The Importance of the Coach’s Demeanor

The Importance of the Coach’s Demeanor

Sport for children is primarily about enjoyment, so it is vitally important that the coach or teacher presents it in a way which is non-threatening, engaging and with a happy manner.

You cannot underestimate the importance of the coach’s demeanour with the group.

We all experience days with varying degrees of difficulty; that’s life.  We need however to be mindful when we are working with our swimmers, that regardless of the sort of day we have had we have to present with a happy face and have a disposition that others feel comfortable with.

If we aren’t fun and enjoyable to be around it is unlikely our swimmers will respond in a positive way and become really engaged with their swimming session and be a person who children want to be around.

A good strategy is to adopt the routine of self checking. We do this by simply taking a moment to ask ourselves:

  • What mood state am I in?
  • Am I smiling?
  • How am I expressing myself? What is my body language like and what is the tone of voice I am using.
  • What do I need to modify to ensure a positive experience for all?

In essence, be like the coach who you would like to be the coach of your own children. 

Late Breathing in Freestyle

Late Breathing in Freestyle

We frequently see in freestyle during the breathing phase swimmers breathing late in relation to the arm cycle. Whilst this isn’t a cataclysmic issue it can create complications for the swimmer particularly under race conditions and during demanding training sets.

The two main areas where this habit can adversely affect performance are:

1. The late movement or rotation of the head results in a disconnect with the timing of the arms and the rotation of the shoulders and hips, which disturbs the rhythm of the stroke and some loss of efficiency.

2. There is a reduction in the length of time that the mouth can be open for inhalation, resulting in a lower volume of airflow and as a consequence the gas exchange in the lungs is compromised.

The ideal timing of the rotation of the head for breathing is; the head rotates as the propelling arm commences the push phase of the arm pull, which is in synchronization with the upward rotation of the shoulder on the breathing side. Inhalation begins just prior to the completion of the push phase and the during the commencement of the recovery of the arm. Inhalation continues through the first half of the recovery and as the hand or arm passes the shoulder the head commences its counter rotation and finishing in the neutral position with the eyes looking after which the exhalation begins.

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Rotating the head to breathe with this timing will provide an optimal period to complete the inhalation. If this period length is shortened by turning the head late, then the opportunity to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide becomes limited, which is highly likely to adversely affect performance.

A drill which can help create to correct breathing timing is “single arm opposite side breathing drill” is the “Opposite Side Breathing Drill”. This drill has the swimmer for instance stroking with their left arm but breathing to their right, with the rotation of the head coordinated with the entry and extension of the left arm (stroke with the left and breathe to the right). The right arm is held stationary by the right hip. If you have someone afflicted with late breathing try this drill and see if it helps.


Watch World Short Course Swimming on TV

Watch World Short Course Swimming on TV

Just like many of you, I will be watching some of the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships in Melbourne, Australia with keen interest. With match ups like Kyle Chambers versus David Popovici in the 100m freestyle and many other world class swimmers it will be not only fantastic racing to watch but also the opportunity for coaches and swimmers of all ages to learn from the best.

The event is being held in Melbourne, Australia with live broadcast around the country from 11:00am for the heat sessions and 7:30pm for the finals sessions. All events will be shown live on Channel 9 in Australia.

When we are watching these events on television, the work done by the production crew is outstanding and there are so many opportunities for us to learn. From a technical perspective, we have the benefit of the incredible vision as it streams to us in high definition footage. We can watch the races from above the water, from several different angles including side, front and from behind, and underwater via strategically placed static cameras. Include with that the images from the mobile camera running up and down the side of the pool and there is much to watch.

Through this smorgasbord of images we get to see the subtle technique and skill execution differences from swimmer to swimmer. For me it reinforces how important it is at this elite level that attention has to be paid to every detail.

