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by Richard Garza

November 19, 2019

Take good care of yourself and your swimmers for long-term success

Coaching can be a rewarding career path. You help people achieve their goals while making it fun, interesting, challenging, and engaging. Writing workouts to accomplish this goal isn’t easy considering that the spectrum of swimming experience can range from newbie to Olympian. The different goals and interests of Masters swimmers can also affect what you’re trying to accomplish. You probably have competitive swimmers, fitness swimmers, triathletes, and social swimmers in your program. It’s difficult to make everyone happy at every single practice, but it’s possible.

Here are a few healthy habits to help you take care of yourself and make the crazy life of a Masters swim coach an awesome one.

Always Tell the Truth

Swimmers can tell when you’re lying. If you missed their swim or didn’t watch their stroke technique, just tell them so. If you see that they’re doing something very wrong, and they ask for feedback, politely tell them the truth. In addition, admit when you don’t know the answer to a question or if you were wrong about something you’ve said before. Let them know, then follow up with them when you’ve found an answer.

Form Friendships Outside of Swimming

Swim coaches can be consumed by the sport. It’s sometimes difficult to disengage for a while and, if all your friends are customers or co-workers, it can be difficult to find the support you need when things get tough. And they will get tough as every career has its ups and downs. Having friends outside of swimming can give your mind and soul a break from the amount of time and energy required of swim coaches. All things in moderation; it’s possible to have too much swimming in your life.

Enjoy a Hobby Outside of Swimming

In a previous article, I wrote about the benefits of taking a golf lesson or a lesson in any other sport. This places you in the frame of mind of someone new to the sport. It helps take your mind off swimming for a little while and gives you something else to look forward to. It’s also a great way to make friends outside of swimming.

Ask for Permission Before Taking Photos

In the world of social media and publishing everything, it might seem OK to take someone’s picture and share it on your club’s Facebook page or Twitter feed. But some people might not want their photos taken, and you need to respect the privacy of your swimmers. Always tell your swimmers where the photos you’re taking will end up before you take them. If you have an active social media presence or post pictures on your club website, you may wish to consult with an attorney, who might recommend that swimmers sign media waivers when they join your program.

Ask for Permission Before Touching Someone

There are multiple learning styles—some people absorb information visually, some take it in through conversation, and kinesthetic learners have to feel it. You might ask swimmers to join you on the pool deck to go through the motions of proper technique with them, and you might need to manipulate their arms or shoulders for them to get a feel for the proper technique. Before doing so, always ask for permission to touch their arm, hand, shoulder, etc. When you ask, you open up the lines of communication about anything you might need to be aware of, such as an old injury or where they might have had surgery.

Read the Rule Book

Get to know the ins and outs of our sport. It’s important to know what is and isn’t permissible in competition so you know how to use your swimmers’ strengths to their advantage and to dispel any misunderstandings. For example, how many of you know that you can go past the 15-meter mark in breaststroke races?

Attend Your LMSC Meetings

Learn what’s going on in your area. Your Local Masters Swimming Committee meeting is made up of volunteers who aim to provide U.S. Masters Swimming services and resources to its members, clubs, and coaches. Meetings are a great way to find out about what kind of support, such as scholarships or grants, may be available to you. It’s also a great place to advertise your meets and events, get help with questions or problems, and network with other coaches.

Attend Seminars—and Not Just Ones About Swimming

You’re an important part of your swimmers’ lives and that comes with significant responsibility. Consider attending some self-improvement seminars. Learning how to improve yourself will not only help you become a better coach but will also give you valuable communication tools you’ll need to interact with different people. Remember, you’re coaching a person, not a product.

Get to Know Your Swimmers

Get to know your swimmers’ partners’ and kids’ names. Follow up with them after the surgery, vacation, or work trip where they visited another club. Take attendance and check in on the people who have missed some practices. Chances are you’ll be working with the same people for several years, and the quality of your relationships with your swimmers determines the quality of your work environment.

More Than Just Coaching

Being a Masters swim coach requires a lot more than just knowing how to write a workout. It requires great social skills and awareness, administrative and technical skills, leadership, and emotional investment. Set yourself up for success by setting healthy boundaries and practice habits that guarantee a long and happy career.


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