Shouts From The Stands: The Heart Behind the Swim Coach

by SwimSwam 4

June 04th, 2018 Lifestyle, Training

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send [email protected]

This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Kelly Call:

Coaching- we do it out of love, out of passion and sacrifice many things for the belief that we are making a difference. Sometimes making a difference doesn’t mean that we are always kind no matter the situation. Sometimes we are strict and truthful and raw… and that is something that kids do not always experience until the harsh reality of life takes hold. Sometimes it’s hard for parents to understand us too.

We can be supportive and try to find the silver lining in every dark moment of your child’s swim career. Other times we shed light on the situation and guide your swimmer to take ownership on their results based on their choices. We are a swimmer’s biggest fan and harshest critic. We celebrate with them during their biggest accomplishments and hide our disappointments in their failures and sometimes our own.

We can be demanding and understanding, most times we are both. We demand the best effort on their bad days and push them out of their comfort zone on their good days. We also understand that effort and attitude carries a swimmer farther than talent. We demand respect but understand imperfection.

Coaches are also imperfect. We make mistakes. We replay conversations in our minds and hope that we gave the very best to your swimmer; as each one is different. We have our own families who don’t always understand our passion and don’t always support the sacrifice. We miss birthdays, anniversaries, funerals, weddings and lose relationships for the greater good i.e. the team and swimmers. Despite trying to hide it, we have bad days too.

We want the parents and swimmers to trust us and we want to offer the best level of coaching we can give. We want your swimmer to succeed in all areas and care about them all. Sometimes we will make the wrong decision and sometimes we will say the wrong thing. We certainly want to be the best. Sometimes our brain blesses us with the perfect thing to say and other times we wish we could remove the foot from our mouths…but tomorrow we will try again.

We lay in bed at night and think about the team and the kids and the program. We have butterflies before big meets and pray that we prepared the swimmers to the best of our abilities. We want the kids to meet their goals because we know how hard they have been working and love to give them the speech about “hard work pays off”. We also prepare speeches for the disappointments and losses (which is a lot harder to do). Dropping time is the common goal between all involved and inevitably the measure we use to rate our value and success. But at the end of the day, the true measure is based on the kind of person your child becomes and we all play a role in that.

From birth, parents keep their child close and try to protect them from every and any pain. But eventually they must slowly release them into the world  and the world is not free from bumps and bruises. Each person who touches your child’s life will play a role in who they will be. Hopefully they become a kind, smart, strong, brave, respectful person who is resourceful and resilient.

Swimming/Coaches can mold the the areas that most teachers and parents can’t reach. To teach young athletes about strength they must also understand and experience weakness. For a swimmer to become brave, they must be faced with challenges and  to become resilient they must fail. And throughout their journey a strong level of respect for themselves and others is formed.

Each coach has their “style” and each personality puts another puzzle piece into the building of your human. Coaches vary in age, experience, intelligence, race, gender and come in all sizes. Each have something to offer your child. In my 20 years of coaching I have been on deck with every kind of coach. There is always the young fun coach who can be found with crazy socks on and is running the deck with exploding enthusiasm. Beside him (usually in a chair) is the older coach who is at his 1,500th swim meet in his career and he only stands up when the pizza arrives. And just like the swimmers, each coach I work with adds to the kind of coach I want to be. A swimmer will be blessed if they are able to work with every style of coach. Have fun with the new coaches, learn discipline from the strict coach, push yourself to the next level with the tough coach and enjoy the whole experience.

Sometimes I sit at a meet with all of my fellow coaches and smile to myself because we are such a motley crew. And even though we are all very different, our goal is the same. We share our passion, we share the love of the sport and we all want to challenge your swimmer to live up to their potential and be the best that they can be (not just in the pool), because if we can do that..every sacrifice was more than worth it and more.


About Kelly Call

I am going on my 20th year of coaching USA Swimming. The last five have been with Occoquan Swimming (OCCS) in Northern Virginia. I grew up a swimmer and started coaching in Southern California throughout Orange County. I LOVE to coach and have dedicated myself to developmental swimmers but am also active in planning social events, team building activities and volunteer opportunities for OCCS.

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Well said, thank you for this, Kelly. It’s the little things in life.

Mohammad Hashmi

Excellent article! OCCS should be very lucky to have you as a coach.

susan Marsh

Not an easy job being a swimming coach,but a wonderful gift you are giving others,sure has been wonderful for
our family!!!


Thank you Garrett M!!

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