Some key footage to watch includes:

  • Taking up the starting position
  • Exploding off the block at the start
  • Angle of entry into the water on dives and backstroke start
  • Angle of body and kicking underwater
  • Angle of breakout
  • Breakout from below and above water
  • Stroke technique in all strokes
  • Approach to the wall in turns
  • Turning actions for each stroke
  • Push off wall and streamlined position
  • Pacing of races
  • Breathing patterns
  • No breathing into the wall in freestyle and butterfly
  • Last 15m of a race
  • Last 5m of a race
  • Finish in each event

Watching the swimming from these various angles will assist athletes to improve more quickly and assist coaches to put together some footage to show specific elements of each stroke and race to their athletes..

FINA permit wearable technology in swim races

FINA permit wearable technology in swim races

The World’s aquatic governing body has announced that swimmers will now be able to wear technology during swimming races.

“The use of technology and automated data collection devices is permissible for the sole purpose of collecting data. Automated devices shall not be utilized to transmit data, sounds, or signals to the swimmer and may not be used to aid their speed.”

This means it will be legal to “wear” technology to collect the swimmer’s data for research, education, and entertainment However, that data cannot be used in real-time to inform swimmers on how they are going, nor assist them with communication throughout the race.

The impact of this FINA rule change will impact the sport for a generation. A positive outcome is that feedback will be provided on swimmers performance in real time to their coach and potentially the public. But will the top swimmers want to wear the technology, particularly if the data is shared through tv coverage and to others?

To look at how this can work and the outcomes for the sport, let’s take a look.

When a Coach Changes Clubs

When a Coach Changes Clubs

“My son and my husband and I are very happy at our Swimming Club. The Club provides everything we want for our 14 year old son, a positive environment, good coaching, a pathway to develop further and a great team atmosphere. Last night we were informed that my son’s coach is moving to another club and he has asked us to leave our current club and move to the new one with him. We are so confused and would like some advice on how we decide what to do.”

We receive many emails similar to the one above (received last week) from parents asking for advice around coaching, particularly when a coach moves onto another position. Every request for advice is different so we have summarized our thoughts below to assist parents in this situation.

Junior and Age Group Swimmers

In general our advice is if your child is happy in the club they are in, then it is more beneficial to remain at the club with their friends and training partners and continue to train together under a newly appointed coach rather than changing clubs and following their former coach. Invariably the environment created by the Club as a whole and the swimmer pathways within the club are more important to the continued improvement and success of a junior or age group swimmers.

Furthermore, for swimmers in these younger age groups, their coach will often be in an assistant coaching position, and the replacement coach is as good or even better than the departing coach. In general it is always worth giving the incoming coach a good 6 to 12 months for your child to get used to them and continue their swimming journey.

Location and travel time will also play a part in decision-making and it is important for families to understand the ramifications particularly if travel time increases, especially as children move into and through high school.

Coach Advice

For coaches looking to begin a new role in either an established or new Club, it is highly advisable to begin your new role with new swimmers and not encourage your current swimmers to move with you. When I (Gary) moved from one Club as an Assistant Coach to another as Head Coach, I instigated that no swimmers from my previous squads (60 State & National level swimmers) would be welcome to my new Club for a period of 2 years from beginning there. This allowed my current athletes to continue training and competing at my former club and further progress and improve with the least disruption to their swimming, their friendships and the Club. It also provided the incoming coach with the best opportunity to be successful in their new role. This was the right thing to do. It also allowed me as a new Head Coach to develop the culture and athletes from the base up in my new club, gradually over time to ensure the foundations were built for a long term successful club.

Most coaches will understand the reasons for working through a situation similar to that outlined above, however a small minority will “encourage junior and/or age group swimmers to leave their current club and follow them to their new club.” I have seen this happen a small number of times over the past 30 years and it nearly always ends in tears. This is a selfish attitude by the coach who is more interested in promoting themselves than supporting their athletes. It also shows a lack of respect for their previous employer which in turn often carries through to their new employer. If as a parent you are ever put in a position like this, please think twice before making a move as the grass is rarely greener on the other side. It may seem like a good idea at the time but it rarely works out well.