This article found in the Coaching Education Library of talks about the 4 major objectives in the role of a swimming coach. Check it out!

The objectives and goals the coach establishes should reflect the needs of the swimmers, the needs of the coach and the needs of the program.

The coach will have many specific objectives, but each could probably be grouped into four major categories:

  1. To provide personal and social development for lifetime skills.
  2. To develop and improve the technical and physical skills of swimming.
  3. To provide a fun and enjoyable environment.
  4. To orient young people to competition.


Acquiring life skills is often listed as a major benefit of participation in a swim program. These skills include such things as championship behavior and accountability, work ethic and self-discipline, time management, commitment and loyalty. These are the life skills that swimmers often mention years after their swimming careers have ended. After the parents, a coach is often the most important and influential figure in the development of the athlete. A coach spends a great deal of “quality time” with athletes. Coaches are role models whether they want to be or not. The key to the development of lifetime skills is the quality of the leadership that is provided. We often hear people say that “sport builds character.” In fact, in the sports area it is the coach, not the sport itself that is most influential in building and/or shaping a young person’s character. Think about the desired traits. A coach should not be afraid to talk about these characteristics with the athletes and be sure to reinforce and model these traits himself. Look for the “teachable moments” to point out or talk about positive actions or stories to illustrate points. Open dialogue can reinforce the positive, aid in problem solving and build unity and trust.

How influential is the coach upon the swimmers? Well, in most cases, the swimmers will follow the coach’s instructions because he or she is the coach and they believe the coach knows what is best. A coach’s words need to be consistent with the coach’s actions. For example, a coach must be supportive of team policies and have clear consequences for violations of policies. The coach must respect team and facility policies as well as have the athletes follow the policies.

Be sensitive to issues of athlete encouragement and discipline. Some swimmers may not feel bad about losing and are able to cope without any problems, while other swimmers may be devastated with a loss. Similarly, some young people may be insecure and need frequent signs of approval, while others may be quite confident and need only occasional comments. Be very aware of situations that could be perceived as bullying. What may seem funny, sarcastic or harmless can be quite devastating to some athletes. If athletes are bullying a teammate, the best response may be to defend the athlete being bullied. Most athletes do not want to go against what the coach is doing or saying.


Parents bring young, beginning swimmers to a swim program because they need to learn basic swimming skills such as water safety, basic swimming strokes and how to breathe properly. As they progress, their skills need to be refined and they can begin to learn and practice the basics of general conditioning and fitness. Later, the swimmers add additional advanced skills and train more specifically for competition and particular events. The role of the coach is to teach age and ability appropriate progressive skills to the swimmers.


Research conducted by USA Swimming indicates that fun is an essential component of competitive swimming. In fact, young swimmers have indicated that fun is the number one reason that they participate in swimming. At times spontaneous, frivolous, carefree fun is acceptable and desirable. At other times fun should come from the satisfaction of meeting a challenge and improving through hard work. The joy of mastering a flip turn or being able to swim an entire series of repeats without taking extra rest provides considerable satisfaction. Having a coach recognize improvement and achievement increases the enjoyment. Plan to provide an enjoyable environment. It can be as easy as starting practices with a smile and sincere “glad to see you today.” Ask the swimmers what they think is fun and then try to incorporate some of their ideas into the practices. Remember, even seemingly frivolous activities need to be planned and organized for safety.


The proper emphasis in competition should be the process of competition rather than the outcome or the winning or losing. The outcome depends upon many factors. Outcome can be affected by the physical maturity, innate ability, psychological preparation, skill level and conditioning of each swimmer. Additionally, individual race strategy and uncontrollable physical conditions such as temperature or lane assignment can affect the result. The swimmers can only be responsible for themselves and their abilities, not for all the other factors that affect the outcome. They certainly cannot control what other swimmers do! Additionally, only one person can win each race. Does this mean that everyone else in the race was a failure? Certainly not! In fact, the winner might not have achieved personal goals or shown improvement while the losers may have done both. If swimmers are only responsible for themselves and their abilities, then each person can be successful by meeting his or her personal goals. Goal setting is discussed later in this course. For now, it is important to understand that emphasizing personal development rather than race outcome is the proper way to orient young people to competition. Respect effort and improvement and always emphasize the long term process of development. Remember, process first, outcome second.


  • Competition and striving to do one’s best is fun.
  • Learning and improving swimming skills is a valuable activity.
  • Swimming is an excellent lifetime sport and part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Setting and meeting personal and team goals is rewarding.
  • Cooperation and support among teammates during practice and meets is important.
  • Practices are essential steps in an athlete’s long term development.
  • Swimming, training and competing are worthwhile and pleasurable activities.
  • The courage to extend oneself and take risks to become better is worthwhile.

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