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Questions from Coaches

Education Director Bill Brenner answers your questions

  1. How can I encourage my swimmers to join USMS?

    by , November 11th, 2016 at 03:31 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: What suggestions can you give me to convince the non-competitive members in my program to join or renew their membership with USMS?
    A: Are you a believer? Seriously. Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself if you believe in U.S. Masters Swimming’s mission to promote health, wellness, fitness, and competition for adults through swimming? The answer may come from your beliefs, love of what you do as a Masters coach, passion for swimming, and commitment to being an advocate who encourages adults to swim. This same answer may help you formulate your own response to your original question regarding membership in USMS.
    Masters coaches have the unique ability to provide more than an on-deck “transaction.” We have the opportunity to create a “transformation”—motivating each of our swimmers to set goals, feel positive, and have a meaningful swimming experience. In many cases, this transformation is a life-altering event; your swimmers may finally become who they always wanted to be or who they never thought they could be. We’re helping them transform their lives to a healthier, happier lifestyle.
    The enthusiasm we as Masters coaches display on the pool deck, day in and out, transfers to the swimmers in the water. Many swimmers carry this positive and enthusiastic attitude with them beyond the pool to their daily lives and are genuinely grateful for their improved self-esteem. Knowing this, use your enthusiasm, and the gratefulness your swimmers feel towards you, to promote membership in USMS.
    Swimming Masters is a journey, not a destination, and membership is a valuable component to enrich the journey. USMS membership gives swimmers valuable tangible benefits and, more importantly, gives swimmers the feeling of being part of something bigger than just a swimmer on a swim team. It gives them the chance to contribute their time, talent and resources to an organization that gives the gift of swimming to adults across America.
    Pledge—and ask your swimmers to pledge—to support our organization, which is working to:

    • Provide more opportunities for adults to learn to swim and swim for a lifetime
    • Educate Masters coaches and instructors, creating a better swimming experience for those they coach and teach
    • Expand the number of aquatics facilities with programs for adults to swim and exercise

    The success of USMS depends on everyone who contributes to the organization’s wellbeing. Each of us—members, coaches, swimmers, volunteers and staff—has a role to play as ambassadors for USMS. Together, we control our destiny. Together, we pave the path for our journey.
    Be a believer in USMS and those you lead will follow.
  2. How to deal with “Coach’s Fatigue”

    by , October 10th, 2016 at 03:45 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: How do I overcome or deal with “Coach’s Fatigue?”
    A: The first step to finding a successful solution to any problem is to identify the cause. For example, when you’re trying to make a correction to a swimmer’s stroke, you may need to look at the root cause before affecting a solution. If a swimmer has a wicked scissors kick, do you concentrate on her leg movement or do you look at body rotation, head movement during the breath, and the arm path of the stroke? Correcting these movements may eliminate the improper kick.
    Root causes of coaching fatigue may be:

    • Lack of sleep
    • Boredom
    • Feeling unappreciated
    • Feeling overwhelmed
    • Needing more time for self, family, or friends

    Most, if not all, of these causes can be overcome. Remember, as a swimmer and a Masters coach, you have great power. Summon up your competitive juices, your will to win, and your ambitious drive for success to take on these challenges. Lou Holtz, an accomplished football coach, stated, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.”
    Coaching Masters swimming should be a challenging, rewarding, and fun endeavor. Make coaching fun. Like Masters swimming, coaching Masters shouldn’t feel like your parents are forcing you to the pool. It’s your choice and you should react accordingly.
    Try some of these solutions:

