Coaching the Coaches of Novice Swimmers by Lorna Snow (2011)


Mark Hesse: Welcome back. My name is Mark Hesse. I’m a member of the ASCA Board. In fact I was unfortunately just sentenced to a term as vice-president so I’m at lunch. It’s my pleasure to introduce this afternoon’s speaker in the second day of the Age Group track here. Those of you that were present for her talk yesterday were certainly entertained and hopefully learned a lot.

Coach Snow is a developmental head coach at the Churchill Pool location for the University of Calgary swim club in Canada and I think she told us yesterday they have 175 young novice athletes in their program. And certainly her talk yesterday displayed her passion and enthusiasm for teaching excellent technique. And I think today’s talk is maybe one of the most important talks we’re gonna hear all weekend because it’s about our responsibility as head coaches or head age group coaches to mentor our staff that’s under us especially the staff that’s working with the youngest athletes in our program and giving them a great start, so in order to give Lorna as much time as possible, Lorna Snow.

Lorna Snow: Thank you very much. For the people in these rows here, I’ve just realized yesterday, I kind of stood here with my back to you. So, if you’d like to move back just a little bit then I can see your faces, okay? I don’t want to be rude. All right, yesterday we talked about coaching the children themselves and I didn’t utter long. We didn’t get a whole lot of talking done about the individual strokes.

Today, I want to focus on coaching the coaches. We have two programs in our club, the one that I’m at everyday which is Churchill Pool where all of the new coaches and our development program start. When they’ve spent at least a year there, maybe two, they will go on and coach in the other development program. So we don’t leave out any of our coaches. Here is a bunch of kids, off you go. They are mentored on a daily basis, huge amount of in-service and lots of pointing out things as we go along.

So today’s program is about coaching the coaches. My email address is there. I have run out of business cards, I’m sorry. You can also Google The University of Calgary Swim Club. Our email and or our website is I’m sure you’ll be able to find it. All right, our agenda today, the empowering coaches is all about in-service. That’s basically what we did yesterday.

Okay, I’m going to talk about professionalism. Frank Busch talked about that at the key-note address on Sunday night, very important. I have some very non-negotiable rules about behavior in terms of professionalism that I make crystal clear to my coaches. Some stuff about mentoring, what about administration? Who does that? What do you need to do? Dealing with parents, who deals with parents? Yes, you are the one. I am too. A little bit about seasonal planning. I have got some stuff up here that I’ll put out for you to work on or to look at after the presentation. All right, here we go, empowering coaches; also known as in-service training.

First of all, in the classroom, in the water, the 29th, 30th and 31st of August, all of my coaches are required to attend 100 percent of all the in-services. We spend 7 hours together going over how to get through the first four weeks of our program. We did it in the classroom and then they practiced on each other in the water. And I knew that on Tuesday night when they started, I knew one of my new coaches was going to be a deer in the headlights. She didn’t talk to a child. She’s absolutely overwhelmed. We talked about being overwhelmed.

So, we do a lot in the classroom, in the water. The technical expectations; you as the program coordinator, head coach, whatever your title is needs to be very, very clear about the technical expectations that you have for your swimmers. In my program, you heard yesterday, sharl, streamline, arms, rhythm, legs, okay? I’m missing one, head position, arms, rhythm, legs. I’m very, very clear. We go back to that all of the time. What are the basics that they must do? Then, I test them on it; part of their performance evaluation is about how well their swimmers perform that.

So I’m very, very clear about the technical expectations. For example, have you got your program with you? Get it out. Page 18, you got one with you? Can you look over somebody’s shoulder? There are a couple of examples here that I will ask and we’ll take this home and show them Monday night. I’m going to ask them. Look at the girl doing butterfly on page 18. Now, as a teaching tool for my coaches, I’m going to ask them what do you see about that stroke. Sharl, head position for butterfly, her head is not down. If her head is not down, her hips won’t be up. Look at the arms.

What dominance does this one have? Is this a right handed or a left handed swimmer? Right handed. Her right arm is coming out of the water. Take those kinds of things teacher, coaches, how to look for things. Look back two more pages on the Colorado Timing Systems. Great photo, look at the butterflyer. What do you see? I will ask my coaches on Monday night what do you see in this stroke. Look at the streamline. This swimmer is straight up out of the water. I have little children. I can almost see their belly buttons out of the water. Streamline position and their head position in the butterfly is this.

This is a teaching tool for my coaches. Collect those kinds of things as you work with them. Make sure your coaches are crystal clear on what your technical expectations are. All right, next, we did this yesterday. Spent a lot of time talking about teaching tips, you need to give your coaches, your young coaches some of those tools perhaps not all of them all at once, but as they teach, remember the four word rule from yesterday? They inevitably standup and say, “So what we’re going to do now is first” of all it’s the royal “we.” Are you going to do it or they’re going to do it? What you’re going to do now is and secondly all the little boys are gone, too many words.

