5 Inevitable Conversations with Coach

Photo Courtesy: Donna Nelson

By Julia Cunningham, Swimming World College Intern

Coach is someone, not quite your parent or your best friend or even your number one role model, who is there throughout your swimming career, and maybe even longer. Coach has seen you through your worst days and best, witnessed your 5 a.m. mental breakdowns and 5 p.m. final swims. Regardless of the type of relationship you have with your coach, he or she is who you have the most contact with throughout the sport. Every interaction, whether it’s just in passing before a race or a long, sit-down goal meeting in the office, is what shapes your swimming career.

These are a few conversations every swimmer has throughout their career with their coach…

 1.“Are you swimming in college?”

This was the first thing I thought about as I began applying to colleges. Would I swim? The answer to that was obvious: of course. I wouldn’t know what to do with all my free time, otherwise. But what was I looking for in a team, in a coach? The conversation that started junior year in my high school coach’s office was a drawn-out process that would start afresh almost weekly.

Did I want to go somewhere where I stood out? Would I still get the same recognition from a coach if I didn’t have the fastest times on the team? Where would I be happiest?

I’ve found myself reliving the process as my friends graduate from high school with the same questions. In the end, for me, it wasn’t so much the conversation with my coach as it was a gut decision. While swimming wasn’t the only deciding factor for college, it was an important one. It came down to where I felt most comfortable when I stood on deck.

jack Bauerle Bob Bowman

Photo Courtesy: Peter Bick

2. “What happened there?”

It always becomes awkward when you and your coach aren’t on the same page. I’ve looked up to hear my time after a hard lactate set to a disbelieving, “You were just two seconds off your best! What happened there?!” I’ve also timidly approached my coaches after a terrible race to a slight shake of the head and a disappointed “What happened there?” That brief interaction is what refuels you to tackle the next race, or sets up your entire season. Sometimes there’s no answer to “What happened there?” Sometimes you know exactly what was going through your mind, and that question is just the thing you need to hear to make you figure out your next race. In situations like this, the best thing to do is to make sure you communicate, rather than brushing off the question.

3. “Get in the pool!”

Especially as training trip approaches and the dreaded weeks of non-stop swimming that follow that, you start to hear coaches say this a lot more frequently. Depending on your coach’s mood that day, this is potentially the most dreaded conversation. At times when you hear these words, you have to remind yourself why you’re involved in the sport, and why you would rather be in the pool than spending more time in bed.

Coach Ray Looze cheers on his swimmer.

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

4. Silence.

Sometimes there are races that even halfway through you know you’ve tanked. You don’t even have words for it, and you certainly don’t want to hear what your coaches have to say about it. You have to remember that figuring out what happened and talking through the race is what will prevent that race from repeating itself. Communication is always better than silence.

5. “I noticed some things there that you could work on.”

I have gotten out of a race having gone a best time and the first thing I hear are the things I did wrong. This conversation is one of the hardest to deal with, when all I want to hear is praise. I just have to remind myself that no one is perfect, and there are always things to work on. It’s always easier to think about improving on a good race than having to think about improving on a bad race.


  1. Rachel Moore

    Hey I know that guy Brent Arckey