We are closing in on the pinnacle of the swimming and diving season for high school. We call it Sectionals in Wisconsin. For those that have the opportunity, they participate the following week in the State Championships.
The journey to get there is filled with ups and downs, bumps and bruises, all sorts of highs and just as many lows. As a coach we try to minimize the negative and accentuate the positive.
Just like any sport in high school, there are some tremendously gifted student/athletes in the talent pool. But once you strip away that subset, the next group is the one that I enjoy working with the most. That is the group that really, and I mean really, understands that the way to get to the next level in the pool or in the classroom, is to put in the hours of hard work. They take no short cuts. They actively participate in practice. They do not simply go through the motions. They want to be challenged on a daily basis.
This does not mean that the student/athlete must sacrifice their entire lives for the good of the team. It is nice, but not always needed or requested. Having the student/athletes be fully connected to the team for the time allowed for practice, an average student/athlete can maximize their abilities to become great. With all of the other distractions that these kids deal with, the balance between sport and school is a difficult one to achieve.
The secret of being a good coach is to figure out how to engage the student/athletes and maximize their output. Every coach I know sets this as the primary goal for each season. This is not always an easy path for us as a Head Coach to take. We encourage our student athletes to put class and grades as the #1 priority, but after that, it sometimes tough to decipher what comes next.
Here are some things that I try to do make that transition to greatness:
- Be flexible and be willing to change practice to address specific needs on a daily basis
- Touch base with each student/athlete each day to check up on them as people
- Communicate clearly on what the stated objective is for each task. Erase any doubt
- Put the student/athlete in win/win environments to assist in building confidence
- Explain how the things going on at practice relate to what happens at the Meet/Game