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My Swim Coach

I’m trying to figure out what makes my swim coach so magical.

Because everyone knows I hate swimming. I’m allergic to chlorine (really). I can’t talk or listen to music underwater, which I like to do when I work out. I don’t like being cold and wet. Plus, I’m not a very good swimmer. My best, most taxing effort is still only mediocre. So getting me to Masters swim practice twice a week at 6:30 AM is nothing short of magical.

But I can’t miss a practice because the coach always puts me in a good mood. If I can discern his superpowers then I can define what my clients are looking for when they’re after a game-changing team leader. The kind of leader that inspires a winning culture… where people stay and actively recruit for the company.

Let’s start with the qualities that are obvious and essential:

  • Passion
  • Expertise
  • Magnetic Personality
  • Motivational
  • Team Builder

These have been present, to a lesser degree, in most of my swim coaches. But here’s how this coach is different. Here’s the secret to the game-changers and drivers of culture:

  • Overachiever
  • Never Let Them See You Sweat
  • Selflessness
  • Preparedness
  • Accessibility
  • Responsiveness

Let me give you a few examples that distinguish Coach Ed from other coaches.

He comes to workouts prepared. Before the first person arrives, our coach has set our workouts up on boards. In some cases, he even includes the clock times for every set across all lanes. Everyone is clear on what needs to be accomplished.

He’s an active participant in other Masters swim events and seminars, so he’s routinely bringing back new stuff he’s learned from other coaches and teams. Last week, he told us how to pace a 200, pulling in data from the top swimmers at the Olympic trials.

He is 150% energy, meaning he smiles, laughs, addresses all 25 participants by name. He never sits down during our hour-long practices. Instead, he wears 2 stopwatches so he can time individual’s efforts, and runs up and down the length of the pool to provide instruction on technique. In short, he’s ON. If all this preparation is time consuming, or he’s having a meh day, or feeling dissatisfied or unfulfilled, you’d never know it.

Finally, he doesn’t play favorites. He caters to a broad range of abilities and ages, from novices like me to competitive swimmers. Like a veteran teacher, he creates sub-groups so everyone is challenged even at a large class size. It must be tough when you’re a top performer not to pour your attention into those that will give you the best effort and results.

But is anything else here hard to accomplish?

Think about it. If we make the time to come prepared, if we put aside our own needs and prioritize motivating our team, then we could all be coaches and bosses and leaders like Ed. No innate skills or superhuman powers required, just effort and attitude. And that’s the difference between competent and magical.

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