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by Terry Heggy

March 15, 2018

There’s a lot to gain from this wonderful profession

When I was a kid, I naturally assumed that my macho good looks and boundless charisma would result in a career as a major movie star. Unfortunately, my utter lack of acting talent, along with my inability to accurately assess looks and charisma, forced me to consider other careers. Though I was eventually able to achieve moderate success in various corporate jobs, I have never been happier than I have been as a Masters swim coach.

Here are some reasons to consider joining us in this wonderful profession.

1. Need Fulfillment

Pools without a coached Masters club cry out for someone to step up and build a program. I started at a YMCA that had space for a Masters club, but lacked knowledgeable staff to coach the workouts. I hadn’t previously thought about coaching but learned enough from my age-group coaches to feel I could try it. My buddy Jeff Dean felt the same, and we volunteered to coach the team as a duo. With no formal training (more about that in a minute), we built the team into a solid revenue generator for the facility, and had swimmers winning medals at Nationals within a couple of years.

Signs that a pool needs you as a coach include the following:

  • Lap swimmers doing workouts from index cards zipped into baggies
  • Workouts written on a board, but no one to provide motivation or feedback
  • Triathlon teams that don’t have a great swim training program
  • A Masters club with an overworked coach who would like to expand the program, but can’t do it all herself
  • A Masters club where the “coach” has no passion for the sport, but was simply assigned the duty by a desperate aquatics manager.

When you see such situations, talk to the folks in charge and let them know you are interested in helping. They’ll likely be delighted to find a spot for you.

2. Big Bucks

OK, let’s be honest: You’re unlikely to ascend into the Grey Poupon Rolls Royce crowd just by coaching Masters. We coach to share our passion for the sport. At the same time, there are ways to generate income from coaching, and you should seek fair compensation for your efforts. The USMS coach certification and training provides detailed insight into revenue generation, but here are some general thoughts to keep in mind as you develop your coaching career:

  • Do the math—As you increase your club membership, you might be able to make more money by charging the swimmers directly and then renting the pool space, as opposed to being an employee who works for a set wage.
  • Negotiate—If you’re an employee, keep track of your team statistics. As your efforts generate new memberships, ask your employers for a raise or bonus payment that recognizes how your contributions impact their bottom line. And although they might not be able to do it, you might as well ask them to pay for your training and certifications (including lifeguarding and CPR/First Aid.)
  • Add extras—Put on stroke clinics, create online workouts for remote athletes, charge for video analysis, or sell your stroke-improvement services to other local teams (high schools, triathlon teams, etc.) Consider starting an Adult Learn-to-Swim program.
  • Move up—As you study the sport, your coaching skills will continually increase in value. As your reputation and credibility grow, you can offer your services to organizations with larger budgets (age-group teams, colleges, etc.)

3. Skills Enhancement

I became a Masters coach before I had any formal training. You, too, can leverage what you learned from your mentors (past age-group or Masters coaches) as a starting point. But what makes the Masters coaching experience so amazing is the wealth of resources available to help us achieve constant advancement in our expertise. In addition to Masters coach certification, USMS provides the following:

  • Articles and videos just for coaches
  • Continuing education discounts
  • Free or low-cost marketing materials
  • Marketing and other support

Your Local Masters Swimming Committee may have resources to support coaches, and the USMS Coaches Committee works to help coaches at all levels. If that’s not enough, Masters coaches generally love to share their wisdom; all you have to do is ask.

The true source of swimming wisdom, though, comes from the coaching experience itself. When you’re challenged to diagnose and correct other peoples’ stroke issues, you are forced to become a better swimming analyst. By solving technique puzzles and experimenting with workout designs, you learn what works and what doesn’t in a way you can’t get from classes and articles. As you help others swim better, your own strokes automatically improve, and your brain becomes sharper and more tuned into recognizing the subtle details of power, drag, alignment, and breathing.

4. Life Enrichment

As a Masters coach, you get to network with some really smart people in the USMS coaching community. Even better, you get to network regularly with the folks on your team. Analysis of human character consistently shows swimmers as being among the sharpest, nicest, and most interesting people you’ll ever meet.

Seriously, your team will probably include excellent doctors, instructors, mechanics, financial wizards, therapists, and myriad other fabulous skill sets. These folks become your friends, as well as your community resources.

And the best part of it all is that you can challenge them with grueling sets of unmitigated agony that will elicit curses and wails of anguish during the workout. But when they crawl out of the pool with aching arms, burning legs, and gasping lungs, they’ll thank you for what you pushed them to accomplish.

Life doesn’t get any better than that!


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