Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reaching new levels..

I had a meeting with my head coach the other day. I think he is a great coach, great person, and has a great philosophy on swimming. He is "young" for a head coach, at age 34, and combined with me (age group coach, at age 26) we are a young coaching duo. In the coaching world, probably like other jobs and areas of life, most successful coaches have had mentors. My head coach is ALWAYS learning, loves to learn from others, and loves to be critiqued. He was BORN to be a coach.

I got into coaching dragging my heels. I only did it because I needed money out of college, and I knew I had coaching to fall back on. While in college, as team captain, my teammates would tell me "You're going to end up coaching." I would respond, NEVER! Because I believe it is HARD to be a good coach. Because how many swimmers (or any year round athletes from young age) have ISSUES and SCARS in their life from their coach?!!?!! I did NOT want to ever be that person.

But now, I'm coming to the end of my 4th year coaching year round. I haven't left coaching. I've found more reasons to stay. I don't know if I've bought into the idea that I was "born" for it like my head coach, because do I have that same passion? Do I desire to become a better coach? Get mentored? Go through more of the learning/training/academic steps available? Well, like he does with the athletes our head coach is challenging our staff (that means me and him right now..haha, we're still a new/growing team). In a mentor/managerial way he has challenged me to reach for a new level in coaching, change some things, and given me tips and advice. This, of course, sounds all good and exciting...and it is...except for my own fears. To bring my athletes to the next level, means I have to move to the next level. But as we were talking my head coach could see my resistance. I told him my fear as a coach - of putting a watch to them too much that their self worth is from the numbers on the watch, that standards and qualifying will be held at such esteemed heights that you must measure up, that unless your a top athlete in the group you are not worth the coached time, and the list can go on from the scars of my past and others. In his wisdom, he said that these fears will hold not only me back from my healing (which I realized that my years of "healing" from swimming was obviously not through) but would also hold my athletes back from reaching their potential. Ouch. We talked about some ways to time athletes and build self worth, how to reach standards but always try your best, how to appreciate everyone on the team, etc.

I left with the same thought I had in college...it is HARD to be a good coach. It is a lot of work. But I have seen the fruits of labor, not only in times reached in the pool, but on the mentoring side of athletics, as well as my own growth as a human/coach.

Now my questions to blog world...
What does a "good coach" look like? Have you ever had one?
What do you wish your coach would have done? Or not done?
What are ways your coach made you feel good, special, happy?
What do you consider the most "fun" time you had in sport? What did that look like?
As parents, what do you expect your kids coach to be teaching?
As parents, what do you hope your kids will get out of sports?


  1. I don't remember having a coach. I know I did organized sports but evidently no coaches left a positive or negative impression on my life.
    You are always such a positive person when it comes to helping me out. I can't imagine you being anything but exceptional when it comes to coaching. I really can't. ;)

  2. oh girl, as you know I one million percent understand you!!! and those are tough questions but ones I know that you will work through. these kids need someone with your experience to give them a good female athlete role model who will build them up instead of break them down. you are meant to do this and make an enormous difference in these kids lives :)
    a good coach. wow. I think a good coach understands each athlete as a person and an individual. you find out what motivates them, what makes them tick and search for their individual talents. I think I could have been a phenomenal distance swimmer, but no one ever recognized that in me or told me that they believed I could be so. So I think you have to look honestly at what each of their talents are and encourage them in that direction. (in the right way... my swim coach remarked how strong my legs always were and told me I should quit swimming and take up power lifting. ummm, not interested and really insulting. but had he taken a sincere interest in me and pushed me to discover triathlon, I could have found my passion and talent much earlier).
    I think recognition was the biggest thing for me. When I had a breakthrough workout or race, just my coach being proud, hugging me and recognizing that was the most important thing in the world.
    As a young kid, meets were always fun as long as we were with friends. traveling was always fun with a team. the only thing that took the fun out of it was the coaches favoring the faster swimmers, making dietary/sleep suggestions to them only and ignoring us. you have to nurture each athlete and teach them how to reach their highest potential just as you would the star athlete. not a parent yet, but if I was, I would hope that my child would learn discipline, commitment, the value of hard work, how to believe in herself and have good self esteem and how to be a good sport.
    I will reflect more and get back at you but know that the fact that you are challenging these issues will make you a phenomenal coach (and to be honest, I'm betting you already are!!)

  3. I had a good coach in high school soccer. He somehow was able to push me to be my best without breaking me. I got mad at him sometimes, but it was only because he was asking me to work harder than I thought I could. But it was with his help I was an all-star - I couldn't have done it alone because I didn't believe in me as much as he did...he taught me to believe in my abilities and work hard...

    I think a good coach believes in their athletes, is aware of their potential and helps push them there, calls their athletes out when they are slacking, but has total pride when they succeed...and also is supportive if things don't work out as planned...

    All that said, I don't have a tri coach. Ha. But coaches teach more than sport to younger kids especially.