Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham (Featured Image: Michael Phelps & Coach Bob Bowman)
My kids had a number of different coaches during 15 years. Mostly because they started young and advanced through various groups until leaving for college. Add a couple of coaching changes, and they experienced a wide range of personalities and abilities in coaches.
What can I say about our coaches? Not a one them was perfect. My kids liked some better than others. They learned from each and every one, through good times as well as bad.
On the flip side, my kids aren’t perfect. And we’re not perfect parents. So, when I hear parents complain about coaches, I wish they’d be open to my perspective. Swimming is full of life lessons. Make the most out of it.
Here are nine things we learned from coaches. Some are specific to kids, and some to parents:
About the Sport. Early on we had a head coach with the patience of a saint. He went out of his way to educate parents about stroke technique and the entire swim process. He spent as much time with parents as with his swimmers.
We’ve experienced all levels of communication from coaches. Hopefully you have coaches that are direct and don’t leave you guessing. So many issues between swimmers, coaches and parents can be improved with better communication. Conflicts occur with poor communication skills on all sides.
3. How to Let Go
One coach was particularly helpful teaching us to step back. At meets, he had the senior swimmers sit together away from parents and reprimanded a couple of swim moms—me included—for standing at the edge of the pool with water bottles for our 13-year-olds.
4. My Kid Makes Mistakes
One coach was very helpful to point out the pitfalls of social media and teenagers. No, I didn’t enjoy seeing a few posts my perfect child had made. It’s important to know well before college recruiting that appropriate behavior is imperative—not only in person but online, too.
5. Swimming Is Fun and the Team Is Family
Whether it was hoops, ultimate frisbee, t-shirt relays, get out swims, or sharks and minnows, Fridays meant 20 or 30 minutes for our kids to have fun at the end of practice. We had team potlucks combined with “Dive-In Movies,” the swimmers floating on rafts, watching movies together.
6. Swimmers May Grieve When Their Coach Leaves
When you lose a coach your swimmers are attached to they need some time to grieve. If not, they may have a hard time adjusting or accepting a new coach.
Strength and Conditioning. Racing Strategies. Coaches will have strengths in one or all of these aspects of swimming. I hope your swimmers take advantage of your coach’s wealth of knowledge and expertise.
Your kids may have a coach that’s hard on them. Chances are, they will have a boss, co-worker or teacher that’s demanding, too. Coaches are human and they have both strengths and weaknesses that your kids can learn from. These experiences will help your kids throughout their lives.
9. Swim Because You Love It
My kids didn’t swim to please us. Nor, did they swim because of a coach. One coach explained to them, “never let a coach dictate whether or not you want to swim.” My kids swim because they love it.
What have you learned as a family from your kids’ coaches?
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.