Motivational Monday: 3 Key Features of a Successful Coach-Athlete Relationship

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3 Key Features of a Successful Coach-Athlete Relationship

As swimmers, our coaches are our backbone. They teach us the ways of the water and how to move through it as quickly as we can. They are there to give us high-fives when we have a good race, and they are a shoulder to cry on when we have a bad one. Sometimes they may yell at us, and we may get annoyed, but deep down, we know that they only want to see us reach our goals. Having a good athlete-coach relationship can be the X-factor in a swimmer’s success. Here are three key features of these relationships:

The Relationship Isn’t All About Swimming

Good coaches don’t just see their swimmers as athletes, but they see them as people, too. I had the same club coach for more than 10 years, and the personal relationship that I had with him was a large reason for what drove me to go to practice each day. When I walked onto the pool deck for what would surely be a painful set, the first thing that my coach would say to me would usually have nothing to do with swimming. We’d talk about the latest Philadelphia sports news, or what new Blizzard of the Month was released at Dairy Queen.

Being able to have these casual conversations with my coach allowed me to feel more comfortable talking to him when I had a swimming-related issue. Yes, it’s undoubtedly important for a coach to hold a position of authority, and swimmers should always respect their coaches. However, when a coach looks at a swimmer as more than just the times that they produce, it will build a sense of trust and comfort between them. These are crucial to a swimmer being able to flourish to their full potential as a member of a team.

Athletes Have a Voice

While it is important for athletes to respect their coaches, it’s also important for athletes to have a voice on their team. When coaches have a “my way or the highway” coaching philosophy, this can break the trust between them and their athletes. It can also lead to communication barriers, as athletes won’t feel comfortable speaking up about issues. The reality is, there is no one size fits all when it comes to coaching. Different types of athletes require different training plans and styles of coaching.

When athletes are not receiving the type of coaching needed, it’s important they are comfortable with bringing up their concerns. Maybe a swimmer might request more work on their turns, or more time refining their stroke technique. An athlete who has a voice in training will be more motivated to come to practice each day than the athlete who feels locked into a training program that doesn’t work for them. For this reason, it’s crucial that athletes have a voice in their relationship with their coach.

Athletes Feel Supported

Swimmers undoubtedly go through times when the sport simply doesn’t go their way. Whether it’s an individual or team struggle, coaches are the ones who lift up those who have fallen. When swimmers have a bad race, it can be helpful to let the emotion out rather than bottling it up inside for the rest of the meet. A good coach is a great resource for someone to discuss the race with. They’re the experts in the sport – they can help identify what went wrong and how to fix it. They can re-motivate swimmers and prepare them for their next race.

Just the smallest words of reassurance from a coach can work wonders during rough practices or meets. Although it sometimes may be hard to see, coaches always have a plan. Having a coach simply tell a swimmer to “trust the process” can make a huge difference in the swimmer’s mindset and performance, as it reaffirms that the coach has a plan for success. A coach that knows how to support their athletes is crucial to the success of the swimmers/team. When swimmers can rely on their coach for support, this can provide a great sense of motivation.

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