    • Change your sleeping routine or practice times
    • Set a new goal for yourself and your program
    • Understand your swimmers’ goals, and become an active partner in their achieving those goals
    • Be more engaged during practices—if you want to feel more appreciated, make sure your swimmers know how much you appreciate them
    • Take splits during practice and share the information with the swimmers
    • Video your swimmers and give them feedback
    • Take your program in a different direction
    • Add a new component to your practice routine such as open water, USRPT, or dryland training
    • Find a cause and rally the troops—host a fundraiser for a local charity or the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation
    • Continue your education—this can include reading, attending a class, or taking an online course
    • Visit other clubs
    • Find a mentor coach, someone with whom to share ideas and solutions
    • If you’re not swimming or exercising, get back in the water or find another form of physical activity you enjoy doing
    • Identify and mentor a volunteer assistant coach—this may allow you to take a break or take a sabbatical
    • Challenge yourself and the members of your program to recruit new members—coaching new athletes can be invigorating
    • Travel to away meets
    • Find a new challenge either inside or outside of swimming
    • Add a different dimension to your coaching—perhaps adult swim lessons
    • Host a social event
    • Eliminate or reduce the club administrative functions you dislike the most—hire a third-party company, such as Club Assistant, to help manage the day-to-day operations of your program.


    My advice to every Masters coach, no matter the size of your program, is don’t do it all yourself. Find people in your program or their family and friends who will share responsibilities and ownership. Shared ownership creates a stronger organization and the likelihood of a successful program. Will they do it as well as you? Maybe yes, maybe no. However, getting help from others could be the solution to coach’s fatigue.
  3. Is the Masters coach certification class for me?

    by , August 15th, 2015 at 12:00 AM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: I'm an avid Masters swimmer who has an interest in coaching. Is the Masters coach certification class something I should consider or is it only for professional coaches?

    A:
    The USMS Masters coach certification program was developed by Masters coaches to provide an educational product for enhancing the Masters coaching experience. Over time, the program has grown to meet the needs of not only professional Masters coaches, but also volunteer and part-time Masters coaches, age-group swim coaches, aquatic instructors, triathlon coaches, club leaders, and individual swimmers.
    The objective of the certification program is to provide education centered on seven pillars:

    • Technical competence. The construction and correction of the four competitive strokes, starts, and turns.
    • Experience. Making the most of what you experience.
    • Performance. Metrics for effectiveness and efficiency.
    • Community involvement. Program partnerships and volunteerism.
    • Business management. The business of adult aquatics.
    • Risk management. Safety and insurance.
    • Leadership. Mentoring and contributing.


    There are four levels of the USMS Masters Coach Certification Program.

    Level 1 instruction includes:

    • History and institutional organization of U.S. Masters Swimming
    • Benefits and resources of USMS membership
    • Developing a coaching philosophy
    • Understanding the adult learner
    • Working with the open water and multisport athlete
    • Writing workouts
    • Marketing your Masters program


    Level 2
    instruction includes:

    • Understanding the universal truths of swimming
    • The development of all four competitive strokes, turns, and starts
    • Analysis of all four competitive strokes, turns, and starts


    Level 3
    instruction is for the individual who is a full-time coach or someone interested in exploring the opportunity for a career in adult aquatic sports. Instruction includes:

    • Leadership skills development
    • Club development
    • Seasonal planning and workout delivery
    • Marketing
    • Budgeting
    • Club administration and event planning
    • Safety and risk management
    • Nutrition
    • Injury prevention


    Level 4
    is a certification awarded to Masters coaches who have:

    • Demonstrated excellence in contributing Masters Swimming in the following categories:
    • Contribution
    • Achievement
    • Growth & Retention
    • Leadership
    • Education
    • Successfully completed Levels 1, 2, and 3 of the USMS Masters Coach Certification program
    • Applied for Level 4 status
    • Submitted the necessary documentation to satisfy the requirements of Level 4 certification


    Levels 1 through 3 are taught in a classroom setting, maximizing the opportunity for students to interact and network with the instructors and the other students in the class. Questions and the sharing of ideas are encouraged during the classes. Level 4 requires no classroom participation; rather, candidates submit documentation supporting their application for Level 4 certification.

    So what kinds of coaches and athletes take USMS coach certification classes?

