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by Richard Garza

September 30, 2019

How to create a memory your coach will cherish

The relationship between a coach and a swimmer is unique—few other sports involve such a long and personal journey between two people. As the swimmer grows, so does the coach.

For Masters, coach and swimmer might work together for decades, not just a few years. The quality of your life and swimming career depends on the quality of your relationships, and the quality of your relationships depends on the quality of your communication. Effective communication is key with your coach, and letting your coach know how much you love and appreciate him or her goes a long way. Happy coaches create happy swimmers.

A simple “thank you” after practice can go a long way for a coach, but it doesn’t hurt to make that thank-you go a little further.

All of us send and receive appreciation differently. According to pastor and marriage counselor Gary Chapman, author of the book “The 5 Love Languages,” there are five different ways: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.

It helps to know in which of these five ways your coach sends and receives appreciation. Does she need to hear it? Does he like gifts? Does she like high-fives? Does he like it when you volunteer to watch his dog so he can take a weekend off without worry?

With National Coaches Day on Oct. 6, here are five different ways to make your coach smile and feel appreciated today, tomorrow, and forever.

Words of Affirmation

Some coaches need to hear your appreciation. To what degree depends on the person. It could be as simple as “Thanks, Coach, that was a great workout.” Others might need a bit more, such as “OMG! Coach, that was the most amazing workout I’ve ever swum in my life! Seriously, did you write that set at the end? You did!? Oh, we’re so lucky to have you. Who do I need to talk to to make sure you get a raise?!”

OK that might be a bit much for most, but some detail on what you liked can go a long way: “I loved that set,” “Can we do that again in the future,” “Thanks for working on (starts, turns, butterfly, etc.) today,” or “I really appreciate your (kindness, patience, effectiveness, sense of humor, etc.).”


For some coaches, words of affirmation go in one ear and out the other—that’s just not how they’re wired. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some coaches feel appreciated when they feel that you went out of your way to get or create something meaningful just for them.

As I prepared for this article, I asked several coaches about what kinds of gifts they remember. Every single coach didn’t care what it was, it was the sentimental value that it carried that made the biggest impression. Some of these memorable gifts included a scrapbook featuring photos from the last season and the signature of everyone on the team. Another was a custom coffee mug with one of the coach’s quotes printed on it next to a team photo.

You can buy your coach a beer, or a gift card to a favorite store or restaurant. Or maybe just ask everyone to pitch in $5 and give your coach some cash. Or get creative and make a video of swimmers saying thank you and sharing what kind of impact the coach has had on their lives. Have the entire team sign a large border around a team photo. The possibilities are endless.

Acts of Service

If a gift isn’t your coach’s thing, then doing something might be the answer. You might bring your coach a cup of coffee in the morning with a thank-you note written on the outside of the cup. You might pick up all of the equipment after practice. You could volunteer to sit and count for one of your teammates for one of the ePostal swims. Or volunteer at the next meet as a timer. Maybe cooking is how you show appreciation? You could cook a meal for your coach. And bringing baked goods to practice is a time-honored way to show appreciation, especially if you have a beloved home-baked brownie or cookie recipe that you’re famous for.

Quality Time

If your coach enjoys spending time with friends and family, you can help create special experiences and memories with a gift card to a skydiving adventure or a weekend getaway, or simply respecting your coach’s time off and waiting until their vacation is over before contacting them about team business.

While at the pool, you can use the time during practice to make sure it’s well spent. Listen to your coach, and make sure that the time both of you are at the pool is quality time by listening to your coach, trying the little things suggested when it comes to technique, and not giving up when the sets get tough.

Physical Touch

High-fives or pats on the back might be the best way to give your coach appreciation. Depending upon your relationship, a thank-you hug might be appropriate. If you prefer not to show appreciation this way, you can gift your coach a 60-minute massage.


Coaching isn’t easy. Most coaches do it out of love for their swimmers and sport. Returning that affection can go a long way to improving your relationship with your coach and also go a long way to keeping your coach around for years. Half the fun of swimming is creating unforgettable moments; use these ideas to help create a memory or a feeling that your coach will cherish.


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