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Is the Masters coach certification class for me?

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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.

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

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