3 Signs Of a Bad Coach

Head in Hands

By Wayne Goldsmith.

It’s easy to spot a good coach – energy, passion, enthusiasm, dedication, connection with their swimmers, knowledge…and it’s just as easy to identify terrible coaches.

So how do you identify terrible coaches?

  1. Terrible coaches “Tell and Yell” – they don’t listen to their swimmers or learn from them. They stand at the end of the pool – drinking coffee or talking on their phones or talking with other people instead of focusing on helping every swimmer in their program be all they can be. They yell times, they tell swimmers about technique and skills and streamlining – but they don’t connect with swimmers – they don’t work with them – they don’t empower swimmers to take ownership or responsibility for their own workouts. Instead of walking up and down the pool looking for opportunities to help swimmers improve, they stand still with one leg on the blocks yelling instructions and telling swimmers what they’re doing wrong.
  2. Terrible coaches impose their motivation on their swimmers – rather than listening to them and taking time to understand the motivation of the swimmer. They enforce training standards and workout limits rather than partnering with the swimmers and showing them how to unleash their limitless potential. They assume every swimmer wants the same thing that they – the coach – wants and as a result expects every swimmer to do things the coach’s way. They don’t care why the swimmer is training – they only care how they can they can push and drive and force the swimmer to do what they want them to do so they can further their own coaching reputations.
  3. Terrible coaches talk in absolutes – they speak in terms of “always” and “never” and “musts” instead of creating, innovating and developing new and effective ways of helping swimmers to achieve remarkable things. They set up “fake-rules” like ALL 10 year olds MUST do seven sessions a week or EVERY swimmer MUST do distance training if they are going to succeed. They don’t look to create new and exciting ways of coaching or to develop innovative and interesting ways to inspire young swimmers to do extraordinary. They don’t look to develop plans and programs designed to help each and every individual swimmer in their teams be the best they can be. They simply apply one set of rigid rules to all swimmers of all ages and any failure to comply with these rules results in negative consequences.

Terrible coaches are everywhere.

But they can change – and they can become an outstanding coach – if they remember the three key coaching concepts:

  • Listen – to your swimmers. Take time to understand them and what’s motivating them to swim.
  • Learn – be uncompromisingly committed to learning, to change, to improvement, to getting better at coaching.
  • Love – love what you do – do what you love and express that love through every aspect of your coaching – everyday.

Wayne Goldsmith

Wayne Goldsmith has been an influential figure in world swimming for more than 25 years. Visit his page here.

He led Swimming Australia’s National sports science / sports medicine program for many years and has spoken at numerous national and international swimming conferences in the USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, The Philippines, New Zealand and Australia.

He has written more than 500 articles on swimming, swimming coaching, swimming science, triathlon and swimming performance which have been published in books, magazines and online all over the world.

Wayne has been a staff writer for Swimming World for the past ten years.

Wayne lives, writes and coaches on the Gold Coast, Australia.

Click here to contact Wayne.

99 Comments
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4 years ago

Every parent of a swimmer should read this?

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My son had one of these bad coaches in upstate NY. Sadly my son quit swimming.

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4 years ago

This is a great read.

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4 years ago

I wish some coaches would read this.

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4 years ago

Had one. Luckily escaped.

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4 years ago

Hahahaa

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4 years ago

Trevor Perry

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4 years ago

Abbey Proctor

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4 years ago

Suezee Wuezee

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4 years ago

Unfortunately my kids have had too many of these coaches in our program

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4 years ago

Worth a read…

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4 years ago

Not just for swimming coaches but for all sports!

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4 years ago

Listen.

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4 years ago

Listen, learn, love. Good advice!

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4 years ago

Erin Braden Goss

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4 years ago

Rosemarie Carrillo

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4 years ago
Reply to  Jen Kacz

Thanks!!! We need you!!

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Mo carey
4 years ago

I love watching his youtube videos

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Very telling

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Jennifer
4 years ago

Yup. Nail head hit square on. Unfortunately my experience has been these coaches are WAY too rare. My experience is coaches focus on their fastest swimmers and bark at the rest of them. Once my daughter had a coach who really cared and worked with her to improve her technique. My daughter really performed for her because she knew her coach cared about her. Sadly she had to retire and my daughter got lost again in a giant program again. Hopefully things will get better as head coach acknowledges failing most the swimmers and the assistant coaches. I do recommend taking the time to go in and have a fair reasonable calm conversation with the coach if you feel the coaches are letting down your kid. I also recommend not rushing in – give it time; but don’t wait too long like I might have done. My daughter just did her last SC meet as a junior. Now we have to try and fix things next fall so she won’t be committing until Spring.

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Henry
4 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

Jennifer: “My experience is coaches focus on their fastest swimmers and bark at the rest of them.”

Yup. Or other times just plain ignoring them completely. As an official, I have personally watched at the meets the head coach cheer vigorously for the fastest kids, and boldly not say a peep of encouragement to his own developing swimmers swimming at his feet. This closely resembles the famine diet of any relationship or encouragement with these same swimmers during the practice week.

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4 years ago

Herman, terrible coaches make you do certain sessions per week. Sound familiar?

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4 years ago
Reply to  Soan Thung

Very much so…. unfortunately.

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B Marshall
4 years ago

So agree with this! Unfortunately, my daughter has one of these now. Nothing is good enough for him, yet no feedback, encouragement, correction or actual coaching is ever given, especially during practice. All that is done is giving the set and yelling out times. Most practices go without anything being said to her.
I believe coaches beed to be encouraging and supportive of their athletes. If you only bark at and chastise them, it can lead to confidence issues and then performance issues.

