Wayne’s Water World: How Coaches Learn

By Wayne Goldsmith

It’s pretty simple logic.

Swimmers want to get better at what they do.

The first and most important step of getting better is learning.

Therefore, the more swimmers learn – the faster they are able to accelerate their rate of learning – the more rapidly they can get better – and achieve their performance goals sooner.

Swimmers come to coaches to help them get better – to improve an aspect or aspects of their preparation and performance.

In a word – swimmers want coaches to help them – change.

Coaching is – change. The art of coaching lies in the coach’s ability to inspire change in the hearts and minds of the swimmers they coach.

It follows then that coaches need to understand learning – and not only how swimmers learn – but how they themselves learn.

Legend Australian Swimming Coach Bill Sweetenham once said to me, “The rate of learning of a coach must be equal to or exceed the rate of learning of the swimmers they coach”.

This makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

Swimmers have unprecedented access to information. Smart phones and other devices have put an unparalleled amount of information in the palms of the hands of swimmers all over the world.

They have – for the first time – access to the same information that coaches do.

To remain relevant, coaches must accelerate their rate of learning – and more importantly improve their capacity to be able to intelligently and effectively apply their learning to enhance the training and competition performances of their swimmers.

So how do coaches learn?

  1. Coaches learn by coaching. They learn with their swimmers. They learn from their swimmers. They learn – “on the job”.
  2. Coaches learn from other coaches. By working with, observing, talking to, listening to, reading about, studying – other coaches.
  3. Coaches learn by solving problems. By using their innovation, creativity and researching skills, i.e. the Internet, books, etc. to solve problems when they need to solve them.

The key to sustainable success as a swimming coach is making a commitment to daily learning.

Some people call this a “Growth Mindset”.

Others refer to it as a commitment to “Continuous Improvement”.

However – the easiest way to think of it is this.

Everyday – before and after every workout, ask yourself this one question:

“I want to my swimmers to get better. I want them to learn something new every day – something that helps them get a step closer to achieving their goals and to realizing their potential”.

“Do I apply those same standards to myself and to my coaching?”

Imagine, what a pool – what a program – what a swimming environment it would be to have every swimmer in your team and every coach in your Club committed to learning as much – and as rapidly as they could?

Swimmers learning!

Coaches learning!

What an unstoppable combination!!!

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Author: Daniel D'Addona

Dan D'Addona is the lead college swim writer for Swimming World. He has covered swimming at all levels since 2003, including the NCAA championships, USA nationals, Duel in the Pool and Olympic trials. He is a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a graduate of Central Michigan University. He currently lives in Holland, Michigan, where he also is the Sports Editor at The Holland Sentinel.

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