So, even though you’ve talked about it, okay, you have to reinforce those teaching tips. Now, at the beginning of this season, I write the workouts. I write six workouts, one for each lane depending on the swimmers. I had planned to bring my workout journal with me but I didn’t think my suitcase would make it through on the weight restrictions. I’ve got a three-inch binder. For the workout journal, I have each binder or I have a section for each coach and all of the handouts and all of the group planning. I think that I’m responsible for that.

My coaches are young. My youngest coach, 15 years old and she’s very, very good. But, I want her to focus on her relationship with the children and what she’s doing in the water. So, I’m going to prepare all of those workouts. We’ll do a workout in-service training later in the season on how to write a workout. So I did bring three things. The elements of an early season workout, this is not a workout. It’s just the things that needed to be included. There must be kick. There must be specific skill work. There must be fin work. It’s fun.

And you know what, with the little kids, I start off with fins as it takes them five minutes to put them on. I don’t want to waste five minutes of my 30 putting on fins. So, they sit at the end of the pool, they put their fins on and at exactly 4:30 or 5:00, they get in the water ready for their fin work. There must be something related to freestyle. There must be something related to backstroke and they may spend time every day doing a little bit of some results.

So, in an early season workout, those are the elements that must exist. If we’re going to be working on how to hold a flutter board, then we may start with the board because they have to go get the board. Little boys have to whack each other with them a few times, get that out of the way. They have to practice where to hold their arms and then they’re ready to go. So, the order matters in terms of what our goal is for that particular day but those elements must exist.

So, that will be up here. This workout template is for later on in this season. The little children, I don’t do a warm-up with. Okay, they’re not swimming hard enough or fast enough to injure anything. However, later on in the season, warm-up is part of what we do. I asked them what they’re warming up. They don’t know you’re warming up your brain to think about what you’re doing. You’re warming up your muscles and your heart – what does your heart do? It pushes the blood around your body, basic stuff.

So we do a warm-up and it’s always the same. It’s always 100-meter kick and it’s always 100-meter stroke. We declare it but there are some comforts when the children come into the pool knowing exactly what’s going to happen. There must be some aerobic components, some element for 400-meter freestyle. We might do 16 25s with a focus on the underwater works. So, every start is going to be sink and streamline, past the flags with the underwater dolphin. We might be working on starts. We could do 16 25s with starts as well because I’m gonna get 16 starts in with six underwater dolphins.

We might be working on turns. In which case, we’re going to do 400-freestyle. I might want them to learn how to count their lengths. And they’re going to first do a 400 time trial. I let them swim. They stop at 350 or 300 or they swim to 500 or 600, I let it happen. We talk about being responsible for counting your own lengths. So, it depends on what we’re working on, which part of that we use. It might not even be in freestyle, it might be in backstroke. There must be an aerobic component in every workout. There must be a fins component.

By that level, they’re actually doing some drills with fins on them. With fins, they must sink and streamline and do six underwater dolphins every time. My coaches must be vigilant about that. There must be some element of kick you can combine kick and speed work. You can combine kick with the IM work. There must be some element of stroke or technical development every day. There must be some element of speed work and there must be some element of IM in a later workout during the year.

Speed work, I have to tell you about that. One of our coaches came back after the 2004 Olympics in Athens and you may or may not remember but Canada had a rather dismal performance. And one of the things, we were just sitting in the office talking that he said to me, Jan Bidrman said to me was, “In Canada, we tend to beat the speed out of the children.” We’re so worried about doing technically everything correctly. We tell them to slow down. And then by the time I get them, their stroke rate is so slow that I can’t get them to speed it up and I went, “All right. From now on, I’m going to do some element of something fast in every workout. It might only be five meters to the cone but it’s going to be fast.”

It’s competitive swimming. And he’s right, that’s what we say, slow down and get it right. Now I may ask someone to do some element of a stroke slowly, there would kick with all the scissor kicks and strange things that happen to do the kick slowly but I don’t want them to swim slowly. All right, so that’s the workout templates. Come and look at them at the end if you wish. What kinds of drills do you do in your club? The drills that the senior coaches want them to do, I want the children to have a basis in. Some of the drills aren’t appropriate for little children, so I may modify them. We give them all news because it’s fun, okay?

One of our Olympians came one year and had the children swim back kick with fins on where their hands are pointing straight to the ceiling. Her name was Erin Gammel. We call that the Erin drills. They were thrilled. They were copying one of the Olympians. So, I also have for you if you wanna look at it, drills. It’s just the drills; let’s say it’s the drills master list. I want my coaches to do them correctly. I tell my coaches exactly how the drill is to be done and how to teach it. They need to know how to teach the children to do the drill.

