Plenty of Inputs Are Good

There was definitely a point in my life where I considered myself a "control freak". It felt like just yesterday.

Because it was.

I was headed to my second viewing of "Avengers: Infinity War". My wife and I were possibly going to be a little late. I had seen every trailer that would drone on for twenty minutes before the movie started, and of course the movie itself.

Some part of me, though, was having a huge freak out about sitting comfortably in my theater recliner at precisely 6:45 pm when the first preview rolled.

Thankfully, I've learned to limit some of my obsessive control behaviors to general timeliness. In coaching, I've had to let a lot go. I could probably stand to let loose a lot more.

No "One Stop Shops"

One thing I would desperately love to see change is the idea of a coach as a "one stop shop". It is, of course, the case that in many instances, due to a variety of factors, a coach finds themselves wearing many and/or ALL the hats.

Necessity is one thing, but I'm going to argue strongly that if at all possible, coaches should work to decentralize from themselves. They should do it for their own benefit- which I will not discuss here. Suffice it to say, being a "one stop shop" can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to the mental and physical health of a coach.

Instead, I'm going to focus on the athletes. They do not actually benefit from having centralized resources for improvement. They benefit from having a wide net of places to get the kind of information that can help them moving forward.

That sounds nice in principle, but many coaches do not like athletes getting their information from a lot of places. They worry about confusion from the athlete, or worse yet a direct conflict between the information they are giving at practice and the information they get somewhere else.

I'm not going to argue such conflict or confusion won't happen. It certainly will. I am going to argue that some confusion and doubt is a worthy cost for the benefit one can get from a wide variety of inputs.


Confusion and conflict often become self-fulfilling when the "primary" coach doesn't properly prepare athletes for a wide variety of inputs. To me, this kind of "control" coaching is fundamentally insecure. As if your coaching isn't good enough to stand up to some other ideas.

As a coach, its important to know and be honest about what your strengths are. I am a total novice on biology. Worse yet on physics, a class I somehow avoided taking in both high school and college. My college science class (geology) doesn't come much in handy when I'm standing poolside, except if I'm considering tile sets.

Whenever I'm coaching, I try to be confident in what I know and prepare the people I coach to be successful at taking information from places other than me. I tell them this plainly: that I will not be the "one stop shop" and that they should feel free to do their own searching for answers.

I often find this brings me into a good dialogue on the occasion that they do hear something totally wacky. I'm able to engage without being defensive and have a well-reasoned discussion about how they should proceed.

One of the things I repeat to swimmers over and over again, especially when they get into "criticize" mode and speak poorly of another coach, is a challenge. I used to give this challenge in Denmark when I would send an athlete away to a training camp I wouldn't attend.

"Every coach knows something that can help you get better. I use stuff everyday from the worst coaches I ever had. Your job is to find out what they know and use it to make yourself better".

Let it Flow

You don't need to wait for special occasions to do this. We live in an information age. Even a swimmer that can't pay for private anything outside of wherever you are coaching them could never get to the bottom of all the resources there are out there.

So let it flow. Control coaching is going away, thankfully, for more reasons than it just being an outdated bad way to coach. It is also going because when one coach is the source of "all" knowledge it is rife for abuse.

Know your strengths, be confident in what you know and look at other people and other knowledge as additive to what you do. 

In other words, don't be a mad titan.