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Do You Speak Swimming?

Clarity of communication is critical for coaches

Scott Bay | February 18, 2014

There’s a lot to love about swimming: competition, camaraderie, and the feeling of being well and healthy. For us coaches, one of the more interesting things we deal with regularly is how we communicate with our athletes. It’s not always as straightforward as one might hope, and sometimes, I find that even though we’re speaking the same words, the meanings may be different.

What one coach means by “best average” on a set may mean something totally different to another coach. How is this possible? Many of us have had our coaching career shaped by a number of different coaches, and it’s inevitable that their language becomes our language. In the last several years, there have been calls for a sort of dictionary or Rosetta Stone of coaching terminology. There have been many attempts that have failed.

Instead of trying to distill all of the coaching wisdom of the last several decades down to a single language, perhaps we should embrace each coach’s unique take on all things swimming and recognize that communicating something very complex can be done in a variety of ways with a diverse vocabulary.

As coaches it is incumbent upon us to make sure we not only say what we mean, but also to know how to express it in a variety of ways. The best coaches are teachers and the best teachers are coaches. Make sure your swimmers understand and be patient when they don’t.

As swimmers we need to make sure we take the time to ask questions. If you don’t understand, maybe no one else does either. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for clarification when your coach says something you don’t understand. Making sure we are all speaking the same language saves a lot of time and makes the practice much better for everyone!

Bottom line is that better swimming comes from better communication! So, do you speak swimming?

USMS Wave Seperator

About the Author—Scott Bay

Scott Bay is an ASCA Level 5 certified coach and has been actively coaching for more than 25 years. Team Blu Frog Masters swimmers he currently coaches include national champions, All-Americans, and world record holders who have swum to more than 300 Top 10 USMS swims in just the last five years. Bay is also the chair of both the USMS Coaches Committee and the Florida LMSC, and is head coach of Father Lopez Catholic High School Men’s and Women’s Swimming.

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