All right, skills test protocol. Twice a year in our development program, we do skills testing. Okay, children like to be tested. They like to know why they’re going to be tested. We do 20-meter freestyle turn back start and streamline, 25-meter freestyle stroke efficiency. So, we take the time and count strokes, same thing with backstroke, 15-meter dive freestyle. So we got your breakout time, front dive in streamline for distance and a 25-meter front flutter kick. Those are the elements of what we look at.

We can look over the years on how many meters the children can sink in streamline on their backs. If when we go to do that, they can only go 1.5 meters. I need to look at that coach or the coach will look at them and go, which means they’ve not taught it well enough. So this is part of the performance evaluation for the coaches. All right, I don’t know, do you have the skills test protocol? Think about the skills that you want your children to develop, make a protocol. Okay, we only do it twice a year, once at the beginning in January and once at the end of May. It’s not onerous. It’s fun. The kids like to do it. They like to show us what their skills are.

Next, professionalism. So, this is the ABCs of professionalism. And last night and this morning as I was working on this, I came up with more. So of course, here we go. That’s as many as I got. And actually, there’re a few more. All right, first of all as coaches, it’s not about you. I don’t care whether you had a bad day. I don’t want to hear about it. When you arrive on deck, I want someone who is positive and smiling, on time and ready to go.

Once you walk on the pool deck, it’s about the swimmers. I don’t want my coaches standing in a little clump talking to each other although they’re all friends, they swam together, and they’re friends. Once the children start walking in, you’re to talk to the children. Ask them how their day was. All right A, first of all, accountability an overused phrase. However, in my swim club, parents of six and seven-year-old children do bingos, sell raffle tickets, raise money for a swimathon, pay 700 dollars, register for 200 dollars, pay entry fees and officiate swim meets. That’s required.

So, when we step onto the pool deck, I believe I’m accountable to the people that pay the money. We don’t do much playtime. They can go play swim at some other time. They’re paying us on their hard-earned dollars to teach their children. I think we need to be accountable. I think it’s important.

Secondly, appropriate touch. All of your programs should have a touch protocol, what is permitted, what is not permitted. The rules for touch, the societal rules for men and women are different. It’s not maybe right, but it’s a fact, Jack! I have to be very clear with my coaches about what the touch rules are. Little children like to sit on your lap, nope, not allowed, not ever. They’re not allowed and we need to stand so that they can’t sit with their arms around you, not allowed. I don’t like children hugging especially little children hugging tall men, not appropriate.

I’m really, really clear about the appropriate touch. Where you can touch, when you can touch, I don’t want any issues at all. I do not want a parent sitting up in the stands at the top of my pool going, “What are they doing?” You have to be clear with your coaches what is permitted and what is not permitted. They need to think about that.

B, become a better coach. Challenge your coaches to be better. Read an article. Do something better. Every year, I challenge myself with the same thing. This year, I’m going to do a better job coaching my coaches on how to write a workout. I did not do a good job last year. That’s my goal this year. Read some articles. I’ve got an articles file. If you look at the back of this magazine again, there are news for swim parents’ recent articles and I looked in here on what is the awesome eight-year-old, that’s in my article file.

I read that. And hard work, as my mother used to say, “Lorna, get working, nobody ever died from hard work.” It’s a really good article on hard work. Put some of those, have an articles file. Read some articles. Become a better coach. B is for boundaries. You must tell your coaches about boundaries. My young coach, age 15, was asked to baby-sit for one of the families. We talked about boundaries. She came to me and said, “Am I breaking a boundary if I baby-sit?” I thought, “Good on you young lady, you’re 15 years old and you thought about that, fabulous!”

So we talked about where the boundary would be and what she would need to say to the swimmer who had to be very clear that when she was baby-sitting, she was baby-sitting, when she was on deck, she was a coach. As a matter of fact at the beginning of this year, she only wanted to come swimming if she was going to be her coach. And my young coach looked at her and said, “You’ll go on whatever group you’re asked to go with.” I’m not your baby-sitter. I will be your coach. Boundaries, very important.

C is for caring. I love the children. I want my coaches to have fun with them, enjoy them, and care about them.

Commitment, you will be at every workout on time, no questions. Now I understand that there are traffic jams, so text somebody. In my case, I’ll leave a message at the pool because I don’t know how to text. Make sure somebody knows that you’re going to be late. Some of my coaches in high school are taking the bus. I get it. Sometimes they’re going to be late. And as they come in, they must be rushing in and the first words out of their mouths must be, “Sorry I’m late.” It’s part of the values.