    Experienced coaches. One of the strengths of the certification program is the diversity of students in each class. Seasoned Masters coaches share valuable insight, institutional knowledge, and years of experience with less-experienced coaches. Although many seasoned coaches enter class thinking they won't learn anything new from the course, they're often surprised at the varied and creative way adults are being coached and recruited to Masters programs, namely from open water and triathlon. Many of the more experienced coaches say they leave class with a renewed enthusiasm for coaching Masters.

    New coaches.
    Many part-time and volunteer Masters coaches have no coaching background other than how a Masters coach has coached them or how they were coached as an age-group swimmer. The certification course gives each participant the skills and confidence needed to become a better coach, thereby providing an enhanced experience for themselves and the athletes they train.

    Age-group coaches.
    More and more age-group swimming programs are adding a Masters component to their programming for a variety of reasons, including additional revenue, increased on-deck hours and pay for coaches, retention of age-group swimmers, and an increased volunteer base. Age-group coaches with no previous knowledge or experience working with adults find the Masters coach certification course helpful in understanding the differences in teaching and coaching an adult verses a child.

    Triathletes and triathlon coaches.
    It's not uncommon to have professional triathlete coaches account for 25 to 35 percent of the students in a Level 1 and 2 class. Most triathlete coaches come from a triathlon background, meaning they participate or have participated in triathlons. Very few are experienced track or cross-country coaches. Very few are experienced track or road cycling coaches. Even fewer are experienced swim coaches. Although swimming might be the shortest distance in a triathlon, it might be the most difficult discipline to learn, perfect technique, train, and compete in. Triathlon coaches who take USMS certification courses continue to offer positive feedback as to the overall value the course provides to their professional development.

    Club leaders.
    Does your Masters program have a good coach? Many club leaders attend the certification course to learn what the traits are of a successful coach and program. In Level 1, club leaders gain knowledge of how they can evaluate and provide support to their coaches for the betterment of the program and its members. Although many Masters coaches manage all facets of their program, many rely on others to provide leadership and support in areas of administration, marketing, volunteerism, and social functions. The sharing of responsibilities provides a sense of ownership to more members and strengthens the club.

    Swimmers.
    Many Masters swimmers are self-coached and don't swim with a club or workout group. For these swimmers, attending the Masters coach certification gives them the tools and resources to become better swimmers and feel connected to the Masters Swimming community. Many seasoned athletes attend the class to learn modern stroke technique, drills, workouts, rule changes, and the use of training devices such as the snorkel.

    Attending the Masters coach certification class might help you decide if you want to consider coaching Masters swimming. As an avid swimmer, the class will enhance your swimming knowledge and help make you a better athlete.

    Updated December 12th, 2017 at 01:26 PM by Bill Brenner

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  4. Do you supply the spark?

    by , June 15th, 2015 at 12:00 PM (Questions from Coaches)
    Q: Do you supply the Spark?

    A: I always look forward to the fireworks display on the Fourth of July. The brilliant explosion of colors and the sounds that follow ignite my memories of displays I've enjoyed with family and friends in the past. While the public displays with their lengthy and large bursts of colorful lights are fascinating, it's the fireworks my friends and family detonated ourselves that make me smile the most. Maybe it's because you strike the match, you light the fuse, and you anticipate the outcome of your actions.

    Sometimes I get the same feeling when I light a spark in one of the Masters swimmers I coach. The shouts and smiles of success and accomplishment renew my passion for our profession.

    Ask yourself: Do you deliver a spark to each of your swimmers every day? Do you teach them a new skill, create a new challenge, or help them establish a new goal? Do you display a passion for coaching by not just writing a good workout, but by delivering it with a smile and burst of energy?

    Disney and hundreds of other theme parks conclude each day with a magnificent fireworks display as they send us out their gates smiling happily, albeit tired, looking forward to our next visit. Well, I think we all know a few Masters swimmers who are really just grown-up kids loving the energy and excitement of the fireworks a Masters coach brings to every practice and leave yearning for more.

    I challenge you to be the spark!

    Updated July 6th, 2015 at 10:43 AM by Bill Brenner

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