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by Terry Heggy

April 13, 2018

Ideas for recharging your love of coaching

We invest a lot of ourselves into coaching, and this continuous intensity can take a toll. If you find yourself losing passion for your position, here are some things to consider.


First, perform an honest assessment of your thoughts and feelings. What is it that saps your energy and enthusiasm? What part of coaching drains, frustrates, or angers you?

  • Too many hours at the pool keep you away from other things you care about?
  • Bureaucracy, paperwork, and politics interfere with coaching focus?
  • Problem swimmers disrupt practice or require too much of your attention?
  • Coaching has become boring?
  • You feel overwhelmed, afraid, or unprepared to meet swimmer expectations?
  • You simply need to make more money?
Make a list of everything that bothers you about your situation. Then, put the list away for several days to allow your subconscious to work with the data. When you pull the list out again later, see if you have new things to add or if you can cross off any lines. Once you have the list refined, it’s time to make another list.


The second list catalogs the things you love about swimming, coaching, and hanging around with athletes. Write down the reasons you became a coach in the first place, as well as everything you see as a positive attribute of coaching—even if those positive attributes may not be present in your current situation. (One example might be that you love to see swimmers achieve National Qualifying Times, even though you may not have any athletes currently at that level.)

Write this list on a notecard and read it to yourself at each meal you eat for a full week. This will remind you that there are good reasons (including friendships, a chance to earn respect, and, of course, a paycheck) to carry on.


After you’ve focused on the positives for a week, pull out your list of energy zappers. It’s time to act on each one. For example:

  • Acquiring an assistant (perhaps even a nonpaid volunteer) can free up some precious time. Acting as a mentor is also a good way to build the infrastructure of your program and train others who can contribute to the sport. Other options include keeping a log of how you spend your day and working to eliminate activities that aren’t positive contributors. Be creative; you might be surprised at how many activities you can eliminate without decreasing your enjoyment of life. (I’m talking about you, Battlestar Galactica reruns!) You can also save time by using workouts designed by expert U.S. Masters Swimming–certified coaches rather than writing each of your own from scratch.
  • Talk to coworkers or bosses to question and eliminate nonsense activities. Safety must remain paramount, but there’s probably paperwork that isn’t really needed. If odious tasks can’t be expunged, try to delegate them to someone else so you can focus on coaching. If excessive noncoaching demands make your current situation miserable, consider offering your skills to another team (including triathlon groups). As a Masters coach, you have marketable value—and can even start your own team if that works for you.
  • Your position comes with built-in authority. Clearly state your expectations for workout behavior, emphasizing that your time is allocated appropriately among all swimmers. If disruptions continue, consider alternatives including suspension or membership revocation.
  • Banish boredom by changing up the workouts, including relays, open water (or zero lane rope) swims, and grab bags. Have the team participate in ePostal events, fitness challenges, and intra-squad swim meets. Bring in a guest coach, start from the opposite end of the pool, or plan a social event for after practice. Talk to swimmers and find out what they think might be missing. Ask them what they enjoy and what they have never done before. When swimmers are excited and engaged, the coach ends up having fun, too!
  • Erase insecurity by expanding your expertise. Attend workouts designed by other coaches. Get your USMS Coaching Certification, read every issue of SWIMMER magazine, and search online to keep up with the latest in swimming technique. You’re not alone, and there is plenty of information out there to supplement your own knowledge and creativity.
  • Enhance your income by teaching private lessons, hosting a stroke clinic, starting an Adult Learn-to-Swim program, performing video analysis, or recruiting more members to your program. Consider writing a sponsored blog or developing fee-generating workouts for remote clients. You may be able to coach a high school or age group team, too.


Think outside the pool! It’s always good to step back and take a fresh look at your connection with swimming. Don’t be afraid to make changes. A new approach can work wonders for your attitude and help you develop a renewed appreciation for all the ways you can help swimmers have fun, stay fit, and grow.

If none of these suggestions restores your passion for coaching, you can always take a sabbatical. Set your whistle and megaphone aside, jump back in the pool and enjoy life as a Masters swimmer for a while. But keep your list of coaching benefits handy and review it often. When you’re ready to return to coaching, you’ll find swimmers ready and waiting to benefit from your leadership and inspiration. 


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