They have to be committed. One of my young coaches announced last April on a Wednesday that the following Wednesday and Thursday, he wasn’t going to be there. I said, “No” and he said, “But I’ve already booked tickets.” He was going to a concert with some friends. And I said, “Cancel your tickets.” Now, I didn’t follow through on that but I said, “Don’t ever do that again. Who is going to coach your children?” “Well, I thought you would.” “You didn’t even ask me.”

Commitment, I expect commitment. Confidentiality, once we are off the pool deck, we never ever use the name of a child. You can tell stories. I’ve told stories, no names as part of confidentiality. Critical thinking skills, one of my favorite sayings. Do not walk on deck and ask me, “I see that you need somebody to help in lane two, would you like me to go there?” “Yes.” Don’t ask me. I for initiative, go. Think critically. If it’s not working for the child that you’re working with, think. Think about something else.

Think about what you’re doing. D, developing relationships with your swimmers. Spend some time to talk to them. Occasionally I’ll have a coach that’s too sick to be on deck, I would like every swimmer in that group to come to me and say, “Where is my coach? Where is my coach?” It tells me that coach has a relationship with the children. Develop a relationship. D is for dress code. You will wear your coaching shirt. You will wear black pants in our case. You may wear shorts that are not too short. Gentlemen must wear shorts that are not too wide because when you’re standing on the edge of the pool, the little children are looking up, aha!

I got an email from a parent. One of my coaches who had bent over to talk to a child looked like a plumber. I got an email from a parent saying, “I could see that. Could you please talk to the coach?” New rule, you have to have your shirt tucked in or be wearing some sort of tank top underneath, very, very strict dress code. When another coach comes in to our program wearing that shirt, the children must know that that’s a coach and that they must do what that coach asks. Okay, so dress code, very important.

Now, I made up E last night, I forgot. E is for excellence. Excellence in coaching, excellence in swimming, excellence in training, excellence in racing, excellence in relationships, excellence all around. How many of you ever set out to be a mediocre coach? Right? I expect them to be excellent. I cannot tell you how proud I am of my young coaches. They are 15 to 19 years old and they are spectacular. They are very, very good. I would place them in the top 20 coaches of little children in Canada. I believe they are that good.

So, excellence is part of the culture of our club. They must be. They are expected to be excellent coaches. F, first impressions, and how many chances do you have to make a first impression? Exactly one, it’s important we talk a lot with the coaches about first impressions for the parents in the stands, for the children in the water, very, very important. When you come on the first day, you bring your triple A game. It’s got to be great. I is initiative. Take some initiative. Look at things that need to be done and do them. It follows with critical thinking skills. I is for integrity.

The children in our development program at the end of the year all receive a medal. I choose the largest, gaudiest medal possible and engraved on the back is H-I-P, we call them hip words. I’ll line up all of the children and make a special presentation with the medal over their neck. The parents are invited to come down and take photographs.

Okay, H stands for honesty. Now this is just our club, okay? Honesty means always telling the truth. The children know that. I stands for integrity and I explained to them that that means doing the right thing even when nobody’s watching. P stands for pride. You are proud to be a Dino, University of Calgary Swim Club Dinosaurs. H-I-P, okay. Those little children wear them to bed that night. They take them to show and tell the next day, but I want them to tell their teammates or their classmates at school what does the HIP mean.

Integrity is really, really important, keeping your word. When I want people to know that when I say I’m going to do something, nobody ever has to ask again. It will be done, I will show up on time and prepared, very important to me. L is for language. I am crystal clear about what words you are permitted to say on deck. Some swimmers have left our club because coaches – and these are older kids, could not resist dropping the F bomb every other word. Enough already.

So I tell the coaches exactly which words are not permitted at anytime ever in front of a child. There have to be some standards there. Your language must be professional. I would like my coaches to have some ownership of the group. I want them to talk about my group. As coaches, don’t you talk about your group? My squad, I want my young coaches to have that same kind of ownership. It shows responsibility.

O stands for on time. Flags are in, ropes are in, children are lined up and everything is on time. We book about 2 hours of pool time a day at about 60 dollars an hour. Believe me, when we start at 4:00, I mean 4 point zero, zero, not 4:02. At 60 bucks an hour, I’m going to use every single minute. The pool will not let us go in early and we are not permitted to stay one second over 6 o’clock. So, don’t start a 50 kick at 5:59. The coaches have to think. They have to plan for that. We have to be respectful of what our booking actually is.

P, P is for playing favorites. I must never, ever see that in the coaches on deck. Now, there are some children who are too cute for words. When we go to swim meets, I win the cute factor every single time. I got children that are barely as big as the blocks. Cute factor, unbelievable, but you cannot play favorites. We talked about it. I want them to think on a regular basis whether there’s anything happening that they’re playing favorites.