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2 years ago

Are these articles satire?

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2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew John

Matthew John Fun Fact Sunday: Wayne Goldsmith has never coached any swimmers to any success ever. This article is cringeworthy.

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2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew John

Actually helpful information. While I don’t think you need to produce high level athletes to be a good coach many of this guys articles seem tone deaf.

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2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew John

They are making a JOKE out of something that exists but that they are NOT talking about. PEDOPHILIA and all coaches of youth. Youth MINISTERS are another group to keep a VERY close eye on because THEY are the most prevalent sexual predators and consistently top the charts as SEXUAL OFFENDERS. Think I am kidding? Don’t just believe, check it out yourself. It exists and is more prevalent NOW than ever. there ARE some great coaches and I have had a few great ones during my career. Nowadays though it’s almost impossible to do anything to these creepy people even when they are CAUGHT because the attorneys and politicians are ALSO pedophiles and protect their “kind”. It is the most disgustiung thing in THEIR FU world and it MUST stop now.

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2 years ago

Might be better to switch the angle from ‘bad things bad coaches do’ to ‘positive things good coaches do’

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2 years ago

Just a little more SWM
SLUDGE.

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2 years ago

Absolutely Correct!

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2 years ago

Robert Long this is an interesting read

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Never met a swimmer with these attributes, never saw a coach like this.

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2 years ago

Jocelyne Humbert O’Kane Lucky you

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2 years ago

Melissa Thomas yes, definitely lucky you!

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2 years ago

Jocelyne Humbert O’Kane most definitely lucky you

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2 years ago

Satire??? How about the CREEPY ones that eventually CO-habitated with one of the YOUNG lady swimmers they coached. Pedophilia is STILL rampant in the swimming realm and every other SPORT as well which is WHY these crazy adrenochromed people are suggesting all this made up pretend BS. Invisible enemy? Yeah, it’s YOU! You are screwing yourselves by MIS-using that Legal Name you always THOUGHT was YOU!

Think I am crazy now do you? Well go ahead and continue on that crazy path of deception and fraud you live IN and SEE how it works for ya. If YOU fall for this BS, you deserve to be enslaved…STUPID.

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2 years ago
Reply to  Douglas Joseph

Douglas Joseph i had a coach who would stand at the door of the girls locker room and listen to them and then pull them aside to have conversations with them after about how you don’t gossip about your coach. i left the club because of this man and it was just disturbing.

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2 years ago

Jevi Mae, Janelle Rada

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2 years ago

My coach used to smoke on the pool deck while we were swimming, curse at us, write the entire workout on the chalkboard and leave, and put his leg up on the starting blocks while wearing shorts( accidentally showing his testicles). At same time, there were coaches doing worse things to the female swimmers in my area. These three things listed are small potatoes.

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2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Frazier

Sharon Frazier just wow ?

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2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Frazier

Geeezzzz….

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2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Frazier

Sharon Frazier reprehensible behavior for a coach!?

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2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Frazier

Luke Johnson

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2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Frazier

I agree Sharon. You must have swam in the 80s/90s when coaches had free will to do whatever they wanted to swimmers without any consequences

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2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Frazier

Sharon Frazier sounds familiar

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2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Frazier

Rachel Handren you are correct about the era. Mid 1980’s.

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2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Frazier

Wayne Gould ??

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2 years ago

These people are DESTROYING everything we must have to enjoy life. This MUST end. Walk away from these crazy asshats and lets form our OWN cooperative that those asshats are NOT allowed to participate in. WALK AWAY NOW.

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2 years ago

Sounds like some coaches in Boulder

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2 years ago

I have. It’s sad

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2 years ago

You could add a lot to this list… My kids of had all kinds of coaches… The bad ones were really bad…When it’s about the coach and not about the kid… That will tell you everything you need to know

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Julie Dow
2 years ago

It’s a shame that some of these coaches get into power and ruin kids love of swimming.

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2 years ago

Craig Logan

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2 years ago

Sounds like the head coach of Loyola New Orleans

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2 years ago

Sadly there are too many this is reminiscent of….

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2 years ago

Kamryn

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2 years ago

Angel Sandoval I wonder who this reminds me of 🙂

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2 years ago

Simon Rogers

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2 years ago
Reply to  Glen Fenby

Glen you know you are a one off???

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2 years ago
Reply to  Glen Fenby

Simon Rogers thanks

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2 years ago

Ah yes, the classic one foot up on the block…For the entire practice ?

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2 years ago

Mackensey House

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2 years ago

John House

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2 years ago

Where do I begin. I had a coach throw metal chairs, tables and hurl kickboards at us. I had a coach make us do sit-ups in our swimsuits on tile pool deck until our tailbones started bleeding (same coach would try to make us swim entire workouts butterfly). I had one coach wear short shorts and put his leg up on the block showing his testicles. My college coach thought it would be a grand idea to have us climb up a rope from the water to the 5M platform which caused me to tear the labrum in my shoulder. And many coaches did bodyfat testing/weigh ins. I had so many teammates with eating disorders. Oh, and lets not forget about the coaches that slept with teenage swimmers on the team.

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2 years ago

Swimming club committees should read this article …. then spend some quiet time observing all their coaches … then reassess the coaches and work on what can be improved for their swimmers …

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2 years ago

Nicole Tregellis

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2 years ago

Yup I know these coaches n

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2 years ago

Qiana Scott

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2 years ago

I am about to post it

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2 years ago

Keith Ashcroft, Charlie TU..!!!

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2 years ago
Reply to  Shane Ashcroft

Shane Ashcroft number 1 is quite funny ?