What does your coach really expect from you?

Elite Team
Written by: Elizabeth Byrnes at 21 July '17 0
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The relationship between swimmer and coach is unique.

Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth 100m breaststroke champion Adam Peaty puts it like this: “It’s a combination of your friend, your mum, your coach and your best mate that keeps you in place.

“It’s a lot of things but all in one it’s a person you can look up to, trust, enjoy the time with them and look back and say that was one hell of a journey.”

Mel Marshall has guided Peaty since he was 14 when he walked through the doors at City of Derby, the pair embarking on a pioneering journey at the forefront of sprint breaststroke, one that is set to continue for years yet.

Marshall, herself a world, European and Commonwealth medallist, pays tribute to Peaty’s work ethic, that he will always do as she asks, describing theirs as a perfect partnership.

However, on the flip side, Marshall warns against what she finds unacceptable as a coach, what not to do.

“Not appreciating the journey that they are on.

“Not trying and not giving 100%.

“Not turning up.”

Commitment is key then, as are communication and honesty, things Netherlands lead coach Marcel Wouda expands on.

Wouda, a former 200IM world champion and Olympic medallist, says: “I think commitment is a really weird concept and I honestly feel if you see a swimmer that is not committed is that something from the swimmer? Or from the coach? From the group? Where is the cause that the swimmer seems not to be committed?

“If you want to be successful in this sport you have to work 20-plus hours in the pool, you have to do your dry land, your weights, you have to make sure your nutrition is in order – it takes a lot of planning, a lot of sacrifices in your social life, so in order to do that year in, year out swimmers are committed to the bone.

“For me there is no doubt – I don’t know any swimmer in this kind of field that is not committed. Why then do they seem not committed? I think that’s more that they are uninspired rather than being uncommitted so I found that to be a problem for the coach so if I see swimmers that I think are not committed the first thing I do is I look at their own programme.”

Wouda, whose national squad includes the likes of former triple Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo and double Games medallist Femke Heemskerk, advises swimmers to interact well and be truthful with themselves and with their coach.

“As a young swimmer the coach always feels if you have a reason or excuse why you are not doing something or you are not turning up to practice, most of the time the coach just feels the reason you are giving is different to the real reason. Be honest with your coach.

“I feel as a coach I can always talk to the swimmer and it can always happen that a day is not a good day for practice so it’s a better idea to talk about why it’s not a good day than put your head in the sand and go on.

Be honest with your coach. Be honest with yourself. At the end of the day that is what it’s about: if you want to have a coach that understands you and as a swimmer want that the coach understands you, that he can help you develop the best tip is to be honest with the coach and then you can also be honest with yourself.

“Communication and honesty is a part of it. I as a coach am always open to what is happening and of course I miss things as well and of course I can’t see everything.

“When people are working together there are always challenges and it’s those challenges you have to learn from and grow from and then as an organisation and as a swimmer/coach relationship you can grow.”


Written by:

Elizabeth Byrnes

Liz swam with a local club in Sheffield, England, as a child before retiring at the grand old age of 12. Her lifelong love of the water, combined with a passion for travel, has seen Liz plunge into pools across the world. Liz spent 12 years with the Press Association reporting on swimming and athletics at Olympic and World level but is now fulfilling a dream as a freelance writer. When not in or around the water, she can be found hiking, running and cycling.