“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.
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.