P is for being polite. I expect you to have manners. We say please, we say thank you to the swimmers, to each other. All of you carry a bag I’m sure that has extra caps and goggles. For the ones that have lost or forgotten? I have children who ask me, can I borrow a cap Coach Lorna? Pardon me? Can I borrow a cap Coach Lorna? Pardon me? Can I borrow a cap Coach Lorna? And then finally some other little kid will go, “Say please.” Certainly you may borrow a cap, right? Teach manners.

R, R is for read an article every week, read about coaching. R is for relationships with the children, with your fellow coaches and with the pool staff. Now we deal with civic employees at our pools. Some are civil, some, not so much. So, if we ever need something from them, I really work hard at building relationships at the pool with the pool staff because occasionally we’ll get a favor. I take flowers to every pool at the end of the season as a thank you. Just a little flower arrangement that they can put on the front desk that says, “Thank you Churchill pool staff, the University of Calgary Swim Club.” When we have pizza night, we get a pizza for the pool staff. We all need to get along.

R is for respect. Let me give you an example. The children, because they are so young, do not do, don’t stay in the water except for fins. I cannot hope with giving instructions to little boys and little girls who are bobbing up and down. So we do everything from the deck. They start everything we do from the deck, a bit of a group management there.

Now, respect. If you’re going to give the instructions, you have to wait for everybody to get out. How many of you as a swimmer were the last in the lane? Okay, and lots of times I never knew what was going on, because the instructions were already – I also remember I can’t write them on a white board, I can’t read yet. I never knew what was going on. You can’t start talking until all of the children are out. To that little person who is still in the water, finishing is important. If you start before they’re out, what’s the message to the child? I’m not even important enough for them to wait to give the instructions. Okay, so I ask my coaches, I coach my coaches to be respectful to all of the children in that way. Be responsible, R is for responsibility.

S, smile. I let a coach go because he couldn’t smile at the children. We talked about it. We watched other coaches. I walked behind him and said, “Smile. Smile.” We talked about whether he even liked children. Yes, he did. I said, “Okay, here is where it’s going to happen. For the next six workouts, for the next two weeks, actually there are eight workouts, for the next two weeks, you must smile at every child three times in the workout and you must walk down the pool and talk to at least two children every length.” He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t smile. You know when kids dive in, you’re standing on the edge of the pool, you’ll walk away every workout soaking wet, right? He leaped back in horror at getting that and I’m going, okay.

Then finally I talked to him and said, “This isn’t gonna work. You’re not having any fun are you?” And he said no. We mutually agreed that this wasn’t going to work for him. You have to smile, you’ve got to have fun.

Social media rules, I’m afraid my ignorance about this is profound, however, in our club, coaches may not “friend” swimmers, not permitted. So whatever the social media stuff is, there have to be rules about what your role is. Just the social media again and friendships, even little children, little boys and little girls will flirt. I remember one of my coaches and I said, she’s flirting with you and he looked and me went, “No!” I said, “Yup.” About three days later he went, “Oh my goodness, I saw it.” Watch for the flirting. This is part of professionalism.

All right, T. T is for a team player. As part of our coaching staff, we have over 30 coaches on staff. We must support each other, absolutely required. Do not complain about the head coach. Do not complain about the head coach; you’re gonna complain about me, do it on the locker room when I can’t hear you, okay? We have to be supportive of each other. We’re all part of the same team. That’s part of the culture of our club. We must support each other. Be thoughtful, think, be kind, be thoughtful.

Trustworthiness, very important. As a coach, how much do you know about those children’s lives? Don’t they tell you everything? You know where they’re going for supper. You know what new toy they got. We know a huge amount. You have to be trustworthy. Don’t divulge about that.

I don’t know about the rules down here but I’m required by law to report abuse. I am in the position of that kind of authority and I must report it. I’ve only ever done it once, I had a child arrived who I believed had fingerprints on her cheek. She arrived three days later with a broken arm and told me she’d fallen down the stairs and I went, okay I can’t do this. I was very, very nervous. I phoned Alberta Social Services; I asked if I had to give my name. I didn’t want it to come back on her. I did give the child’s – and I was not required to do that, to give the child’s name and address and it was investigated. We have to be aware of this; it only happened once in all my years of coaching, but I am aware of it. It does happen out there. All right, professionalism is so important. Teach your coaches, coach your coaches what your expectations are for professionalism.

All right, mentoring, on deck everyday and I warned my coaches I am going to drive them crazy nattering at them about what to improve and about what to do. However, I also think when a young coach is on deck going, “I don’t know what to do,” that they would rather have me give some suggestions then to let them flounder. I don’t want them to flounder. I want the children to be successful; I want my coaches to be successful. So, on deck, everyday, 4 days a week is my program, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and I go to the other development program every Friday to watch the coaches.

