At both TOEST & jTOEST, athletes/parents from other swim clubs come out to a training session as a result of requesting an evaluation of the athlete’s swimming skills. Why do athletes/parents of athletes who swim for Swim Ontario affiliated swim clubs, who currently have a swim coach request such an evaluation? Because they have a sense that something ain’t right…

After years of swimming with a swim club, after years of shelling out thousands upon thousands of dollars, both athlete and parent feel that the level of performance is failing to match the investment of effort, of time, of energy, of money.

Athlete and parent complain that new personal records are no longer occurring, that athletic development seems to have come to a complete stop, that the swimmer is missing basic swim skills, or that the athlete seems to routinely having pains, aches, or are repeatedly developing injuries as a result of training. Point being… something doesn’t add up.  All the investment, all the training… but the ROI (Return on Investment) and the ROT (Return on Training) are not matching up.

Why? That is the question that as a coach I am hearing time after time. After reviewing the swimming ability of numerous age group swimmers the unfortunate answer is: swimmers are not being taught performance level swimming skills, they are being trained and are racing using the life-saving stroke of Front Crawl, not the competitive swimming stroke(s) of Freestyle. Time and time again, despite a poverty in swimming skill, technique, and form, athletes are competing and prepped to compete as if Provincial, Eastern or National level competition is the short term goal, and the appropriate goal.

Problem is… the belief that the swimmer could be ill-prepared or completely unprepared for any level of competition defies logic because both athlete/parent believe that being part of a Swim Ontario affiliated swim club means that they are receiving proper coaching. Unfortunately, the reality is that although there may be people claiming to be coaches on the pool deck, these people are not coaching. They may be writing up a swim workout but developing the athletic abilities of swimmers they are not (hence all the posts which express the disdain for what passes as coaching at swim clubs).

Since the questions that athletes/parents ask after receiving this information are consistent, to save time having to explain why repeatedly, the purpose of this post is to cover the consistent comments/questions that arise:

Comments/questions from athletes/parents during TOEST & jTOEST swim skill evaluations:

(A) My coach doesn’t teach Freestyle technique, but they were an amazing swimmer back in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s… whenever… and they achieved as a swimmer, so why won’t their coaching work now?

Seriously? Check Youtube videos for “swimming in the past”. After watching those videos, if you still want to swim like that, and think that you will be competitive today… go right ahead.

At the same time, consider Gary Hall Sr (Head Coach – The Race Club, Islamorada, Florida) who attended the ’68, ’72 and ’74 Olympics and won Olympic silver and bronze medals in the 400IM and 200 FLY events. Even as a decorated Olympian he is not stuck with what worked in the past, Hall is educating himself with the evolution of strokes as they are happening today, and not just educating himself… he is the swimmer in the video in the post titled “Freestyle StrokeS” demonstrating technique which he never swam himself as an Olympic swimmer.

HINT: if the last time your coach put on a training suit and swam was the last time they competed, then your coach is likely as out of date as a Commodore 64 or a Vic 20 (if you don’t know what that is ask your parents).

(B) To athletes/parents who will defend the decision to stay with a coach because… since they are a “nice” person, then they must be a good coach.

Look… your coach may be the nicest person on the planet, they may mean well but if they are ignorant of current techniques, of current tactics, strategies, of anything current… then unless you want to be coached in being “nice” then your coach offers nothing of value. It doesn’t change that they may be nice, but nice is not a measure of knowledge, education, experience, or ability.

If you seek your potential, then you need a coach who has the ability to mentor you in a manner that will take you to your potential.

(C) To athletes/parents who will defend the decision to stay with a coach because… the friends of the athlete/or friends of the parents are with that club.

Listen… to Olympians and you will hear a pattern:  US Olympic Alpine Skier Mikaela Shiffrin didn’t make friends on the ski team because she loved doing drills, and no one else did, and US Olympic Alpine Skier Lindsey Vonn didn’t make friends on her ski team because at the age of 10 she was faster than athletes as old as 14.

Mikaela and Lindsey may not have made many friends when they were on ski teams, but I can assure you that today as Olympians… they have no lack of friends, of social media followers, of supporters both on and off the US National Ski Team.

If you seek your potential, then your priority is to have the coaching that will take you to your potential.

Friends will be made wherever you are. You likely were not friends with everyone you are friends with today on your team because you likely didn’t know everyone of the team before you joined. We make friends wherever we go… the more places we go, the more friends we make.

Besides, true friends should remain friends no matter where you both are. If someone was a friend because you swam together, but then they no longer connect with you… they were never a friend, even if you were a friend to them. To them, unfortunately you were a convenience for the moment. Let them go, move on and find some true friends.

Parents… if you do not want your child to change clubs – so they can achieve their potential – because your friends (i.e. other parents) are with that club, you may want to consider that your priorities are a bit backwards. Is your child swimming for you and your social goals, or is the point of your child to develop and gain skills and abilities so that they can thrive as adults?

To Athletes & Parents of Athletes…

Stop settling for anything less, and for anyone who is willing to sell you on being anything less than your fullest potential. I challenge you to seek the best of the best in your coaching staff and of your coaching staff, because then the opportunity for you to become your best is just that much more real.

Life is too short to be wasted with people who fear your dreams growing bigger than theirs, for fear that your dreams, your goals, your desire and drive will take you farther then they can envision for themselves. You do not need these people in your life. Rise up to your potential and you will be able to inspire them. Sit with them in the heap of their life and not only will you fail to inspire them, but you will fail in living out your purpose, in experiencing your potential.