Nov 29

Five Things Your Coach Shouldn’t be Doing

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In my search, I came across an article by Wayne Goldsmith. The original essay was directed toward swimmers and swim coaches. I modified the information to suit coaches and athletes in other sports. There are going to be coaches out there who disagree with some of the points made by Goldsmith, and I have some thoughts as well.

The Sport Coach Is Like The CEO Of A Large Company

Strategic planning, team building, leading people, inspiring others to achieve remarkable things, safety, continuous improvement, understanding and using the latest technology, innovation, communication… these skills, essential to successful executive leadership in the corporate world, are equally important in the career of a sport coach.

There are literally hundreds of things a sport coach has to do each week: working with athletes, communicating with parents, leading the coaching team, analysing skill techniques, reading and researching the latest articles, planning for training sessions, planning strategies for upcoming competitions or games, and more. Your sport coach has a lot of tasks he/she/they should be doing that are all part the day-to-day responsibilities of being a coach.

Here are 5 Things Your Coach Should Not be Doing:

  1. Motivating You

Motivation, although it is a very popular topic, is often misunderstood. It is something, which burns inside you – it’s the fire that fuels commitment and sparks the desire to pursue excellence (Michael Jordan” Driven from within”, 2005). Motivation is the inner drive that helps you to get to early morning workouts willingly and gladly. Motivation keeps you training when you’re so tired you can’t imagine being able to swim another lap. Motivation is that spark within you – that voice that keeps saying, “I can get faster. I can do better. I want to improve. I love swimming.” It is not your coach’s job to motivate you. It is not your coaches role to try to convince you to show up, train harder, chase fast times, or to keep doing what you need to, that’s your job. What your coach should do, however, is work very hard to understand what motivates you and provide you with the opportunity to express your motivation in your training and competition. In the words of Michael Jordan, “I can’t accept not trying” (1994).

Speaking from my own (Coach Monika) experiences, I agree and disagree here. Some athletes need motivation provided by the coach, especially the younger ones – although perhaps that is better characterized as encouragement. Additionally, athletes who may be more talented, but lazy in training may need stronger motivation from the coach. However, let us not forget that optimal performance and success is based on more intrinsic than extrinsic motivation.

  1. Telling You Anything More Than Once

Want to know how to improve at a faster rate than you ever thought possible? Listen more! It’s as simple as that. If you want to improve, achieve higher standards of performance, win more races – listen more! Every time your coach tells you something, it’s an opportunity for you to learn. If he/she has to tell you the same thing twice, it’s not more learning, it is time wasting because he/she could have told you something new instead of repeating something you already know. Imagine that your coach has to remind the team to perform a certain skill 10, 20, 50, 100 times a week. That’s hundreds and hundreds of times a year having to re-teach the same lesson, and hundreds and hundreds of times the team could have learned new, important things that could have made a huge impact on their performances.

In my opinion, although I agree with most of it, it is a common phenomenon nowadays that children and youth tend to lose focus and concentration, and subsequently, do not listen or listen well enough, an observant coach needs to address this immediately and seek out the reason of such behaviour.

  1. Pushing You

Contrary to popular beliefs, it is not the coach’s job to “push” you! Ultimately, if you don’t want to be there, don’t come. Stay in bed! Go to the park! Watch TV! Do something else that you enjoy! If you’re relying on your coach to force you to train or perform the skill, yell and scream and jump up and down to push you to achieve your goals, you’re wasting your coach’s time as well as your own. Coaches inspire! They encourage! They nurture! And yes, from time to time, a coach may set seemingly impossibly high standards to help bring out your best, but he/she should not be forcing you to train; it takes too much effort and energy, and frankly, no coach has either of these in unlimited supply.

4. Being Responsible For Your Training Equipment

Your coach is not your parent. It is not the coach’s job to look for or locate your equipment, help you tie your shoelaces, fill up your water bottle, carry equipment for you, or lift a finger to do anything even vaguely related to the care and maintenance of your training equipment. That’s your job! It is your responsibility and yours alone! Every time your coach has to help you find lost training equipment or help you look for something, a coaching opportunity is lost.

This topic brings to mind a funny story. I was coaching an age group team in Tempe, Arizona when one of my swimmers forgot to bring his swimsuit.
“OHHH, Mom was going to rush home and get it!” I made a firm statement that his swim bag packed with all his equipment is his responsibility and his alone! What is he going to do, she asked? Well, he is going to train in his underwear! He certainly learned his lesson and everybody had a great laugh! The next day, all male swimmers showed up in their underwear and continued training like normal.

  1. Constantly Telling You How Good You Are

Your coach can help you develop self-confidence. That’s true. But not in the way you might think. Self-confidence – that is real self-confidence – a self-confidence that sustains you through difficulties, tough times, setbacks, poor performances, and other challenges do not come from a coach telling you something positive every day. If you need to hear “well-done” or “you’re amazing” constantly, chances are you need to work on other aspects of your mental skills – and particularly focus on your capacity to love yourself for who you are and unconditionally accept yourself for simply being you. If the way you feel about yourself is totally dependent on whether or not the coach praises you every time, then you need to re-think what it is you expect from your sport and the way you feel about yourself as a human being.

In my opinion, this is based on the epidemic of helicopter parents, who hover over their children, remove any obstacles in their way, and constantly fawn over their kids with comments such as “good job!” or “that was marvelous!”, etc. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with giving praise, but it is most meaningful and constructive when it’s been truly earned!


Goldsmith W. (2015, November 20). 5 things your swimming coach shouldn’t be doing.

Jordan, M., & Vancil, M. (1994). I can’t accept not trying: Michael Jordan on the pursuit of excellence. New York: Atria Books.

Jordan, M., & Vancil, M. (2006). Driven from within. New York: Atria Books.


Wayne Goldsmith has been an influential figure in world swimming for more than 20 years. He has written more than 500 articles on swimming, swimming coaching, swimming science, triathlon and swimming performance which have been published in books, magazines and online all over the world. Wayne has been a staff writer for Swimming World for the past ten years. Wayne lives, writes and coaches on the Gold Coast, Australia.

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