The 6 Swim Meet Skills of the Grizzled Veteran Coach

We all know that coach.  He’s been on deck since the other coaches swam in college.  He’s probably coached swimmers who went to the Olympics before you were even born.  And he’s mastered these six skills that every coach will be forced to learn throughout their years on the pool deck.


1. How to fold/roll a meet program.

Perhaps the most basic of all the skills, but also one of the most critical.  Take a look around the coaches tables.  You’ll see nearly every fresh program quickly turn to a crisply folded masterpiece that prevents even the most seasoned swimmer from figuring out what page this heat is on and which one is next.  The perfect folding of the program is not without reason.  It allows the veteran swim coach to perform important tasks including, but not limited to:

  • writing seemingly disorganized splits in the margins
  • inserting and removing the program from the back pocket of the khaki shorts
  • refolding the program to release nervous energy
  • smacking athletes with something that won’t land them in a disciplinary hearing

2. How to use aforementioned program to cover ones mouth while cursing.

Being a swim coach can be frustrating.  Especially when Johnny Sprinter has just tried to set a world record in his first 50 of a 200 for the third time this weekend.  The seasoned veteran understands how to vent his frustrations in an appropriate on deck manner.  This isn’t college basketball.  Lesson one from the grizzled vet: if you’re going to curse, do it under your breath with the program in front of your mouth.  Lots of 12 year olds can read lips.


3. How to rock the same polo 3 days in a row.

Swim clubs are notoriously good at giving their coaches exactly one shirt with the team logo on it.   But maybe that’s because coaches are notoriously good at actually wearing that polo for each and every day of a swim meet.  I don’t know how they do it, nor do I really want to.  I’m sure it’s some combination of luck, Tide to Go and the skill to be able to walk along a crowded pool deck with a cup of coffee that miraculously doesn’t wind up down their shirt.

4. How to kill the time between heats and finals.

We all know what swimmers do between heats and finals, but does anyone really know what coaches do?  I’ve been at meets where I’m not swimming and those hours are boringggg.   Veteran coaches are often very good at crosswords.  I once watched a 60 year old coach buy three papers outside the lobby and meticulously finish each crossword while eating his lunch.

5. The breaststroke call/whistle/yelp.

Every coach has their own.  If you’re a serious breaststroker, you’ll know exactly which one is your coach during the breast and IM events, even from the change room. I would love to say that the most amazing thing that I saw at my first major swim meet was a race, but it was definitely the number of coaches who could let out an ear piercing whistle… with no hands.  Simply. Amazing.


6.  Dealing with swimmer emotions.

This is the true test of the veteran swim coach at a meet.  Though it transcends practices as well, emotions are running high at swim meets.  The ability for a coach to deal with one athlete who is having the best meet of their life one minute and then another who is at their worst the next is one of the factors that sets the best coaches apart.

Which skills do you think are essential to the veteran swim coach?  Let us know in the comments.

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Definitely could have done a lot more with this article topic. Gotta say I’m a little disappointed.


1. Eating hospitality food for every meal and not gaining too much weight.
2. Tactfully disputing DQ’s.
3. Determining the proper level of enthusiasm for pre-finals pep talks.
4. Jumping up and down while cheering without slipping on the pool deck (also, wearing the correct shoes for a particular deck surface).


As a new coach I think I’ve got the use of the program and limited apparel down. Still working on the ones that relate to, you know, actual coaching!

About Davis Wuolle

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Davis Wuolle helped found and launch SwimSwam at its inception in 2012. Davis designed and developed, utilizing over nine years of web development and design experience. Davis graduated in 2013 from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada where he specialized in Materials Engineering with a focus on Product …

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