Open Letter From a Reader to USA Swimming Coaches: Be Healthy, Be a Professional

SwimSwam welcomes submissions from our readers upon the world of swimming. Those that we find to be interesting in perspective or subject matter, we will post, however posting does not necessarily mean that we agree with or endorse the opinions of the authors. If you have a submission to share, please send it to [email protected]

This letter is courtesy of Dave Gibson, Head Coach Swim Fort Lauderdale. Coach Gibson is an ASCA Level 5 coach with 40 years of coaching experience. Accolades: ASCA Gold Award of Excellence (2008), coach of 3 Olympians.


Following a conversation I had recently with some colleagues…

I am (we are) worried about you. Why?

I know the most obvious answer would be because of the amount of terrible actions (and subsequent media attention) involving abuse with/of athletes. Unacceptable. Gotta Stop. As important as that is, that topic is for later.

I’m talking about coaches’ health (physical & mental) and the professionalism of our profession and sport. We are, you are, the best coaches in the world. I want to see you coaching for a long time. We need you. I know there are coaches who do take very good care of themselves and they exercise regularly, eat right, and are emotionally in a good place, but…

Statistics show that 1/3 of children are overweight and that 2/3 of adults are also overweight. Children sit at a computer or in front of the TV too much instead of being outside playing. Adults sit at their desk and in front of the TV too much.

I realize, I know, that for your swimmers, for your team, and for you to be successful, you have to put a lot of hours & hard work in…BUT everyone and everything will be better if you are healthy & at your best.

I’m not going to pull any punches…I am concerned…Coaches, please start taking better care of yourselves. What does this mean?

  1. Start exercising: 2-5 x per week for 20-40 minutes would be good. Walk, jog, run, bike, kayak, skate, swim, play tennis, racquetball, golf, hike, zoomba, orange theory, elliptical, stationary bike,  etc. Take some time out of your busy day and get physical, please. Maybe it’s after morning practice or at noon or in the evening. Maybe do it as a staff. Maybe do it with your spouse or significant other. Even at meets try to get some exrecise in.
  2. Watch your diet: You tell your athletes this all the time, follow your own advice. Eat more fruits & veggies. Cut back on the junk. Don’t over eat. Cut out or cut back on soft drinks/sodas. Try to cut back on coffee. Drink more water. Snack healthier. Consider a multivitamin.
  3. Don’t smoke. Don’t chew. Be careful about drinking too much alcohol.
  4. Get a physical (any age is good)…it will tell you a lot. If 50 or older get a colonoscopy…get other screens/tests. Ladies get a mammogram.
  5. Be smart about sun exposure. Use sunscreen. Wear a hat maybe. Get checked by a dermatologist.
  6. Take a day or weekend off occasionally…even better, regularly. Enjoy your life away from the pool, your job and the sport. Knowing you, knowing coaches, this probably needs to be planned, just like your training schedule. But do it. Your mental health is critical/crucial. You need it. Maybe it’s alone. Maybe with your spouse. Maybe with friends.
  7. Dress for success. Dress to impress. Dress as a professional. If we want to be taken serious…if we want to be respected, by our athletes, by parents, by officials, by the public…we need to look professional.

Take the pledge to be at your best. Take the pledge to be a good role model. Take the pledge to set the bar high for our profession. Let’s lead the charge. Do it for your athletes. Do it for your sport. Do it for yourself – you will feel better and be better.

No one is perfect, including myself, but please take care of yourself. Like I said above, we need you around for a long time. Thanks and see you on deck.

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 years ago

Spot on Dave!!! I had high blood pressure back in Sept. And doing no excersize. Changed diet, lost weight with a healthy diet, and hitting the elliptical machine 3 days a week for 25 mins each day. I feel better and coach better. What a difference it makes. Great letter!!!!

7 years ago

Great stuff, Coach!

I have just gotten back into swimming again (was worried about the tricycle tire around my waist becoming a tractor tire) and am competing to make sure I actually stay with it. Too often I see coaches who are inactive and preachy with total disregard for practicing their message in anyway. I even witnessed a coach slamming a stimulant drink (that’s what energy drinks are after all) while his age groupers warmed up! What kind of message is that?!

How about an open letter to all meet hosts, meet sanctioning committees and LSC Boards around the nation?

I wrote to our LSC and the nutrition writers at USA Swimming with regards to hospitality rooms. For as much… Read more »

Reply to  coacherik
7 years ago

I couldn’t agree more. I don’t even go into hospitality rooms as it is nothing but processed junk food and packaged sandwiches and chesse platters. There are rarely if ever vegetarian options and never anything healthy (Caesar salad covered with meat and eggs doesn’t count as healthy)These foods do not provide good energy and do nothing but make you more tired. I have resorted to bringing my own food and don’t waste my time. We pay good money for swim meets and a portion of the meet fees is supposed to go to hospitality and many times little if any goes there. It is shameful to see what is put out at these meets and these are all day and… Read more »

Paul Murphy
7 years ago

I spoke of the same thoughts yesterday after with a fellow coach! I would also add know your family or someone close to you.
This is awesome Dave.