The Ups and Downs of Being a Coach’s Kid

Coach Bruce Gemmell and Erin Gemmell

The Ups and Downs of Being a Coach’s Kid

By Andy Ross (From the Archive)

Coach: The person you wish would use the word “recovery” more often. The person you wish you could never see again after a hard practice. The person who you are excited and angry to see at the same time.

But what is it like to have a coach who is also one of your parents? I was frequently asked what it is like having a coach as a dad. Well, it’s a lot like having a ‘normal’ dad who just happens to be in the same profession as you. Over the years, I’ve thought about if it is a good thing or a bad thing to have a coaching parent. Well, it is a mixture of both.

The Ups

1. Always the First One to Practice

This one is more for readers 16 years of age and under. When I went to my dad’s practices, I was usually the last one there. But when your ride to practice is also your coach, you often need to get there before everyone else to open up the pool and get situated before the team comes in. This actually can be a major con for morning practices.

2. Easier Access to Big Meets

If my dad had swimmers going to NCAAs or Nationals, I would sometimes be able to go to watch. Over the years, the main reason why I was able to travel to big meets was because my dad was going to coach, so I was able to tag along. This didn’t happen every year, but only the meets where I was also available to miss school.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

3. Always Receive Good Advice

Anytime I ever doubted my training or lacked confidence, I could always rely on my dad to provide sound advice. Most of the time, it was short and sweet, like: “Your coach is right, you are fine.” That was sometimes all I needed. There are a lot of parents out there who have little knowledge of swimming and try to coach their kids. This can be frustrating for their kids. But with my family, I knew I could always count on my dad to provide really solid swimming advice. He has been around the sport for more than 30 years, so I trusted him to know what he was talking about.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

4. Free Gear

Free goggles. Free racing suits. Free hotel rooms. Meals. Nicer equipment. Water bottles. And more. I’m sure everyone reading this wants to punch me in the face. But these are just some of the perks of being the coach’s kid. If my dad had a suit that didn’t fit one of his guys, he would come home and say, “Hey, can you fit in a 26 LZR?” I would never ask him for it, but he would always dish out freebies if he had them.


1. They Literally Know Every Coach On Deck

Anytime I stayed with my dad at club meets or when he visited me at college meets, he always knew all of the coaches on deck. It got to the point where I wasn’t even surprised that we had to stop and say hello to 10 different people on our way to the exit. And when I went to Junior Nationals, it was even worse. The funniest experience I had was when we were flying to our training trip and my dad knew the guy in our row because they had previously worked together. My mom and I just looked at each other like, “Of course he knows this guy.”

2. You Don’t Get To Relax Over Break Like Your Teammates

This isn’t necessarily a con, but it can be. My vacations were spent going to big meets at the end of the summer. I didn’t get to have a relaxing Thanksgiving break because I had to go to practice. And I certainly didn’t get a relaxing holiday break because I got a head start on winter break training…although going on two training trips has its perks. I will say I got a little jealous looking at some of my friends taking real vacations over the summer. But I definitely preferred a vacation going to Nationals over taking a boring old cruise (I’m being serious).

4. Everyone Knows You As the “Coach’s Kid”

Every recruiting trip I took, I was always known as the coach’s kid. No! I have my own life! I, as well as every other recruit, wanted to be treated like a regular prospect. I never wanted to let my dad’s image affect anyone’s opinion of me or filter any conversations. When I got to college, I didn’t tell people who my dad was unless I needed to to bring context into the story. This was because I didn’t like that kind of attention.

With these pros and cons, I wouldn’t change my life in any way. Having a dad who is a coach is the best kind of dad out there.

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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Marie Andrews
8 years ago

Nikki Merrill? I was all good when teaching now it’s not so good!

Dan ross
Dan ross
8 years ago

Great article and perspective son!

Amy Léger
8 years ago

Ryllie Tryon my life

Karin Lloyd
8 years ago

Hilary Yates Collins & Pat….take notes. It is so hard, but has its pros & cons. Good luck to Baby Collins first coach. ?

Devin Alexandra Horan
8 years ago

Lol Patricia Forrester

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