All right, yesterday we talked about PPP and P, positive, patient, persistent and having perspective, that’s with the children. It’s also for the coaches. I need to be positive with them. It’s no different. I need to be patient, they’re young. They’re new, patient. Be persistent, they will get it.

One young lady, she’s struggling with her coaching, but you know what? She’s got a great attitude. She’ll try everything I ask, second year of coaching, still hasn’t quite got it. But I am going to persist because I believe in the long run, she’s going to be able to do it, I believe that. My coaches need to know from me that I believe they can do it. I must have perspective. My own coach, the 15-year-old, who’s going to be 16 soon started when she was 14. I didn’t give her a group of her own, she was 14. She helped one of the other coaches that had a little bit bigger group.

So she learned all of the things side by side. She was included in everything. She is turning 16 now; she’s a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous coach. Get them young and train them up in the way that they should go. Then the continuity, and I hope she stays to go to University of Calgary, then she’ll be able to stay, she’s got a part-time job and I got a coach for another four years.

Yes, this young lady is going to be head coach, probably in three years is my plan at the other development program. That’s my plan. Okay so have a plan for your coaching staff. I have a young lady right now who’s trying to decide whether she’s going to swim, she’s 17, she’s got a shoulder injury, she’s gonna swim or she’s not gonna swim and I’m just waiting to find out what’s happening with her shoulder, because the minute she gets the call about her shoulder and she knows whether she’s going to swim or not, and she’s not gonna swim, hi, would you like to come and coach? I think she’ll be great. She’s a positive, sparkly girl.

Recruit your coaches, go and talk to your senior swimmers who are going to retire. Have you thought about coaching? Ask them, some of them may, some of them may not. Some of them may be moving away to university. One of my coaches last year decided she was gonna go to Edmonton to nursing. I was very sad. She’s a very good coach. Okay, recruit.

On deck you must model what you want. Oh there’s a seat. Thank you for looking at that. I forgot. Model what you want. Some of the coaches, they’re very young; they don’t know how I want it done. So I will do a demonstration and then step back and let them try it, show them what you want, model what you want. You can coach the children and coach the coaches at the same time. Model exactly; use the words that you want them to use. There is continuity.

Observe, I do a lot of behind the shoulder. I know I make them crazy, over the shoulder. So I will walk down the pool with them, behind them, over their shoulder. They’ll do it, see, excellent, coach, we did it. Don’t forget to say this. Over their shoulder and I do literally stand behind them. I warn them, I’m going to make you crazy now. Over their shoulder nattering at them; then I have to back away a bit and tell them, “Good job!” They’ll look back at me, thumbs up, yes you’ve got it. Keep going.

So, be positive with the coaches. I do a lot of over the shoulder. Let the coaches share their wisdom. We meet after every practice. What did you learn about coaching today? Share your wisdom, what insights do you have? We talked about specific children, specific behaviors, how you can manage this, how you can manage that, rather than asking me for the answer, I ask the coaches to think about a solution. So we meet everyday, let them share their wisdom.

One of the pieces of wisdom is trying not to get caught up in the cuteness, and I do have coaches that go, “Oh, they are so cute.” Yes they are but their head position is incorrect. Fix it, because I’m going to have a really cute seven-year-old at the end of the year who can’t swim, and that’s your fault.

All right, dealing with challenging behaviors. My young 15-year-old, I gave a group this year that had too many little boys in it who weren’t listening to her. And you know what? She’s only 15. I needed to change up the group or change up the coaches. So, I put one of my boy coaches with him, those little boys. We developed a strategy to work with those little boys, to get them where we wanted them to be, not fair of me to keep asking her to do that over and over again.

Okay so sometimes you just have to move around and change things up in dealing with behavior. They talk about the values on our club. We use the phrase, “Dinos don’t behave that way.” And I spend a lot of time going, “Look at those well-behaved Dinos.” Compliment the children all the time but we do say, “I’m sorry, Dinos don’t behave that way.” It’s part of the culture of the club in terms of discipline. All of my coaches must develop the look. I can stop a seven-year-old boy at 25 meters with the look. Practice the look in the mirror. We have the trolley that holds the lane ropes, what do the children want to do? And I look at them, “Do you think for a minute that Dinos do that?” “No,” and they stop.

Okay, so dealing with challenging behaviors is important. We have to value every swimmer. I had actually asked for a meeting with one of the parents. I was going to ask her to take her child out of the program. She came down on deck and burst into tears. Okay, she talked about all the wonderful things we were doing with her son, okay I’m going – oh excellent we need to change this now, don’t we? She was so grateful for everything that we had done, a very challenging boy. And I went, “All right, let’s move on, we’re going to deal with it.” He’s doing better. There are children who will do well for you who don’t get a lot of other success in their lives. I think that’s important.

