20 Things Coaches CAN Do To Be A Lighthouse For Swimmers In Corona Season


Wayne Goldsmith

Can’t Coach In The Pool? Can’t Coach In The Gym? Coronavirus-crunched on all sides?

Coaches, ask not what you can’t do but what you CAN do, writes Wayne Goldsmith, exclusively for Swimming World.

One thing I’ve learned about coaches is – they’re always – ALWAYS – thinking about coaching.

Have a coffee with a coach and they’re thinking about, talking about, pondering on…coaching.

Go to the movies with a coach. They might be facing the screen but they’re thinking about coaching.

Sit on the beach with a coach. They’re checking out the swimming strokes of every single person in the water and thinking about how they could coach them to be better and to swim faster.

So right now, when so many coaches around the world can’t actually coach, here are 20 things they CAN do to help their swim team – and themselves – cope with the corona crisis.

After his 25 things Swimmers CAN Do While Training and Racing Are on HoldWayne Goldsmith offers 20 Things Coaches CAN do to make the most of the prevailing lockdown circumstances and come out fighting when containment comes to an end.


The Wash – Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

20 Things You CAN Do To Help Swim Squad & Self Come Through Stronger

  1. Lead! Now is the time for you to demonstrate those wonderful qualities of leadership you possess. Leadership is the art of subtle influence. There’s no need to write epic poems or record dramatic videos about being a champion or winning or success. Being a leader means caring. Being a leader means listening. Being a leader means seeking to understand. Just reach out and let the team know you’re there for them when they need you. Be their rock! Be the calm, composed, caring person offering clarity and certainty in their currently chaotic and uncertain world. 
  2. Learn. There’s never been a better time for coaches to learn. You can get anything, anywhere, anytime and mostly for free in the palm of your hand. Study swimming science. Research stroke technique. Investigate the diet and nutrition habits of successful athletes. Read everything you can about how to help swimmers develop mental skills. Learn. Learn. Learn.
  3.  Inspire. In houses, in apartments, in cities and in regional areas across the world there are nervous, stressed, anxious and frustrated swimmers. A text, an email, a Facebook post, an Instagram message – a single, short message of inspiration and care from a coach right now could change the life of a swimmer. Be that coach. (Safe Sport NB:  If coaching young swimmers, make sure communications are done with the knowledge and approval of the swimmer’s parents or even send all messages through the parents)
  4. Share. This is a great time to create an online learning community with your team coaches. Why not start a Monday Morning Motivation session and connect with your coaching colleagues online to share your ideas and to exchange thoughts about coaching and training. 
  5. Unify. If there was ever a moment to unify your team – this is it. Why not start a Facebook page called TEAM-TALK and every morning post positive images, inspirational stories, tips about home-training, ideas on diet, links to videos and podcasts featuring the motivational stories of successful athletes? Bring people together!
  6. Educate. Pick an educational theme for each week of the current crisis. This week it’s nutrition. Next week strength training. The week after that learning how to relax. Then each week send your swimmers, coaching staff and even the swimmers’ parents information and ideas about the educational theme of the week. 
  7. Communicate. Stay in contact with everyone. The swimmers. Your coaching colleagues. The parent group. The pool support staff. Everyone! What an amazing moment this could be for you to build and grow great relationships within and around your team by communicating regularly with everyone.


    Cairn – Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

  8. Review. Great coaches actively seek input and feedback about their own performance. This is the perfect time to ask your coaching colleagues or assistant coaches for their feedback about your coaching, your leadership, your technical skills etc. And – it’s also a great time to provide feedback to the coaching team about their performance and to actively work together to help everyone get better!
  9. Re-think. Do you really need to do a long kick set every Monday? Is it essential that all your freestylers breathe bilaterally? Why not take a good, long look at some of your coaching beliefs and re-think them. This is a great opportunity to challenge yourself – even if the outcome is just re-enforcing why you do what you do.
  10. Reflect. Reflect on your coaching year to date. What have you done well? What have you been doing that isn’t working as well as you’d hoped? Identify the positives and negatives in your program, make some intelligent changes to it and be ready and raring to go when the team gets back together.
  11. Energize. Whether you like it or not, you are often the person responsible for your swim teams’ energy. When things get back to normal and you walk on pool deck on that first morning, the team will be looking to you to provide some zip and zoom! You can only give energy if you’ve got energy. Spend the downtime improving your diet, your fitness and your sleep so that at the first session back you’ll blow them away with your energy, excitement and enthusiasm.
  12. Surprise. There’s never been a better time for a “change-up”. Why not schedule a “Team Supporters” meeting a day or two BEFORE the pool officially opens and get in there with some parents and coaching colleagues and change a few things. A crazy new paint job in the team lockers. A bunch of signs with motivational sayings. Even something as simple as changing the end of the pool where you start from each morning. Throw in a few surprises for the team and capture their imaginations right from the first moment. 
  13. TheShallows

    The Shallows – Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

    Clarify. Ask yourself “why do I coach”. Think of the first thing to pop into your head and write it down. Then ask yourself the same question once again – “why do I coach”. Again – write down your response. And then do it one more time. Understanding why you coach is at the very heart of your coaching philosophy. Seek to understand your own motivation for coaching and the reasons why you coach – and everything will flow from there.

  14. Plan. No one knows when “normal” training will recommence. As the technical leader of the program, you need to have multiple training plans in place. One plan for recommencing training in a few weeks. Another plan based on starting practice sessions again in a couple of months. And you even need to develop a training plan for a worse case scenario where training may not be possible for an extended period of time. Once you get the “go-ahead” – you need to be ready to go-ahead!!!
  15. Breathe. Just breathe. Relax. Smile. This will pass. Take care your own mental health.
  16. Prioritize. Develop a prioritized plan of what you’ll do – and what the swimmers will do at the first session back. And the second session. And the first week. The dumbest thing anyone can do after a forced break is to try and make up for lost time by doing everything and anything all at once. Do first things first. Take it easy. Start with some easy swimming, skills practices and technique work and gradually get back into your full program.
  17. Visualize. If you can “see it” – you can be it. One of the qualities of great leaders is their ability to “see” the future and to then communicate their vision to others. Spend a few quiet moments everyday visualizing how your program will function when things get back to normal. Imagine every detail of how your practices will run, how you’ll coach and how the swimmers will perform. The clearer your vision, the more likely it is that your vision will become your reality. 
  18. Dream. This is a great opportunity to just dream. Where would you like to go with your coaching? What would you like to achieve? How far would you like to progress your coaching? National level? International level? Spend time just simply dreaming about the unlimited possibilities just ahead of you. Then share those dreams with family and friends. Dreams can come true – once you know what they are.


    New Horizon – Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

  19. Focus. Right now, some of you will be dealing with distractions in the home at a time of containment that need your time and energy. But routine is important so set time aside to focus. Right now, there’s thousands and thousands of e-books, courses, videos, podcasts and other learning options being offered to you as THE best way forward. Focus on one or two areas and study them intently. Aim to come back to active coaching as an expert on periodisation. Or become one of the leading swimming coaching minds on skills development. Focus on mastering something rather than trying to learn everything.
  20. Persist. This period of our lives will pass. You will be back on deck doing what you love soon. Persist. Persist. Persist. There will long days ahead but you will endure and you will be stronger as a result. Persist.

Stay well. Stay safe. 

Life will always throw you challenges and obstacles that will test you. In many cases you can’t change them: that’s out of your control. What you can do, what you must do, is choose how you will react to those challenges and obstacles. The real power you have is in choosing how to think about, talk about and react to life’s challenges”. – Wayne Goldsmith

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