One Big Tip to Improve Your Swim Coach: Pay Them More

There are a lot of people these days looking for “hacks”. In my day we called them short cuts. Whatever you call them, I decided to start offering a few here via the blog.

In my life, I’ve talked to probably hundreds of people who were dissatisfied with their swim coach. Most commonly when I say “their”, I mean the coach of “their” children. Sometimes, if you can believe it, they were talking about me, to me.

There are a number of ways to improve your swim coach, of which telling them or other people how dissatisfied you are with them is not particularly effective. Here’s one way that can really juice up the improvement curve on your coach: pay them more.

“But Chris…” you interject “why should I pay them more if I think they suck?”

To which I say, all will be explained in good time. Please sit down sir.

You Get What You Pay For

Lets get to one fact of the matter. Jobs coaching swimming generally do not pay well. That’s not to say there aren’t a few jobs out there that have a pretty good salary. However, they often involve either the physical hazard of living somewhere like Lima, Peru, or the moral hazard of being Bob Bowman.

In most other cases, swim coaches are often being paid at best a middle class salary. They are working mornings, and nights, and many weekends. Many are not making a living wage doing their coaching job so they are supplementing by teaching, giving lessons or being lovingly subsidized by a significant other.

That’s not to say that some people are getting way more than they pay for. I have observed, over time, a number of coaches that went way above and beyond what they were being compensated for.

In general, though, you’re going to have a very hard time attracting people to do the best quality work with your kids when they aren’t getting paid. It has often struck me like a two by four across the forehead that swimming is stereotyped as a “rich kid” sport, yet many of the coaches in this supposedly rich sport and poorly compensated.

Up to a Point

You don’t need to make your coach wealthy, but you do want to compensate them up to the point that making ends meet is a not a daily stress in their life. This will allow them to be at their best when working with people.

If you decide to pay your coach more and they still aren’t satisfactory, the worst that will happen is that you’ve created a position in your club with an attractive salary to get somebody good and replace them.

Take the opportunity of giving that raise to lay out clearly what you expect to improve with the coach, so that they can decide whether they are up to it, or not.

Remember that in many professions, people are paid extra to work at extreme early, late, or weekend hours.

Can’t Pay? Make Time

Consider this one and a half tips. If the business model of the club simply cannot be bent to increase pay, consider looking at how much your coach works and giving them more time. Free time is even better than money in some senses. It’s like a gift certificate redeemable everywhere.

Many people who are dissatisfied with “their” coach are often surprised to find out how much their coach is actually working. They employ a “tree falling in a forest where no one can hear it” approach to judging how much a coach is working. If they don’t see them on the pool deck, they must be “off” doing nothing.

While this blog may seem a little light hearted, the message is serious. As hard as I have been on my own profession, I also know that many of my colleagues are dealing with poor working conditions and high stress, and that it makes it very hard to judge how good they truly are at their jobs.

So give them a chance, before you just decide they suck*

*Source: A Guy who got fired once by a parent board who decided he sucked.