Last Friday night I attended a 20 year reunion for a swimming club that I began in 1995 called Carey Aquatic. The Club changed its name to CA Tritons in 2008 and remains a strong competitive club in Melbourne, Australia today.
There were more than 150 former athletes in attendance on the night and it was great to catch up and listen to them talk about the different tracks their life had taken.
What was astounding though was the appreciation expressed by dozens of former athletes for the encouragement, guidance and life skills that my assistant coach and I had taught them over the years.
The following message sums it all up really well.
“It was so good to see you both on Friday night! I hope you both had a great night catching up with so many of the old crew – mum and I definitely did.
I’ve been reminiscing lots about my swimming days over the last week… so many fun memories It’s made me appreciate how lucky I was to be part of such a close-knit community and how grateful I am to the two of you for fostering that. I really can’t thank you enough for the time, effort, love and support you both showed me in and out of the pool when I trained with you. I gained so much confidence in myself at that time and looked up to you both so much.
When I think about the people who have played an important role in shaping me up to this point, you two are right up there with the very, very best company. It’s important to me that you both know how special you are to me and how grateful I am. Keep in touch,”
While swimming coaches provide training sessions, attend swim meets and work on improving each athlete’s technique and skills on a daily basis, the reason most coaches love coaching is because they get to help young people (and the not so young) to learn new skills, work together, develop life skills and to believe in themselves.
One of the top priorities for many coaches is to create a learning culture and supportive environment where young people can be successful both in and out of the pool.
It became so evident to me last Friday night that swimming coaches can have a massive positive impact on their athletes and this responsibility needs to be taken seriously.