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Technique and Training

Make Your Coach Smile

Meet your goals by developing the qualities that coaches love

Terry Heggy | June 30, 2017

You might think of your coach as a cruel taskmaster, driven by delight in seeing swimmers suffer. Yet, although your coach might break into a smile when you complain about being tired, the reality is that delight is knowing you’re doing the work it takes to improve. Coaches’ greatest pleasure is seeing their athletes become the best they can be. Therefore, you’ll improve faster if you consistently do the things that make your coach smile.

Take Responsibility

Your coach provides planning, expertise, and encouragement, but you are ultimately in charge of your own success.

  • Swim regularly. The skills required for streamlining and propulsion (aka feel for the water) are highly technical and easily lost if not reinforced through consistent repetition.
  • Show up on time. Warming up properly leads to better results from the work sets.
  • Focus on technique. Dedicate yourself to continual stroke improvement. Efficiency transforms fitness into performance.
  • Adapt. Some days are better than others. If you’re struggling to hit your normal times, focus on form instead of speed. Maintain a positive attitude and try to come away from each practice with the knowledge that you gave it your best.
  • Commit to communication. Maintain an ongoing dialog with your coach. Discuss your goals and competition schedule. Ask for periodic feedback and do your best to implement suggestions. Make sure you understand the purpose of each set. And if you happen to enjoy an individual workout, let the coach know.

Be a Good Teammate

Friendships and camaraderie are obvious benefits of Masters swimming. But don’t neglect the other opportunities found in being an enthusiastic member of your workout group.

  • Take your turn. Lane leadership inspires you to set a good pace and push a bit harder than you might if you were at the back. Being responsible for counting and knowing the sendoff intervals forces you to stay focused. If you’re not the appropriate person to lead the lane, be gracious in allowing the faster swimmer to take that position. And always follow your team’s etiquette rules for considerate lane behavior.
  • Know the clock. Your coach appreciates it when you can report your times, but understanding your pace (and how to calculate and predict your times) also helps you learn how to track your progress and how to swim your best races.
  • Share in the synergy. Make it a point to meet and get to know your teammates, competitors, and coaching staff. You’ll find that Masters swimmers are genuinely supportive of each other, whether they’re family members, champion competitors, or beginning fitness swimmers. Join that support group; encourage and cheer for everyone in the pool. Positive energy is contagious, and when we support each other, each of us improves.

Have Fun!

Be proud that you’re a swimmer and smile every time you catch a whiff of chlorine. Enjoy each walk across the concrete pool deck and every single plunge into the cool water. When your coach assigns a tough and grueling set, say “Yes! That’s exactly what I need!” And when you see your coach grinning as you puff and pant at the end of that set, be sure to say “Thanks, Coach!” for helping you get faster.

USMS Wave Seperator

About the Author—Terry Heggy

Terry "Speed" Heggy has been swimming for more than 50 years. He won his age group in the 10K Open Water Championship in 2006, competed in the National Championship Olympic Distance Triathlon in 2014, and qualified again for USAT Nationals in 2015. He's the head coach of Team Sopris Masters in Glenwood Springs, Colo., and is a USMS-certified Level 3 Masters coach and an NASM Certified Personal Trainer.

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