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by Laura S Jones

December 31, 2008

Fun goes hand in hand with learning

A coach is defined in The Oxford College Dictionary as “an athletic instructor or trainer.” While technically accurate, that description does not come close to conveying what a good coach really does for a swimmer. In addition to instructing and training, a coach also motivates, corrects, inspires, and leads. He or she plans workouts, acts as traffic cop and cheerleader, assists in goal setting and organizes participation in meets. These extra duties are particularly important in Masters swimming. Coaching adults is simply different than coaching children and teenagers in ways that are both rewarding and challenging.

So U.S. Masters Swimming and the American Swimming Coaches Association have teamed up to help more people become the kind of coach who can help more swimmers discover all the diverse joys of Masters swimming. ASCA is the worldwide leader in coaches education, and by partnering with them, USMS is able to draw upon the expertise of the best Masters coaches to craft a Masters specific coach training program that benefits from ASCA’s standard of excellence.

Thanks to a lot of hard work over the past few years, the Coaches Committee has created a terrific certification curriculum. And thanks to the willingness of Charlie Tupitza and the Warrenton Masters Swim Team, USMS hosted the first USMS/ASCA Masters Level I and II swim coach certification class March 5-6 in Warrenton, Va. The class was led by Club and Coach Services Coordinator Mel Goldstein and coach of YMCA Indy SwimFit; and Scott Bay, coach of Daytona Beach Masters and vice-chair of the Coaches Committee. Both are ASCA Level 5 certified coaches.

This new partnership is an exciting development because “while the technical side is the same—swimming is swimming—how you approach a Masters swimmer is different,” explains Tupitza, 56, who, in addition to being coach for Warrenton Masters, also serves on the Coaches Committee and as vice-chair of the Virginia LMSC. Tupitza estimates he put about 80 hours into organizing the two-day clinic and accompanying social events, but says the next time he does it, he’ll be able do it in less time, drawing on the connections he made and the plans he put in place this time. He also is willing and eager to help anyone else who wants to host a clinic so that their time investment can be reasonable.

Tupitza believes in the value of education for the coach, the team, and USMS as a whole. “The more people we have educated on our team, in our LMSC and in USMS the better. Having more coaches means we can offer more workout times and support a more diverse community. That has been a real goal for me.”

In addition to USMS advertising the clinic on the website, Tupitza reached out to his LMSC, other LMSCs in his zone and to swimmers who had participated in the team’s meets over the years. Thirty swimmers took up the challenge and many became new members of ASCA. He’d like to do more coach training and saw a powerful benefit in the informal interactions the group had. The coaches all learned so much from each other, he said, and their input helped refine and improve the curriculum.

“The more people who are certified the more reason they will have to talk to others about it.” In other words, a rising tide will lift all boats, even if the new coaches don’t serve as primary coaches, they can assist in their lanes and just spread the word. “I am sure that the teams represented at our class will experience positive growth as a result of this training and member swimmers will benefit,” says Tupitza.

“Coaching is both an art and a science,” says the ASCA website. But with both art and science, the more training and education and experience you gain, the better you become. USMS plans on providing the best possible coaches for its members and is investing in opportunities for coaches to grow. In the words of Executive Director Rob Butcher: “We remain committed to providing education and sharing of resource opportunities for our LMSCs and Coaches.”

What’s next? Bay says that “more than fifteen clubs have asked for a regional clinic in their area. We’re going to spread out geographically and try to serve as many people as possible while refining the product. A lot of people want this and USMS is happy to be able to provide it. USMS knows that good coaches’ education is important for future growth. Our coaches are the backbone of our sport.”

Level I and II clinics are planned for SwimFest in Atlanta in May and at the USMS Annual Convention in Jacksonville, Fla. in September. Clinics are also planned for the West Coast in the summer. 


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