Swim Mom Musings: Extraordinary Coaches

Courtesy: Donna Hale

On a recent visit to a college campus,  I saw an amazing quote that resonated with me as the parent of two athletes in different sports.

It read:  A Good Coach is a Mentor for Life.

Profoundly true.

If your athlete spends 16-18 years in a sport like swimming, the coaches they experience along the way have a powerful influence over the adults they become.  A few weeks ago SwimSwam released the number of athletes who entered the transfer pool this year in swimming.  While the reasons vary, there is no doubt that the coaching they received impacted this choice.  Here is why it is important to help your child understand the powerful role coaches play in the lives of athletes – especially sports like swimming

1. Coaches set the team culture.  It begins at the top.  Show me a toxic swim culture and you’re likely to find a coach that either knowingly or unconsciously promotes toxic situations.  They talk about their athletes to their other athletes. They position athletes against each other instead of creating a team. They tolerate and may encourage bullying. They truly believe winning is all that matters. On the other end you will find coaches whose athletes cheer for each other, encourage their opponents and enjoy the honor of being an NCAA athlete. These teams light up the deck. They have fun.

2.  Coaches are teachers.  Some do it well. Others do unbelievable harm to the self-esteem of those they are suppose to lead.  They either don’t realize they should be role models of kindness, support, and encouragement or they don’t care.  Either way they are examples of what not to become.

3. Coaches play a crucial role in both the academic and athletic success of their athletes. It is okay to set high goals.  It’s okay to expect dedication. And it’s okay to be tough. It is not ok to be abusive, demoralizing or cruel.

4. Coaches are more than masters of their trade.  They are often the first to spot troubling issues like depression and even challenges like eating disorders.  The very best care about the success of not only their teams but of every athlete that crosses their paths.  It is a bond they create that encourages, consoles and prepares our kids for the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  Life lessons!

5. Great Coaches are mentors for life. As what seems like a parent of athletes for decades, I cannot emphasize enough how it is crucial for us to help our kids thrive in the positive, embracing and life changing cultures created by the superstars of coaching.  Having been on extreme ends of this spectrum, consider this carefully.

It is the lessons they learn and the memories they make that make competing in sports such an amazing experience.

If you are a coach, please think about the messages you are sending.  Be a mentor for life.

Donna Hale is a 16 year swim mom whose daughter competes in NCAA.

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I am lucky to work alongside my former college coach and gladly call her my mentor on a daily!

Swim on

Athletes who are lucky such as the one below are indeed fortunate. This is definitely not true across the world of swimming. It would be so interesting to dig deep for the why’s. Why are athletes leaving? Is it team culture? Coaching? Does there need to be a moral formal professional development program for coaches? All ideas to consider.

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