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Commentary by Edson Moy, Swimming World Intern 2016 CeraVe Invitational
Ever go to a swim meet and wonder about those random, resonating shouts that seem to pierce through the drowning sound of splashing pool? Those shouts are actually coaches’ callings. Whether it is a low, sustained “goooo” or a series of shrill whistles, coaches combine these sounds with hand motions to inspire and communicate with their swimmers. To the non-swimmer, it may seem difficult for those submerged under water to be able to actively absorb the verbal and visual signals being broadcasted yet swimmers are surprisingly aware of their surroundings in and out of the pool. Regardless, coaches’ calls are easily heard over the echoic cheering of teammates and autonomous applause of the crowd, only adding to the competitive atmosphere of the meet.
Among the noticeable calls are Jim Wood’s (BAC) highly audible “hep!”, Peter Clark’s (USA Swimming) “woo-woop” whistle, and Brian Hoffman’s (CAT) low swooping “whoop”. Each is equally memorable as coaches seem to repeat the same callings with rehearsed similarity, allowing swimmers to recognize their coaches even beneath the break of the water. Coaches Wood and Clark noted that the reason for the seemingly absurd shouting is mainly for communication, alerting swimmers that their coaches are paying attention and focused on the race. More obviously, coaches use these signs to encourage their swimmers, inspiring them to swim faster (or slower at parts) with comforting support.
However, not all coaches feel the need for erratic calling. Tom Himes (NBAC) does not use any unique shouts during meets, confiding in his pre-race prep to inform his swimmers about what they need to do while in the water. Aside from his one-handed wave with a half-folded paper, Himes remains relatively mellow on the audience side of the pool, periodically motioning for his swimmers to speed up or slow down during particular portions of the race. His confidence is well deserved though, for he was named Age Group Coach of the Year, recognizing the “grassroots level of American swimming, an essential piece of the puzzle for building strong National teams and keeping swimmers in our great sport.”
Other prolific calls and hand motions include: an alternating arm motion simulating a swimmers kick, two outstretched arms in a Y with one hand shaking in a pulsating vibrato, “yup, yup, yup!”, “Hey oh! Hey oh!”, a sustained “yay”, violent pointing in the direction of where the swimmer is already going, and an infinite array of unique combinations of “go” and sweeping waves.
As an important note for those new to meets, do not be overwhelmed by the very obtrusive calling. The sounds are merely signals of encouragement. Just remember to maintain a safe distance from the coaches, however, for their forceful arm motions may be a threat to your safety.