Are You Thinking About Becoming a Swim Coach? Tips For the Job

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Are You Thinking About Becoming a Swim Coach? Tips For the Job

So, now what?

You’ve polished up your resume, found a job listing online, and nailed the interview.

And against your biggest fears and all that nervous self-talk, you have landed yourself a job as a swim coach.

Sure, you are probably still in shock about the whole thing – especially considering it feels like it was only yesterday you were the one hanging on the lane line beside your teammates and staring bleary-eyed up at your own coach as they explained the next set.

But this time, you have traded in your own cap and goggles for a notepad and stopwatch.

And looking up at you is a whole team of kids, who are patiently waiting for that next set.

While this might be uncharted territory for you, I’m here to tell you that becoming a swim coach is nothing to be nervous about.

But, to help you feel more prepared, here are three things to think about as you transition into becoming a swim coach.

You Are More Than a Coach; You Are a Leader, Too

When I was an age-group swimmer, it never occurred to me to think about what kind of leader my coach was, and it wasn’t until I became one myself that I began to reflect on it.

But when I look back, I can feel the positive impact my coach had on me.

I can vividly remember how after every race, my coach would stand at the end of the team area, ready greet me with a high five or a fist bump. She would also follow that up with some words of encouragement, regardless of how I performed. While this is certainly what coaches are supposed to do, unfortunately after many years of being involved in the sport, I can tell you that isn’t always what happens.

But this memory brings me brings me to the concept of servant leadership, where the focus is on the growth and welfare of the people you are leading. As you transition into becoming a swim coach, think about how you can use servant leadership to foster an encouraging atmosphere for your athletes. After all, the job requires more than just yelling sets and giving instructions from across the pool.

Think about how you can be the kind of leader who prioritizes their athletes.

Whether that includes reminding them of the specific things they can work on after a race or finding words of encouragement for when they need it most, make sure that you are building a team of encouraged athletes by making them the priority.

Prepare For the Worst (But Expect the Best)

This one goes right alongside being a leader.

Coaching at the last minute is a lot easier when you have done all your homework in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the championship meet.

Scrambling at the last minute is no fun for you, and it’s even more stressful your athletes.

The best way to prepare for when things go wrong at a meet is to simulate race-day conditions in practice. This approach gives you, and your athletes, the time to create plans (and backup plans) that will make both of you feel more relaxed at those big meets. Essentially, the goal is to create worst-case-scenario options that you and your athletes can refer back to when things change or go wrong at a meet.

This can include preparing your athletes for a time when they may have to compete without getting a full warmup, or preparing them for what to do if their goggles fall off in the middle of a race.

But as a coach, in a time of crisis, your athletes are going to look to you for guidance. So, the best thing to do is to anticipate what can go wrong and set up a contingency plan for if (and when) they do.

Remember To Have Fun!

While this one may seem obvious, the fun factor can sometimes get lost while preparing for a competition in the middle of a treacherous season. But just because you and your athletes are going to be spending hours at the pool together does not mean it always has to be hard work.

Coaches who love what they do tend to create swimmers who feel the same way. Show them what makes you excited to be a coach. A love for the sport will make all of that hard work worth it.

So, whether that means relays at the end of practice or a silly corkscrew competition, it is important to keep a sense of enjoyment in the sport.

When I look back, I feel extremely lucky for the coaches I had while growing up. They built a connection with me and the rest of the team that transcended the wins, and the inevitable losses.

I wanted to swim hard and perform for my coach, my teammates, and myself – all of which were motivated by my coach’s supportive leadership, preparation, and passion for the sport.

So, I encourage you to see what kind of coach you can become.

Because you never know how you might be inspiring.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Phyllis Steimel
Phyllis Steimel
1 year ago

I loved being a swim coach! Time consuming, yes. Stressful at times? Yes. GREAT kids! Wonderful colleagues, rewarding! For me, the perfect occupation.

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