Important Lessons for Young Coaches


by George Block, ASCA President

(This article was adapted from, and with permission of SWIM TEXAS MAGAZINE).

Head Coach of the Alamo Aquatics Association in San Antonio, Texas, George has combined an excellent coaching career with leadership of one of the largest swim organizations in the USA, with swimming leadership at the LSC and National level. A President of the ASCA, a key USS Committee member, and a chairman of his Local Swimming Committee, George has been an outspoken advocate of change in swimming. His insight into swimming problems and needed solutions have been put forth in his writing columns for a variety of swimming publications. George is an eloquent and articulate leader for our profession.

A group of “old timers” was recently reminiscing about all those people who made our first few years of coaching so memorable, but mine were not only memorable, they were instructive and profitable. The years were memorable because of the wonderful swimmers and their families who made the memories. They were instructive and profitable because our head coach, Pete Williams, made sure they were.

Pete was only four years older than I was, but he made sure that all of his assistants had a learning curve that would benefit both the assistants and the club. Perhaps even more valuable to me was his insistence that we get involved in solid insurance and investment plans.

These two aspects of his mentorship – coaching and financial education are still benefiting me today. Hopefully, they will still be benefiting my children as they go off to college and their children when the time comes. Pete was just as uneducated in finance as all of us were coming out of the ’60s. His undergraduate degree was in criminal justice and his master’s was in reading.

What he did know, however, was that our first years of work would be our most “compoundable,” so it was important for us to begin investing, even through we made practically nothing. At the time, I was working a couple of part-time jobs (swim coach was one of them), along with assorted odd jobs (house painting; etc.) my income was low, but so were my expenses. I had very little thought about 51 year olds who need to get their prostates checked. I don’t know why he did that. I am just glad he did and I want to remind my fellow head coaches that this is an obligation we have to our youngest assistants. If we don’t give them financial direction and guidance, or make it available to them, in their earliest – and most compoundable – professional years, we are literally and morally stealing from them.

There are some basic lessons that Pete taught me or (in most cases) made sure I learned from someone else. The lessons have served me well. All of us who are responsible for young employees must take the time to help them learn some of these as well.

FRUGALITY – Too many “kids” think they have to live in their parents’ house or drive their parents’ car, without realizing that it took their parents a lifetime to get there. If we spend less than we make, we are on the way to long-term financial health.

SELFISHNESS – We pay everybody else first. Every book or planner will tell us the same thing. “Pay yourself first.” Help your employees make it automatic (and painless) by putting the first 10 percent into a 401K or a similar investment

NO DEBT – I’ve had young coaches (and their spouses) who have owed more on their credit cards than I owe on my house! Once we had to have a credit card to travel, Pete made sure we only had one. He pushed us into American Express, so that we would have to pay it off each month and not fall into the interest trap.

CONTROL – We can’t control our returns, dividends, splits etc., but we can control what we invest. If we want to be sure to make 2 percent more, invest 2 percent more.

POWER – One of the greatest powers on earth is the power of compound interest. That is why our earliest investments, no matter how small, are so critically important. Steadily trusting the monthly drip, drip, drip of small investments to the power of compound interest is much more powerful than trying to outsmart the market.

Back when I couldn’t have cared less, Pete taught me these four important lessons. Now I find myself unable to thank him enough.

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