You might think your role as a swimmer is to take your coach’s instructions as a one-way conversation. But you need to make swimming a two-way discourse.
Being willing to discuss your training and find out why coaches do what they do is essential to your training. Swimming (and coaching) is not “one size fits all.” And coaches spend their whole career borrowing from other coaches.
Coaches see a set they like and run that in practice one day. If they come across a new drill at a camp, their swimmers are trying it soon. If they learn about a new technique or training method, their swimmers are their guinea pigs.
You might try that new drill and it hurts your shoulder or directs your stroke in a way that feels detrimental to your progress. If so, bring this up with your coach. Coaches want to know how you’re doing and if their suggestions are working for you.
On the flip side, if a coach’s new trick did wonders fixing your freestyle, let your coach know. If you have bad knees, let your coach know, and maybe you won’t have to do the 200 breaststroke kick already planned. But if you hate butterfly and are a good IMer, you’ll just have to deal with it. (Just kidding!)
Coaches strive to inform you why you’re doing something different in the water. “Because I said so” isn’t good enough. Swimmers are mental athletes, as well as physical ones. A coach’s role isn’t just to direct; it’s to inform, educate, and support. Ask your coach, “Why are you having me do this? How will this help me?” Your coach is there for you.
If you’re self- or distance-coached, or get drills and workouts online, U.S. Masters Swimming has a great forum full of coaches and swimmers who love discussing anything and everything related to swimming, as well as a ton of articles and videos. If you find a drill you’re curious about, run it by a coach or reach out to USMS’s Coaches Committee. With USMS, help usually only an email away.
There’s very little consensus among coaches. They might be on deck and see something they don’t agree with or have a healthy debate at a meet, clinic, convention, or anywhere else really. Nine out of 10 dentists might agree on a certain brand of toothpaste, but you won’t find that many coaches agreeing on anything.
But they wouldn’t have it any other way. Swimming is an ever-changing sport. Some of the drills and training styles that worked 20, 10, or even five years ago have been supplanted, and sometimes new technique tips turn out to be inferior.
Spirited discussion is at the heart of what makes swimming so great. Coaches and swimmers are all deeply involved in a worldwide conversation about how to make our great sport even greater. You and your coach might not always agree along the way, but you’re sharing a journey in the best sport in the world. Make your voice heard.