Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
Coaches come in all sizes, personalities and abilities. Their job is a tough one. They work at dawn, at night and most weekends. They don’t have a ‘normal’ schedule like most of us enjoy. Their job is in a fish bowl where they open themselves up to scrutiny by all of us. When they aren’t on deck, they work on administrative duties like meets, workouts, and structuring the year in macrocycles and mesocycles.
What we observe and many parents comment on is a coach’s style. Since we all have different personalities, we appreciate some styles more than others, and often prefer ones similar to our own. If a coach is talkative, quiet, stoic or fierce, those traits are not the best way to figure out ability. My kids had many different coaches throughout years of aging up and having coaches leave the sport or move. They each had different strengths—and my kids learned something valuable from each and every coach.
A coach can be one of the most influential people in your child’s development. That’s why we all want the best coach for our kids.
Here are nine traits that great coaches have in common:
Honesty — This goes without saying that good coaches are honest and have integrity. We expect our coaches to be good role models for our kids and walk the walk.
Passion — A passionate coach loves swimming. If they put 110 percent into their coaching, then they expect your swimmer to care as much, too. Their passion will keep your swimmer trying through all the hard times like missed cuts, injuries or plateaus.
Communication — Think of all the different people a coach communicates with. Swimmers of all ages and abilities, parents, media, city officials, other coaches and administrators. Good communication skills, writing and speaking, keeps information flowing.
Great listener — Being a good listener is part of communication, but also a separate part of coaching. What I’ve read about great coaches is that they listen to what an athlete is saying, and also figure out what they mean.
Knowledgeable in the sport — There’s a lot more to coaching than standing at the edge of the pool and saying, “Go.” You want a coach that is always learning, sharing information with other coaches. You want a coach who understands training cycles and that all swimmers are different and have different needs as far as training and tapering.
Organizational skills — You want a coach who is organized and shows up to practice prepared. A good coach has a plan for the season and the entire year. They appreciate the value of goal setting and will help your child reach their goals.
Caring about the athlete as a person — Great coaches care about their swimmers. They want to help get them into college. They ask how they are doing, not only with swimming, but in school. Coaches understand that swimming teaches life lessons that will help their swimmers become amazing adults in and out of the pool.
Uses failure as life lessons — A coach understands when a swimmer is disappointed with a swim. But, they can use this temporary failure to motivate and teach the swimmer what they can do next time to improve.
Inspiring — An inspirational coach will motivate your swimmer to be the best he or she can be. They will challenge your swimmers to do more than they thought was possible. Most of all, an inspirational coach will teach your swimmers to believe in themselves.
There are many more traits that make coaches great. What do you think makes a good coach?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.