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.