Know your swimmers individually and as a group. Who’s confident? Hi, how do you like me so far? Who’s timid? Okay head down, shoulders down. What are their learning styles? We had one little boy last year and we kept giving instructions, changing up the words and he just didn’t get it. All right, let’s go to a demonstration. This child needed to see somebody else do it, got in the pool and did it, words, not so much. What are their learning styles? Visual, tactile, auditory, use all three together, find out who learns best in what way. You need to know the children in your group.

Who pushes to the front? Who fades to the back? I was telling a story about how a group of little girls, maybe there were seven of them, nobody would go first. I’m like, “What is the problem here? Come here girls.” I sat down, they stand around me, “Why won’t you go first?” “My friends won’t like me,” so each child had to tell all the other little girls that it was okay to go first and that they would still be their friend. They didn’t want to go first like, what’s going on? You’ve got behaviors that are challenging. Know the children.

Girls often have to be empowered to pass somebody in a lane. They’ll go to the back of the lane, okay, they’re faster. They’re gonna run kids down but they will not pass. All right, you’ve seen it. My coaches must be ready to empower that child, go ahead of him. Part of the swimming manners is knowing what order you are in the lane. And I always tell the children, if you would like to be faster, excellent, pass them. Some of the little boys just do not like getting passed, and don’t kid me, or don’t kid yourself, some of the little girls are real competitive too. Okay, excellent, its competitive swimming, be competitive.

Who are the pleasers? Who are the children who want to please you? I think all children do. They want to please you but I also think that there are some who are more pleasers than others. Who is mature? Who is immature? Know your children. Know who’s ready to move on, to try something different. The wave of learning, at the beginning of the year they are learning so many new things, it’s very exciting, my coaches are thrilled and by the middle of October it’s not so thrilling anymore, because that’s the consolidation of skill phase. Then they’ll learn some more. Then they will consolidate. There is a wave to the learning. I have to help my coaches through that, not so fun slugging through that part, okay.

All right, performance evaluations. Swim meets are performance evaluations. One of my coaches will stand with our notebook and take notes on the performance of the swimmers. Who’s their coach? If a child makes an error at the beginning of the year, it’s the coach’s fault. They must accept responsibility.

Skills testing are part of their performance evaluation. Individual meetings, one of my young coaches, just struggling, we chatted about 45 minutes after workout one day. You’re not having much fun are you? No. I know you want to be a great coach. And he looked me in the eye and said, “You know, I really do.” I said, “Then let’s set about with some specific goals for you to become a great coach.” You need to meet with them individually and as a group. So it’s an ongoing process of performance evaluation.

Maybe I should look at my time, oh dear! Here we go. Not exactly what happened yesterday? Here we go. So, what are your hiring policies? Do you have to interview? Do you have to have resumes? What are your coach registration requirements? In Canada, and I admire you tremendously that all of your coaching certification is voluntary. It is not in Canada. By November 1st, all of our coaches must be registered with Swim Canada, Canadian Swim Coaches Association, and Alberta Coaches Council.

They must all be certified level one or registered in a level one course. They must have a police check with both criminal and vulnerable sector evaluations. November 1st is the deadline, or my president and my head coach gets an email from the executive director from Alberta.

What do your coaches need to have, what are the requirements? What’s the office stuff? How do they get paid? How do they submit their hours? Make sure that they know that and do it correctly, check their hours. Do coaches lie about their hours? Attendance records, you know that there are children who come in, wet their hair and go back and sit on the lobby of your pool. I need to have those attendance records, and I’ve got 110 children on a spreadsheet, so it goes on and on and on. Attendance records are important, workout journal. Each coach, even though I’m writing the workout must – sorry? Oh yeah, sorry. They have to keep their own workout journal. They must write something on every workout about how that workout went. What did they learn? What did they do well?

Reporting structure, who do your coaches report to? Who do your swimmers report to? Who do the parents talk to? Very important. What kind of swimmer equipment do you require? Our swimmers must have a cap, goggles. They must have fins, a UCSC bathing suit and a UCSC T-shirt, period. They must have them. And I can’t have 50 sets of fins on deck either. It’s a public pool. We bought laundry baskets put in the end of each lane so the kids could put their fins in them.

Policies, you must have a policy about kicking children out of workout, absolutely not acceptable in our environment. I must say that I have done it once after a nine-year-old tell me to F off. His mother, I asked his mother to come down on deck. He was required to explain to his mother, why mommy has got to take him home now. It was about 5 minutes before the end of workout, mommy was there, we dealt with it, move on. You must deal with bullying. How do you want your coaches to deal with bullying? You have to have them practice it.

