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Becoming an Elite Swimmer or an Elite Coach

At the 2008 Australian Swim Coaches Conference, the keynote guest speaker was elite swimming coach Bill Sweetenham. Most recently, Bill has been the head coach of Great Britain swimming.

While Bill talked about many aspects, the following points really hit home in regards to elite coaching and swimming.

  • Elite athletes give 100% effort, 95% of the time, especially when they are under pressure. Swimmers who think they are elite give 90-95% effort, 100% of the time. Which one are you?
  • Unsuccessful athletes lose focus under pressure.
  • Heat performance creates podium results – the better you swim in the heats at a major Championship, the better you will swim in the final.
  • The podium does not applaud poor technique or poor skills.
  • It’s okay to make mistakes, but only once!
  • