What Makes a GREAT Coach? An Athlete and Coach Perspective


What Makes a GREAT Coach? An Athlete and Coach Perspective

The best coaches are people who are influential, motivational, supportive, caring, positive and willing to help their athletes. Many mentors might display some of these qualities, but it takes someone special to represent them all. Great coaches’ attitudes will only help rub off on to their athletes, too.

As I go into my senior season as a collegiate swimmer, it is fun to reflect on all the different personalities of my previous and current coaches, and what makes them impactful.

Listed below are a few of the traits that I find to be the most essential when it comes to defining what makes a coach resonate with athletes.


Those who are motivational will push their swimmers past limits they don’t know exist. Motivational coaches always want what is best for their athletes. Being a motivational leader comes with enthusiasm and a goal-oriented perspective which is likely to shape the mindset of their swimmers, too.


Being an athlete is not always sunshine and rainbows. We often go through slumps that are difficult to come out of. Having someone who is supportive and caring toward their athletes makes a difference. Coaches who care about the well-being of their swimmers might not realize how influential they are truly being. Sometimes, we just need to express how we are feeling, and it is nice to feel like your coach is interested in what you have to say and how they can help make it better.


Positive coaches show their athletes the amazing things that they know they are capable of. When your coach believes in you, you are more likely to believe in yourself. Positive mentors know how to keep the environment light and energetic so that everybody is having fun while working hard.


Coaches have many jobs, but one of the biggest roles that they serve is to be somebody who is willing to help their athletes – in and out of the water. Every coach wants to see their swimmers succeed, but in order for that to happen, they have to be willing to help get them there. Those who dedicate their time and energy to pushing their swimmers to be better every day will play a major role in their success.

I asked my coaches from Ohio University what they believe defines a great coach. Read along to see what they had to say.

Mason Norman: Ohio University Head Women’s Swimming and Diving Coach

Norman believes that creating relationships and developing respect from his athletes is fundamental for success. There are a lot of different aspects of coaching that people value, but Norman finds loyalty, compassion and understanding to be a few of the most important qualities to possess.

“The coach’s responsibility is to guide people to become the best version of themselves.” – Mason Norman 

Talisa Lemke – Ohio University Head Women’s Diving Coach

Lemke defines great coaching as helping her athletes grow beyond what they think is their potential. Lemke does not want her divers to settle for something when she knows that there is still room for growth.

“It’s about setting the standard of expectations that sometimes the athletes don’t see in themselves.” – Talisa Lemke 

Ethan Curl – Ohio University Women’s Assistant Swimming Coach

Curl recognizes the importance of connecting with various personalities. He understands that everyone responds differently and being able to adapt the way he connects or communicates with different athletes is vital.

“It is important to find what motivates everybody and what makes them click. If you are able to do that, then you are able to get everybody on board with your mission.” – Ethan Curl

Masha Worthen – Ohio University Graduate Assistant Swimming Coach

Worthen believes that when a coach is passionate about what they are doing, they can change the world. Worthen sees the importance in bringing energy to practice each day in hopes that it will rub off on the athletes as well.

“If you have the love for the sport and the people, it will all come together.” – Masha Worthen

I hope that you enjoyed reading the different perspectives of how great coaches can be defined, and what their qualities look like! Shout out your favorites in the comments section below.

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1 month ago

Decent article but asking and sharing what coaches and swimmers from the same program is not much of a sample of what people think make great coaches.

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