Parents, let’s just talk about this for a couple of minutes and then we’ll be done. However, you can talk about parents for what? Two and a half hours? All right, who deals with the parents? I don’t want an irate parent yelling at my 15-year-old coach. It is very clear on our program that parents must come to me. I want to protect my coaches at some level. Now if they’re going to say, Susie has to leave early because she’s going to a birthday party, fine. But if they have some comment about the coaches, I want them to talk to me. My shoulders are going to be much broader.

Do you have parents on deck? What are your policies? One of our pools has no viewing area so that parents sit on deck, very difficult, okay? There’s a bench right behind the coaches at the end where they do all their starts. Parents are not allowed to sit there or allowed to sit on the side. So what are your rules about parents on deck?

Some truths about parents, you already know this. Parents register their children in our program because they want it to contribute to their child’s development. There is only one swimmer in the water, theirs. Both parents will hang over the viewing area glass; it’s a tennis match, watching their child swim up and down the pool. All the parents’ hopes and dreams are embodied in that child. They are giving to us the most precious thing on the face of the earth, their child.

I get goose bumps sometimes when I think of that, how much respect they are giving us for that. They pay us a compliment with their trust. I’m with little children and I’m talking to little children or disciplining, mommy or daddy must be there. The parent must be the advocate for the child. I expect the parent to advocate for their child, so parents, extremely important.

I have generated and will leave up here before our first swim meet an email about how to act at the swim meet. One, have fun, two, have more fun, what to do when you arrive? Where to go when you officiate, what the children should pack in their bags, not the parents, the children; what should be in their lunch that the children have packed? They must bring interactive toys; nothing drives me crazier than those little boys playing those little games, their faces in it. How a swim meet is organized, swimmers visiting their parents during the meet.

I talked about coaching a swimmer. I promised not to parent if they promised not to coach. Here’s a whole list of what to say to your swimmer after their race. You may say, “Did you have fun? Do you like swimming fast? Wow! You are really fast. What excellent technique. Did you do what your coaches asked? What a great swimmer you are. I’m amazed. I’m so proud of you. What color is your ribbon? We’ll put it in your scrapbook.”

Next, what not to say to your swimmer. “What was your time? Did you get a best time?” One of my little boys, “Coach Lorna, what are the numbers on the back of my ribbon, what does that mean?” Never say you came first, second or third or last and don’t compare your swimmer with any other swimmer. We’re going to celebrate in the email. This is what you’re allowed to say.

Ribbons, it’s their ribbon, not yours. Do not ask for the ribbon. If it’s a little bunch in the bottom of their bag when they get home, it’s their ribbon. I remember one little boy, had his ribbon, he had it on his arm on his forehead, two and a half hours, never let that ribbon out of his hand. He wore off the gold ink on the front of it and I gave him another ribbon so he had the gold one.

I tell parents, if they lose it, I’ll give you another one. It’s their ribbon. Let them dance around with it. If they lose it, it just doesn’t matter. I’ve got lots. I talked about getting disqualified. I do not want a parent correcting a child for getting disqualified. Disqualified means, oops I made a mistake; I’ll fix it next time. There is no crying in sport, unless you win a gold medal at the Olympics and then I’ll cry with you.

Taking photos, you may, that had a video camera, and I was talking with some people before, drive me crazy. People with video cameras, I’m very clear. You can take video cameras to celebrate. You can send it to grandma and grandpa and auntie and uncle. You may celebrate, you can watch it. You can watch it while you’re having pizza or popcorn, celebrate. Do not ever correct a stroke on the video, and, when they’re allowed to leave the meet. So, you could look at that.

Who signs up for a swim meet? I choose the events, not the parents. Our program is all stroke aerobic; they will swim all strokes and distances. You don’t get to choose 25 meters freestyle at every meet. I want independent, responsible swimmers. Susie, why is mommy carrying your bag? Mommy is not your Sherpa. Mommy forgot my cap. It’s not mommy’s cap, it’s your cap. Caps cost 5 dollars, goggles cost 8 dollars. You lose them; you must bring to me a list of chores that you have done to earn a new cap or goggles.

Some of the six-year-olds I can’t read it, like I don’t know actually what it says because they’ve kind of just written letters down, they’re six, right? But they must do chores to earn. They must look after their equipment. My coaches are collecting all of the fins and taking them into the children in the locker room. Stop, go and get the children. Where are your fins? Oops, I forgot them. Parents coming on deck getting the fins, collecting equipment, no. Sorry mommy, Susie will come and get her fins, thank you.

Start it young. Be responsible, be independent. Okay and I have got some stuff on seasonal planning if you’d like to see it, be clear of your goals, plan your special events, your parties, and thank you. See the ribbon? Very proud.

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