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 [email protected]
This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Ken Burk:
“Whatever you need me to do?” A Perspective of a Swim Coach’s Spouse
Every spring during the NCAA Basketball Tournament, fans are ultimately given a camera shot of the head coach’s wife and/or family. Commentators mention how the spouse is a calming or influential force in the coach’s success. This is not only the case in basketball, but in all sports. In the world of swimming the spouse’s role can encompass a multitude of volunteer opportunities and the brief conversation sounds like this:
Coach: Someone didn’t sign up to volunteer, I may need you to (officiate, time, work the snack bar, run the computer, etc.) this meet.
Spouse: Whatever you need me to do.
Whatever job needs to get done to allow the coach to do the job of coaching is what the spouse does. No questions asked, no hesitation. In many cases, the spouse of a coach is your best volunteer, whether they want to be or not.
In addition to the running of team functions, the spouse also needs to keep things calm at home. After those never ending weekend/week long meets, a spouse must be able to care for a sore throat from cheering on swimmers or breathing in the quality air around pool facilities. The spouse must be both counselor and advice giver. When an upset parent emails the coach asking why Sally Swimmer is not getting faster or they missed an entry deadline, a spouse is there to calm the coach down before responding angrily. When a swimmer just misses a qualifying time, or gets DQ’d for the first time, and the coach brings that pain home; a spouse must be there to listen and give advice. A spouse helps with the strategy for a dual meet or advice on which swimmer should be on that National relay.
If your children are involved in activities, including and other than swimming, you may be logging many minutes and miles in the car. You may be lucky enough to get a 2 minute conversation with your spouse if you get the kids on deck early enough between practice sessions. At times, you have to remind them and the children that there is a difference between parent and coach.
Is it worth it? Absolutely!! Your spouse is your partner in life. Their successes are your successes, their setbacks are your setbacks. Can it be difficult or frustrating sometimes? Absolutely!! There may be stretches where you or your children may not see your spouse for days, maybe weeks because of various travels. A short FaceTime call between sessions can do a lot to ease some anxiety. Checking Meet Mobile to see how the team is doing, since the coach is too busy to let you know how that one swimmer they were nervous for all week did.
I am so proud of my wife for what she has done for her swimmers, both in and out of the pool. She is a counselor to her swimmers when they need her with issues that life throws at them. She gets excited when that effort pays off for that swimmer who works hard. She consoles swimmers when things don’t go as plan. If you look around the pool deck at large meets, there are not many women who are at the helm of a swimming program. She has a knack for getting to know the person and not just the swimmer. Recently, the high school team she is the head coach for won the state title in a very competitive state. Coaches from other teams were congratulating her assistant, who is male, not realizing the she is the head coach. Sometimes she does not realize how much of a role model she is and can be for these young men and women. She also does not understand the impact she has in the lives of her swimmers. She works hours on top of hours to make every child she coaches feel success in this great sport of swimming. I just hope that I can be that calming or influential force to her success like so many other spouses of coaches.
Ken Burk’s Bio:
I was an age group swimmer, YMCA National Qualifier and NCAA Division II swimmer. I have coached age group team and high school teams. Now I reside in Pennsylvania and an USA Swimming, YMCA and NFHS swim official. My spouse who I wrote about have been married for 17 years and have two kids who swim.