Courtesy of Donna Hale
Literally thousands of articles have been written about what qualities you find in the very best swim coaches. Having been around this sport for 14 years, I have seen my share of all types of coaches.
All too often the coaches who think they are the most effective and inspiring fall short. They are far too focused on the outcome, the cut, and the championship than they are the journey and impact they have having on someone’s life. Others that are shining stars fade silently into the background unsung and modest but having an impact every day. They inspire hope.
Thousands of kids have been chased from the sport and given up not because they did not love swimming but because their coaches ego was like slow acting poison that killed their dreams. Others have inspired struggling kids to hold fast to their passion in the face of the toughest of odds.
Here are the shining qualities of the best swim coaches.
They never give up on swimmers even when the times are toughest. It is easy to be a great coach when everything is coming up roses. Races are being won. Times are dropping. But stand on deck with a swimmer and offer that support when they have just swam the worse race of their lives and listen and support them That’s the type of coach we all hope for.
They remember what matters in sports. And that is that we teach sportsmanship, character and determination. Most all kids go pro in something other than their sport. The superstar coaches know this and understand these are life lessons. Make them count.
They look for that special quality that makes your child special. They build up and do not tear down. I know I will get some pushback here. But the world would be much better with more pats on the back and less screaming.
They check their ego at the pool parking lot. If you choose to teach in this sport then you accept the responsibility it brings. That responsibility is to coach to the individual and not to some ideal. Yes a coach should encourage the best. However they also must understand that their words have power to inspire or destroy. There is nothing wrong with being your own personal best. Even if that own best is not straight to the Olympics.
Finally – and this counts the most of all – they realize they are the seasoned one. They’ve had the ups and downs and life experiences. They are there for the brightest moments and the darkest days. And they never stop learning – knowing each kid has something to teach them as well.
After all it is not only the athlete who is charged to keep getting better.
Donna Hale has been a swim mom for 12 years as well as executive of several nonprofit organizations. She volunteers regularly for her daughter Hannah’s USA Team The Potomac Marlins, summer team Burke Station Destroyers, and Lake Braddock Swim and Dive Bruins.