private coaching

How to Do Private Lessons For Year Round Swimmers

Coaching in Denmark was at times the most stressful but also the most fruitful thing I have done in swimming. One experience I am eternally grateful for was the chance to represent Denmark as a coach internationally on three occasions. 

When you're chosen as a coach for one of these teams, you're presented with a challenge. You'll be chosen because you're directly responsible for coaching one or more swimmer on the team. But you'll also be asked to coach swimmers who spend the rest of their year under the guidance of someone else. Beyond just going to the meet, we were also asked to coach swimmers on training camps.

That can basically go one of three ways:

1. You can diverge so greatly, both in terms of stroke feedback and practice type that you severely disrupt what is making the swimmer successful. Egg on your face and an angry coach back home, not to a disappointed and dejected swimmer.

2. You can basically try to be as hands off as possible, give little to no feedback and hope that you don't screw it up.

3. Somewhere in between #1 and #2, you can find a way to help the swimmer in a limited capacity, understanding the limitations of the time you have with them, but also taking the time to figure out what has made them successful up to this point and reinforcing that.

It took me a while to learn #3. I didn't do a very good job the first time I traveled for Denmark. By my third trip, I was getting the hang of it. That experience informs what I do now, which involves private work with swimmers that swim year round.

When you're doing private instruction, it can be tempting to draw contrast between yourself and a swimmers full-time coach. After all, you might assume that swimmers and parents want to see something different from you. You would be wrong.

Swimmers don't benefit from you drawing hard lines between multiple inputs. Instead, you have to find a way to give the swimmer confidence in both the intense instruction you're giving and the team environment they will return to.

I always emphasize to swimmers that I work with that their full-time coaches are responsible for teaching them to do many things right, and I often ask questions to get a sense of the kind of feedback that they may be getting in a team setting that their coach may not have had the time to follow through with them on. 

When you pull this off, the swimmer leaves with more confidence that they are moving forward, but also a renewed faith in the coach they see day in and day out. Even though the swimmers I work with make great strides, I don't publicize who I work with.

When I began this work, I found that in every case coaches were hostile to the idea of someone working privately with their swimmers. I can understand why. Now, I am getting referrals from year round coaches. Why? Because they've realized that I'm just here to help and make them look good in the process.

The best result for me is a swimmer, parent and full-time coach that are all happy with the progress made. I spoke with a parent this morning who credited our private work with her son's renewed commitment to attend morning practice and dedication to his year round team. I'm proud of that- and proud to work in partnership with other coaches.

Are you interested in private instruction that can make a lasting difference in as few as four sessions? Contact me. 


I'm That Private Coach

Yesterday I had a bit of fun on facebook, posting a tongue in cheek status about pushing my three year old's racing speed. The jokes that followed often reflected real-life complaints and frustrations that coaches often have.

One of them was the fact that coaches are sometimes faced with swimmers on their team going outside for help with their swimming. There's a mistrust of private coaching. I understand why.

But I am that private coach. A good share of my business involves coaching swimmers who are on a team they otherwise train with. I don't think I'm worthy of that mistrust, but if we're going to get anywhere, I have to understand where the mistrust is coming from. So here are three complaints I often hear about private coaches and what I'm doing to answer them:

1. "Private coaches contradict what I am trying to teach and confuse the swimmer"

This is a huge potential pitfall when multiple voices start giving input to a swimmer. One of the things that I stress before any swimmer I work with takes a stroke in the water is that I will not contradict their primary coach. 

I ask them to be honest with me when they think I am, and bring that conflict to me. In almost all cases where the swimmers sees disharmony, there is in fact a lot of harmony between the advice I am giving and what their coach is saying. I ask the swimmer not to focus as much on the details but the concept.

2. Private coaches are charging a lot of money for something I do every day for far less

Many coaches feel a natural pride about what they are doing. They bust their butt in practice, working with big groups of swimmers is a very challenging teaching environment, often for very little in compensation.

I know two things as a private coach: the first is that I will go out of business very quickly if the coaching I deliver is not worth the money it costs. The second is that I have a mission to convince people the value of good coaching- and if I can do that in a broader sense I will make life better for a lot of coaches out there. 

3. Private coaches don't make a big difference

This one kind of goes hand in hand with the above. Many coaches rightly argue that a lot of private coaching is not making much of a difference. They already provide a lot to the swimmer in question.

Here are some situations I consciously avoid even though there is quite some hay to be made in these areas:

1. Rich parents who just want to throw money at making their child better

2. Adults who want a "quick fix" in their training

3. People without an honest motivation to get more than what they receive in some other situation right now.

The last one is where I see the biggest opportunities for private coaching. I've found the most success working with swimmers who are not near the best on their team, often on a team that cannot provide enough practice or coaching for optimal development.

When I get the chance to talk to primary coaches, I tell them this "I'm here to make you look good". Which is the truth, because I'm unlikely to get credit for a great performance by one of these swimmers, unless I somehow boast the word out myself. 

Having been on the other side of the fence as a college, club and now high school coach, I see opportunities for more coaches to get involved with helping more swimmers. 

Are you interested in private coaching to build on what you're already doing? Contact me.