3 Things to Keep in Mind When Transitioning to a New Coach

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Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

By Taylor Padington, Swimming World College Intern

In the course of a swimmer’s career, it is inevitable that they will be directed by more than one coach. This change could be due to a coach switching to a different team, the transition from high school swimming to collegiate swimming, or even the retirement of the coach. Whatever the case may be, the changeover of coaches can be a scary or daunting time in a swimmer’s life.

Over the course of my own swimming career, I have had several different coaches, with the latest transition being at the beginning of my senior year of college. I was pretty unsure of what this new coach would bring to the program and how it would translate into my final year of swimming.

So how do we swimmers do it? How can we make the transition period not only easier for ourselves, but for our new coaches as well? As I have learned, there are a few key principles that are effective for creating that perfect new coach-swimmer bond.

1. Trust in the New

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Photo Courtesy: Brooke Wright

As the new coach takes their first steps on the pool deck, all swimmers hold their breath. Will this coach be a slave driver? Will they sit on their phone the entire practice? Will they scream and yell? All these questions rattle in our brains, but it’s important to remember that all coaches have the same fears. Will these swimmers work diligently? Will they take my advice or throw it back in my face?

Both swimmers and the coaches are filled with uncertainty at this point; the first step in achieving a good relationship is the willingness to try. Through doing what your new coach is asking you to do, you may find out that they have some fresh ways to improve your stroke. Or perhaps the sets that are given to you have a new air of life to them. Whatever the case may be, you will never get to experience these new things if you don’t have trust in the coach.

2. Be Open

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Photo Courtesy: Elizabeth Lykins

One of the best things a coach and swimmer can create is a line of communication. Without communication, both sides will feel exasperated and will not achieve their desired goals. As a swimmer, reaching out to a new coach can be frightening. I know it was for me. I had a lot of apprehension about what the coach’s “plan” was for me. Yet, in my first ever meeting with my new coach we had an open discussion about the type of training and lifting that works best for me, how I normally rest for big meets, and what my goals were for the end of the season. We talked about what he envisioned for my season, while I agreed and also added in some changes.

By the end of the meeting I came out feeling relieved and satisfied. After just an hour of talking with my new coach we were able to successfully develop our seasonal plan and, suddenly, I didn’t feel as apprehensive. Instead I was looking forward to getting back into the pool and training towards my goals. It is important to remember that coaches want you to be successful in your swimming career, and by opening up and talking to your new coach, you will both be able to feed off each other and work towards the same achievements.

 3. Don’t Be Quick to Judge

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It is easy as a swimmer to judge the new coach. They’re different than the old coach, have particular ways of teaching a stroke, or maybe you think their warmups are ridiculously long. The list could go on and on. For a swimmer, judging the way a coach runs a practice is easier than attempting to try the new, unfamiliar methods of said coach.

I was in high school when my old coach decided to quit and our club team got a new coach. The new coach was young, energetic and full of new ideas. I remember laughing behind this coach’s back about how excited he used to get about a particular set. But after a while, the jokes made at the coach’s expense weren’t that funny, and his energetic attitude actually propelled us into new swimming heights. Being judged doesn’t feel good, and from a coach’s standpoint, you can get pretty worn down. Being both a swimmer and a coach, I have done the judging and have been judged. In the end, these negative attitudes or snide remarks made at the end of the lane deteriorate the main reasons why you and the coach are on the pool deck: to get better and have fun swimming.

Getting a new coach, or even being the new coach, can be a scary ordeal. However, if you take the time to try the new things, are open to change and willing to listen, the transition to a new coach will be an experience that is both exciting and enjoyable.

6 comments

  1. Lori Myers

    Proud of you. It is an excellent article!

  2. Andrea Trahan

    Erin Trahan its Coach Steve & Ashley 🙂

  3. Kyra Kondis

    SMU Women’s Swimming and Diving THAT’S OUR COACHES!

  4. Sara Bucsis-Gunn

    Great article to keep change comfortable, it is one of the hardest things we can do!