The Secret to Building Buy-In: 4 Coaching Styles for Swimmers

It can be difficult at times to keep athletes engaged both in the pool and in dryland, but using the most appropriate coaching styles for swimmers under your charge will help! You may have heard the saying, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” As a coach, you may notice athletes goofing off or checking out more often than usual. Perhaps you have a couple athletes who show up to practice but are just going through the motions. Unfortunately, even if you give your team the best dryland plan ever made, it only works if they do! With some proper coaching strategies, you can build buy-in back into your team.

The best way to implement coaching strategies and increase buy in from your athletes is by getting to know them. Identifying your athletes by how they respond to your coaching style will help you know how to approach them on days where they are less than their best. Otherwise, you might feel like you’re caring a lot more about their than they are. Even worse, you may be pushing them away.

When you Become SURGE Strength Dryland Certified you’ll learn 4 coaching strategies to help you reach athletes with different motivation and skill levels. They are assigning athletes, sparking athletes, educating athletes, and aiming athletes. In order to use these strategies accordingly, rank athletes based on their motivation level and skill respectively.


coaching styles for swimmers



Type #1 of Coaching Styles for Swimmers: ASSIGN

Athletes in the assign category are every coach’s dream. This group is usually comprised of the leaders or captains of the team. You will recognize them by their high motivation and their outstanding performance. These swimmers need autonomy over their dryland. For example, they thrive while leading a warm-up or helping the coach tweak the dryland plan. They don’t need much praise or constructive criticism. Instead, find ways to enhance their skill-set. Assign them to new challenges and leadership roles. Otherwise, they may lose motivation and fall into the “spark” category.


coaching styles for swimmers



Type #2 of Coaching Styles for Swimmers: SPARK

Athletes who need a “spark,” often have natural talent or ability, but lack motivation. Many of these swimmers have been in the sport for a long time and are burnt out or are beginning to burn out. Others are just seen as lazy. Some get more enjoyment out of goofing off with their friends than making progress at practice. They need you to light a spark in them again.

Athletes in the spark category are often misunderstood. While they might seem like they could care less about swimming, most of them have put a lot of time and dedication into the sport in order to develop their skills. In fact, it’s likely that these athletes have had a bad experience with a coach in the past. In order to turn this around, consider positive reinforcement when coaching them. Encouragement will go much further for this group than nagging or constructive criticism. For instance, try being less direct or assertive when pointing out areas for improvement. Instead of acknowledging what they are not doing correctly, try saying, “what if you try (fill in the blank) next time?” These athletes can often be frustrating for a coach. However, they can easily shift to the assign category if you play your cards right.


Type #3 of Coaching Styles for Swimmers: EDUCATE

Athletes who are highly motivated but lack skill need education about each dryland session. These athletes are often the most fun, memorable, and rewarding people to coach. They are the underdogs. However, without proper care and attention, they can easily become discouraged and slide into the aim category.

Identify these swimmers as soon as possible in order to help them achieve their highest potential. Instead of writing them off as unathletic, try breaking down each exercise for them in new ways. Give them external coaching cues and feedback. They thrive off constructive criticism. It makes them feel valued, even though they aren’t the fastest swimmer on the team (yet!). Keep them front and center in dryland. Then, watch them blossom into leaders as they grow into the assign category.


coaching styles for swimmers


Type #4 of Coaching Styles for Swimmers: AIM

Athletes who fit into the aim category can challenge coaches in many ways. That’s because these athletes don’t like to be coached at all. Instead, they prefer to blend into the team without drawing attention to themselves. Sometimes, the best way to motivate these swimmers is by giving them space. Instead of singling them out for bad (or even good) performance, try pulling them aside casually. Then, give them a few specific pointers here and there. A couple of small, positive interactions with these swimmers each session goes a long way. In fact, you may even see them start to slide into the educate group.

Take these groupings into consideration when pairing swimmers together for dryland, especially when working with youth athletes. For example, coupling swimmers in the educate group with swimmers in the assign group will give you more productive results than pairing your spark group athletes with your aim swimmers. As you recognize which group each athlete fits into, keep in mind that everyone can easily shift from group to group depending on the team dynamic and situation. Categorizing athletes does not mean you should label them or write them off. Instead, use these coaching strategies to build rapport in new ways. See each athlete as the highly motivated and skilled athlete you will coach them to become. This way, each athlete feels valued and coached as an individual.

Understanding each athlete’s motivation and skill level not only helps motivate your athletes; it also motivates you as a coach. These 4 strategies: assign, spark, educate, and aim gives you a new perspective when swimmers give less than their best effort. Grouping your athletes into one of these 4 categories helps you be more aware of your team’s needs. In addition, it tells you a good bit about your team dynamic. Building your coaching strategies is the secret to building buy-in on your team.




Dryland Priorities for a New Season

Dryland Priorities for a New Season






Dryland Priorities for a New Season

Dryland Priorities for a New Season






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SURGE Strength - Dryland Training for Swimming

Courtesy of SwimSwam’s exclusive dryland training partner, SURGE Strength.

SURGE Strength, a strength training brand created by Chris Ritter, CEO of RITTER Sports Performance, aims to build better athletes and faster swimmers through dryland programs and educational courses.

Get started with a SURGE Strength Dryland Program or enroll in a dryland course in the SURGE Strength Academy today!

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About Chris Ritter

Chris Ritter

Swimming has always been a part of the life of Chris Ritter, founder of RITTER Sports Performance What Chris discovered after his swimming career, as he entered his swim coaching career was how important dryland training for swimmers can be. Chris has earned numerous strength and conditioning certifications, including: CSCS, NASM-PES, USAW …

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