Ask Swim Mom: What Makes a Great Coach?

by SwimSwam Contributors 1

April 11th, 2019 Swim Mom

Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham

Dear Swim Mom,

In your experience as a long-time swim parent, what do you think makes a great coach? What traits do you think good coaches share? Our family is new to the area and I’m wondering how to know if my children’s coach is the right coach?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Questioning Parent,


Dear Questioning Parent,

If your child looks forward to practice, is improving, or sticks with it during a plateau, you’ve got a good coach. You can also look at a coach’s ability to get swimmers to the next level.

My kids had a variety of coaches and in their own way they were all good coaches. Our children learned and benefited from being with coaches with different skills and personalities. Although not one coach had the entire package of being a perfect coach, each had their unique strengths. Some were super knowledgeable about stroke technique. Others were really good at training and could hit the taper spot on. Others were excellent with motivation, teaching and communication.

When my kids had a less than perfect coach, it was an opportunity for them to learn. In life, they didn’t have one hundred percent outstanding teachers and they won’t have bosses who are perfect either. From each coach, they learned valuable life lessons that will help them throughout the years to come.

Here are other characteristics of a good coach:


Role Models.

We want our kids to have coaches who have integrity and honesty. Coaches expect honesty from our children and want them to take responsibility for their actions. We want coaches who walk the walk themselves.


Passionate About Swimming.

If our children’s coaches love swimming, chances are that will rub off on our kids, too. These coaches understand that improving in swimming is one aspect of what our kids will learn from the years spent on a team.


Understand the Big Picture.

A good coach isn’t focused only on faster times or winning. They understand that swimming is a sport that will teach and develop character in their athletes. They are there to guide them along the journey.


Make the Sport Fun.

Great coaches find a way to incorporate fun into daily practices and meets. Their main focus is on kids learning and improving, and they don’t use humiliation or intimidation. Our kids buy into their program and the team becomes their second home.



A good coach can get parents on their side and help them understand more about swimming and the process. In addition to educating parents, they educate their athletes on technique, good sportsmanship, handling disappointment as well as showing humility and handling the emotional roller coaster of ups and downs.


Develop Belief.

Coaches who are great, develop athletes who believe in themselves. They want their athletes to stretch their preconceived notions of how far they can go and what goals they can achieve. This is done through hard work, getting out of their comfort zones, perseverance and the encouragement of their coach.

How would you answer the question of what makes a coach great?

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.

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3 years ago

Encouragement and timely feedbacks from coaches are so important, not just for the super-stars of the team, but everyone. Not easy to do at all.