learn in their comfort of their own homes or are very private.

What are your long term goals for your business?

Building a one of a kind Swim School in Nigeria.

Meet The Incredible Swimming Champion, Aderoju Ope-Ajayi

Are we going to see some Olympic champions coming from your school?

Yes most definitely. We are planning to have swimmers in the Tokyo 2020 & Beijing 2022 Olympic Games.

Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?

House of Tara International

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why?

Aquamarine Blue – I’m the colour of the sea and I sparkle and shine when I’m in the light.

Meet The Incredible Swimming Champion, Aderoju Ope-Ajayi

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?

Nothing that I can remember. Lol… well one of my students wore her daughter’s peppa pig cap to lessons. Lol does that count? 😊

Describe the colour yellow to somebody who is blind.

A colour that brings you joy, makes you feel warm on a cold day and bursts with delicious flavours on your tongue.

One piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs particularly those who want to get into the swimming space.

Be bold, be fearless, be hungry. Never stop learning and improving. Never be afraid to ask questions and put yourself out there. Evolve, Evolve, Evolve!!


There you have it folks! My wonderful interview with Aderoju. I wanted to keep on asking and asking. I particularly loved her response to what colour she would be in crayon box.

If you are in Lagos, or know someone who is interested in learning how to swim, please reach out to her. You can send go to the website – Dolphin Swim School or send an email to info@dolphinaquaticcenter.com.

Also, you can follow her on her social media platforms – Instagram –Dolphin.swimschoolnig and on Facebook –Dolphin Swim School Nig

Oops! I forgot to ask her why she’s not teaching men yet. Maybe some other time.

Do enjoy the rest of your week.

Love,

Endi.

Ps: If you enjoyed reading this interview, then you’ll enjoy our other interviews. Please click here, here, here and here to read our chat with some of the intelligent enterpreneurial minds in Nigeria, and the reason they do what they do.

Also, don’t forget to read our interview with Tosyn Bucknor a.k.a Area Mama a.k.a The Voice of Lagos.