By Mark Schubert
In order to be effective and happy athletes need a relationship with a coach who cares. For incoming freshmen the ideal situation is the continuance of the good vibe established during recruiting and maintained during the early days on campus.
As simple as it seems an important factor in developing good coach-athlete relations is a simple "Hello Allison" when a swimmer walks in for practice and a “good bye” when she leaves. Walking the deck to speak to every athlete on your team, even if they are not in your group, is essential. I make it a practice to speak to an athlete or two every day after practice and to engage in-depth conversations. Team meetings, even if brief before practice, are another effective way to discuss goals, expectations and give the team compliments on behavior well done!
My swimmers will attest that I tend to be a different personality once the practice begins. I am much more approachable afterwards and will stay as late as necessary to talk about anything on a swimmer’s mind or on a subject that I want to emphasize with the athlete.
A good relationship is the motivational starting point that allows a coach to not only challenge a swimmer on an emotional and physical level and but also to extract performance. Ideally such a symbiosis morphs into a successful partnership characterized by frequent communication that ensures swimmer and coach are on the same page. Subsequent dialogue subjects include, but are not limited to, competition goals, practice goals, dryland, nutrition and academics. And it is in such discussions that a coach can demonstrate his passion and the swimmer can show commitment to the sport. From such dialogue can come agreement on cyclical, seasonal or quadrennial goals.