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How to Choose the Right Swim Coach and Club

QUESTION:

Hello, My daughter is 12, and has been swimming competitively for the last 3 years with a small local club. She’s now at the stage where she’s in top ten in state age champs for some events, and a few seconds away to her first national age qualifying time. However, some of her competitors, mostly from bigger clubs, are few seconds ahead, and have been like that for the last year or so.

We are considering moving to a different club.

How do you choose the right club?

Is it the size of the club, the facilities, the coaches?   If coaches are important, what is it to consider in a coach?

Do coaches have different principles/methods? If so, how do you know which one is right for you?

Thanks in advance for you advice.

Regards, K

ANSWER:

Hi K,

At 12 years of age and with the results she has achieved, your daughter is more than ready to train to compete at a National level.

You ask a number of questions in regards to sourcing a new club and coach and all your questions are relevant. If have answered these questions briefly below.  If other coaches or parents have advice, they are welcome to make comments below.

  • How do you choose the right club?

Watch the different clubs in your area?  Watch how the swimmers behave and how they prepare themselves to race at competitions.  Watch the way the compete, are they showing improvement over time. Watch how the parents behave and support their kids in the stands.  Is there a supportive vibe coming from the kids and the parents?

  • Is it the size of the club, the facilities, the coaches?

The larger the club, the more likely there will be swimmers of a similar age and ability to your daughter, so size can be important.  Check if the club has appropriate pool access and other facilities so that when she does dryland training and eventually gym work, the facilities are available.  In my opinion the coaching offered is one of the most important aspects of your decision-making process.

  • If coaches are important, what is it to consider in a coach?

This is a very complex question as each family will look for something different in a coach.  There are a number of attributes that I look for.  These include: • the ability to communicate effectively with children and parents; • a strong knowledge of swimming technique, skills and training principles; • the ability to impart their knowledge to the swimmers; • their ability to provide a challenging and encouraging environment for swimmers at practice and at competitions.

  • Do coaches have different principles/methods?

Yes. These are often based off their learnings over the years.  Some will look to have variety in every session, others may offer the same session once a week for 4 weeks to measure progress and improvement.  Some coaches believe in building aerobic fitness as a priority from a young age while others will focus more on correct technique and skills.

  • If so, how do you know which one is right for you?

Apart from watching the coaches, swimmers and parents in a program, the best way to gauge whether a coach / is right for your daughter is to meet with the coach and ask them questions like you have in this email and if you get a good vibe and feel that this environment is a place where your daughter will thrive, see if the coach will allow your daughter to participate in one of the training sessions to see if she enjoys it.

One word of warning when changing coaches or clubs is to always be open and honest with your current coach, especially if you have made a decision to move on.

Regards

Gary

The Swimming Expert

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