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

  11 SwimSwam Staff | February 11th, 2014 | Club, Industry, Lifestyle, National, News, Opinion

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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.

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11 Comments on "Open Letter From a Reader to USA Swimming Coaches: Be Healthy, Be a Professional"

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I’ve always been lucky enough to have healthy coaches. I’ve even had some assistant coaches who got in and swam the work out before giving it to his athletes. I could not imagine taking advice from someone who did not themselves live their live to the fullest.

Terry Lawson

Our club implemented cross-fit training into our program 6 months ago. I didn’t feel like I could expected my kids to do it and not participate myself. After 6 months of doing crossfit I’ve lost 40 pounds and am now within 3 pounds of my weight when I was a collegiate all-American 25 years ago. It has not only made an impact on deck from a coaching standpoint, but also a respect standpoint as well.

Seriously – I mean who doesn’t love a good hospitality room gourmet cupcake with 3 lbs of icing and 1600 calories. But when this is your only option, it’s not easy to make good choices in that room. Looking at many of the physiques of the coaches and officials at club meets, it’s obvious that many have taken a liking to too many hospitality rooms. I try to eat healthy, I don’t drink coffee or pop, I don’t care for processed and packaged foods. I wish the meet staff in charge of hospitality would spend money a bit more wisely. Less on the gourmet cupcakes and more on fresh fruits, veggies, and healthy fats. Bring on the guacamole and pita… Read more »