17 Ways to Drive Your Swimming Coach Nuts

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. You can join his weekly motivational newsletter for swimmers and coaches by clicking here.

Part babysitter, part life coach, and part instructor, our swim coaches are tasked with a lot. What makes their job even harder is when we as swimmers go out of our way to make things even more (and usually needlessly) challenging.

I’ll freely admit to being guilty of some of these. I know I drove some of my coaches a little bit bonkers when I was a kid, being partially responsible for some premature greying and stress.

Here are 17 ways that you drive your coach a wee bit nuts:

1. Be the last one to get in the water. Every time. Hey, it’s not your fault that the water is so cold, right? I suspect some of us secretly enjoy having to get thrown into the water to start workout.

2. Consistently show up late to practice. Instead of standing on the pool deck waiting until the absolute last possible moment to get in, just show up fully late! You ran out of excuses months ago, and by now coach just shakes his or her head when you fake-rush out onto the pool deck as your teammates motor through the warm-up.

3. Take 3 full strokes going into the wall doing kick. Even though it’s a kick set you’ve managed to limit the amount of kick being done to only about 15m per length (5m for the push off, 5m for the pull in).

4. Get blisters from pulling on the lane rope so much. You’ve broken more lane ropes than you can count, with little shards of red or blue plastic intermittently littering your lane by the end of most workouts. When coach gets wise to your act—and she will—you’ll be swimming in the gutter lane.

5. Turn over on your belly to do a turn doing backstroke from the flags. For some swimming on their back is just too much. The uncertainty of knowing whether or not the wall of the pool was moved on them means that they turn over onto their belly and glide/kick into the walls from 4-5m out.

6. Be a warm-down denier. The work is done, right? So what is the point of warming down? You’ll stretch it out in the hot tub or the shower.

7. Be a loud breather/groaner while the main set is being written up on the board. Even though they have their back to you, your coach is quietly seething and/or rolling their eyes while you groan and moan about the work that lies ahead.

8. Pick your head up 3m from the wall and float in nice and easy. “You don’t sprint for 22 meters, you sprint for 25!” was a common refrain on my pool deck as a kid. It’s like the moment we see that black T on the bottom of the pool it’s time to hit the brakes. Only downside of this habit is that our finishes in races tended to look awfully similar.

9. Conveniently forget your suit/towel/goggles/cap. (Again.) There are always a couple Captain Forgetfuls on every team. Looks like it is time to hit up the old L&F Boutique* for some off-brand goggles and shorts!

10. Convince the rest of the lane to do handshake-pulls during kick sets. Ever wonder why suddenly the “3” beside the brackets outlining the main set suddenly was scribbled out and replaced with a “5”? This is why.

11. Drop any of the following just as the main set is gearing up

  • I have to get out early.
  • I think my shoulder going to act up.
  • I don’t understand what we are doing. (After a ten minute explanation of what was to be done was carefully detailed.)
  • The next top after this one, right?

12. Do the set or stroke wrong, and then when corrected, say “Yeah, yeah, I know.” Even though we know what we should be doing, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are still going to do it. (That is some logic, am I right?)

13. Be nowhere to be seen in the minutes and moments prior to the big relay of the meet. Where were you? In the gym shooting some hoops y’all!

14. Tune out when sets are being explained. It’s not enough to not listen, but then wait until the set is literally just about to start to ask, “Wait, what are we doing?”

15. Ask questions that have nothing to do with the task at hand.

Coach: “Alright, so we are going to do another round of 50’s, this time we are going to focus on keeping a stroke count under 32 for the—“

Little Bobby raises his hand, inquisitive look on his face.

Coach: “Yes, Lil Bobby?”

Little Bobby: “Can we play sharks and minnows instead of practice on Saturday morning?”

16. Never help with the equipment. “I did it last time!” is the common refrain of the equipment-setup dodger. This sometimes means practicing without backstroke flags, lane ropes, or a pace clock until coach begrudgingly goes to the equipment shed and pulls it out.

17. Be a laissez faire meet swimmer. The surest way to drive your a coach a little bit crazy is to slack off the entire season, goof off all meet, don’t warm up, and then still swim a best time anyways.

*L&F Boutique = the pool lost and found


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.

COACHES & CLUBS: Yuppers–we do team orders of “Conquer the Pool” which includes a team discount as well as complimentary branding (your club logo on the cover of the book) at no additional charge.

Want more details? Click here for a free estimate on a team order of CTP.

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6 years ago

#18. Leaving on the wrong sendoff, particularly if it’s completely random not even looking at the clock, or finishing to the wall and not checking the clock for your time.

6 years ago

I love all the kids in my lane but OMG, the attention spans on a couple of them while I’m explaining the set. I’ve seen 12-week-old puppies with better short-term memory capacity. Hell, tsetse flies retain information longer.

And if I may add:
* Do streamlines that look like you are an NFL referee confirming a touchdown and successful field goal.
* Breathe in and out of a turn
* Push off on your stomach for backstroke
* Cross in front of an oncoming swimmer or stop mid-pool for no good reason (I understand the occasional emergency snorkel purge or calf cramp)
* Don’t give the swimmer in front of you 5 seconds or until… Read more »

6 years ago

To add to #14: Swim the first half of a set before saying, “wait….i don’t know what we are doing…”

Reply to  Coach
11 months ago

Yes…that happened to me all the time. I’d often remember only half of a set. Or when your mind is so hazy you miscalculate the interval…math is hard.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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