View Full Version : A Coach's Goal: Motivating Swimmer for Meets

November 26th, 2014, 03:30 PM
This is a post from my blog, but I thought I'd also add it to a forum in case anyone has any suggestions for future meets. Thanks

I've been a masters swim coach for almost two years, and a youth swim coach for nearly seven years. One of my bigger goals I've set as a masters coach has been trying to introduce swim meets to those who have never done one before in a comfortable, safe, and fun setting. Maybe some of you are like the swimmers that I coach, in that you have never tried a swim meet before, or maybe the idea of competition in general, scares you away from the thought of ever doing a meet.

To explain a little more about our team, we have quite the variety of athletes. We have triathletes, competitive swimmers, recreational swimmers, and open water swimmers. We also have several swimmers who are involved in other sport-activities throughout the year, such as marathon or ultra-running, cross-country skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding. As for the ages & abilities of our swimmers, we range in age from the mid-20s up through the mid-60s. We have a couple swimmers who have won state championship masters meets & have gone to USMS Nationals, and others who have never swam in a meet before or just learned to swim as an older adult.

Our current masters swim team has roughly 30 registered swimmers, and we will have about 12-18 swimmers per practice on a regular basis. Our practices are run through the Geneva Lakes YMCA, and we currently offer practices 3 days a week, but we are looking to add more practices down the line, if possible.

With that said, over my first year of coaching masters, I noticed that there was definitely a divided line between those who were motivated to do meets and those who distanced themselves from the idea. I came to realize that a lot of the swimmers who weren't as competitive, who started swimming later on in life, those who weren't comfortable with all 4 strokes, or those who believed they were beyond their years of competition, thought that meets weren't really for them. I wanted to begin changing their attitudes on swim meets.

In the last six months, as a coach, our team has hosted and competed in two virtual no-commute swim meets thanks to a suggestion from our current Y aquatics director. We decided to schedule the no-commute swim meet over a week to two-week time period, during our regular practice times. We had one no-commute meet over the summer that was primarily mid-distance events & included relays, and we finished one this last October that was primarily sprint events. We opened the event up to other Y's in the state to participate within a certain time-frame and send us their results. Even though we didn't have a lot of other teams competing with us (only 2 other Y's in the state), this was a great opportunity for our team to get excited about a change in our daily practice schedule & actually get the feel for what a swim meet is like.

As a coach, I encouraged our team to do as many events as possible (hopefully all :) if they were up for the challenge), and it was amazing how many were up to do that! The team as a whole was encouraging to one other and cheered one another on throughout the weeks of competition. I even had one of our swimmers in his 60s come in wearing war paint on his face the first day of competition. :cheerleader:

At the end of our first no-commute meet, many were already asking when the next one would be because they had so much fun doing it. I was thrilled that this idea of competition and "being a team" was beginning to click with some of our swimmers.

Beyond the no-commute meets, in the last 2 months, I've began really promoting our team attending meets within our area. Personally, it's difficult for me to attend a lot of masters meets, because I do coach our youth team on top of the masters team, and our youth team has quite a few meets throughout the year (pretty much every other weekend). In the past, we've had a couple masters swimmers do some meets on their own, but the team hasn't been to a meet as a "team" in years.

Thankfully, I've been able to find some nearby masters meets that don't conflict with the youth swim meets, and I've really tried making it a priority to be there for the masters team. I think it's one thing for me to say, "You should go to a masters meet," and another for me to say "I will be at this meet with you, and I think you should go try an event or two." It really does make a difference for a coach of a team to be at a meet with his or her swimmers because it not only motivates the swimmers to attend, but it also shows that the coach cares about how they do in the meet and that the coach cares about the team as a whole. I think it also enabled me to ask each swimmer if they were going to the meet, and that I'd hope to see them there. It took the meet to a more personal level, rather than just putting the meet information out there for anyone to attend.

With that said, our first meet as a "team" was this past month in Libertyville, IL, which is about an hour south of Lake Geneva, WI. We had six swimmers attend this first meet, and while that may not seem like a lot, it was for our team! I was thrilled to have more than one or two swimmers commit to a meet, and the end result was that all of the swimmers had some great swims, but most importantly, we had fun together. And these swimmers were able to take their experiences back to the rest of the team.

As I move forward with this goal, I'm hoping to have 90% or more attendance at a meet within the next 2 years. I realize this is a journey, and maybe meets aren't for everyone, but I also think that if a meet is presented more as an "event" rather than a "competition" it can be seen differently and attitudes will change about what it means to be a part of a team, and a family. I plan on continuing to blog about our team's progress & also posting our weekly workouts.

I'd also love to hear from anyone that has more ideas on presenting and incorporating competition into team workouts or events outside of the pool.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


November 26th, 2014, 07:20 PM
Love this and love your enthusiasm for getting more involved. Our team is fairly small, but have been successful the past 2 years in getting a good portion of our team to a zones meet as a group. We really only have 2-3 on the team who like to do meets; many of the rest who compete do so in triathlon or OW. The real push came from within, not from our coach, though he did present the idea and competed as well. This year, we promised everyone a team shirt if they signed up for the meet. We got one specific to this year and had all our names put on it. It's nice to see them wear it to practice so that others see it. Hope it'll help with getting folks involved next year. Oh, one other thing we did was add a bit to our newsletter afterwards. We'd asked several of those who'd never done a meet before to do a short write-up of their experience and every one of them were so excited to share how much fun they had.

November 26th, 2014, 08:15 PM
Thanks for the info. I appreciate it! It's nice to hear of smaller teams being able to pull people in to do some meets.