Unsung Heroes: Why Your Coach is Your Key to Success

Photo Courtesy: Jeremy Crawford

By Nick Pecoraro, Swimming World College Intern.

The relationship between you and your coach can be likened to that of a sculptor and his sculpture. Sure, it’s a pretty sculpture with great details, but who gave the sculpture its features and definition to turn out the way it looks? The sculpture couldn’t have done it! It was the sculptor that helped transform it into a beautiful piece of artwork.

“Athletes who are able to form close attachments to their coaches are more likely to feel secure in exploring their role in sport, pushing their boundaries, taking risks to improve performance and being able to confidently give 100-percent effort,” Bo Hanson, the founder of Athlete Assessments, claims about coach-athlete relationships.

Similarly with swimming, your time drops or technique changes weren’t all achieved by yourself. Sure you’re the one that puts in the effort, but who told you to fix your technique and gave out your times? Obviously you can’t do it alone. Your coach is the one who helps you progress every single practice! Both you and your coach generate a powerful duo in the endeavor for success.

Your Mentor

Your coach, chris mentoring nathan

Photo Courtesy: Jeremy Crawford

One of the many roles your coach can play for you is being your guide to enhancing your skills. In an article about sharing tips for younger athletes, Coach Bob Bowman preaches, “For a swimmer, I’m their eyes out of the water. They can’t see what they’re doing.”

Bowman is exactly right: swimmers can’t see what they are doing!

While your stroke might feel smooth during practice, your coach is your extra set of eyes that catch problems you don’t notice. In the same way, your coach can unmask mistakes you can make outside of the pool.

Almost every coach will tell you that swimming, or any sport in general, is 90 percent mental and only 10 percent physical. They’re not wrong! You could have been completely prepared physically for your race, but one negative thought could throw it all down the drain. Your coach wants you to know how vital your thoughts are when it comes time for the big race.

Your Supporter

your coahc, martin cheering for a race

Photo Courtesy: Jeremy Crawford

Your coach is also one of your biggest supporters. Sean Gallagher, one of the swimmers under the 46-year leadership of head Bangor high school swim coach Phil Emery, said about Emery, “Phil believed in me when I did not believe in myself, not just in swimming but in life.”

Just like Emery, your coach is here to encourage you, or as my own coach would say, “be your cheerleader.” Sometimes, your coach might give you the “Mother of All Sets” that could absolutely wreck you. However, they do know what it takes for you to strengthen your finesse. In the rare occasion that you come crumbling down, they will be there to pick you right back up. Your coach is on deck to help push your boundaries, step out of your comfort zone and cheer you on.

Doing Your Part

Your coach. Bangor High School coach Phil Emery works with his swimmers during a practice on Jan. 22, 2003 at Husson College in Bangor. (The Weekly/Linda Coan O'Kresik)

Photo Courtesy: Linda Coan O’Kresik

Sounds great doesn’t it? You have a coach on your side who willingly wants to guide you to the top. However, your coach alone isn’t your key to success (what?!).

One of the biggest factors in a working coach-athlete relationship is doing your part. “Nothing will work unless you do” is a saying that legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden stood by.

All swimmers experience a time when they think they are right and their coach is wrong. Yet, believe it or not, your coach actually knows a lot about swimming (crazy, right?). Coaches have observed the techniques of countless swimmers and know what works and what doesn’t.

When boosting your relationship with your coach, mutual respect is key, as suggested by Hanson. If you can respect your coach as a coach, then they can respect you as a swimmer.

Strengthening Your Relationship

your coach, megan giving a hug

Photo Courtesy: Jeremy Crawford

In an article with Teachstone, Sheila Sellers suggests that honesty is key when desiring trust with your coach. If you hide from your coach, you won’t be able to create trust by relying on your coach’s abilities to help you. Forming trust with your coach is having courage to ask questions and communicate your thoughts and concerns to him. Growing trust would make you feel more secure in exploring your role with your coach and motivate you to work hard.

As a swimmer, you are consistently learning more about the sport every day. However, swimming is a constant love-hate battle as hardships may befall more often than not. Some battles are not meant to be fought alone, and that’s when your coach comes into play.

Your coach is the person to persevere with you on your athletic journey; your coach is the unsung hero behind the blocks.

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



  1. Kym Byrne

    So true Tom Harris and Kevin Calmettes🏆

Author: Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro is a sophomore at Calvin College studying kinesiology with an exercise science emphasis. He swims breastroke and the IM for the Knights.

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