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Becoming a Memorable Swimming Coach.

Posted January 17, 2002

Article Reference: PI 2002-01
(critical thoughts for new coaches)

By John Leonard
(adapted from Dale Carnegie’s work)

  1. Act like the Host – no matter where you are, make people feel welcome and make them know you are glad to see them there. You are the Host at practice and swim meets, even if its not your home meet, for your own swimmers…you invited them there.

  2. Remember Names and Use Them. – Dale Carnegie said “The sweetest sound in the world to a person is their own name.” You know its true. Act on it.

  3. Make Eye Contact and Smile – Basic interpersonal skills. Use them every day in practice…even if you have a hard message to deliver that day.

  4. Focus your attention on the other person. People swim fast when they feel important. They feel important when they are listened to. Become a great listener. Make them feel like they are the only person in your universe for the moments you speak to them. Thanks to Jack Nelson for being the prototype of this for many coaches.

  5. Send the right signals – make sure your body language, your facial expressions and your words all match, or the mixed signals that result will cancel out any message you want to deliver or receive.

  6. Be Enthusiastic. Nothing happens without it. Your athletes reflect you and your energy.

  7. Show your sense of humor. People repeat experiences that are pleasant. Your humor can make any experience good for your athletes.

  8. Be versatile. Things change. People change. Your flexibility in dealing with things will make your athletes equally facile at adapting to things that are “less than perfect” at a meet, practice, or social situation.

  9. Speak concisely. It’s a sound bit world today. Make yours count. Know what you want to say. Say it short, sweet and memorable.

  10. Get on their wavelength. Learn to adapt your speaking style, manner, pace and language to theirs. Make them comfortable with communicating with you. You come to them. Don’t make your athletes come to you.

  11. Ask others for their opinions – You’ll be amazed how brilliant a conversationalist you will be remembered as if you will do this.

  12. Don’t interrupt. Hear people out. Sometimes they just have to get things off their chest. Let them. Its hard to breath with stuff on your chest. You can’t be comfortable if you can’t breath.

  13. Compliment them. Studies have shown that young people today (ages 7-15) “hear” compliments only if they come in a 1:1 ratio (or better) to “corrections.” So if you spend a lot of time correcting and only 10% complimenting, your coaching will be rather unheard. Conversely, if you compliment a lot and correct a little, you’re likely to be heard by your athletes. Read that again please. Its scary….you have to compliment as much or more than you criticize if you want today’s athletes to hear you.

Follow Those Thirteen pieces of advice, and your coaching and your relationships with athletes will blossom, regardless of the age of athlete you coach.


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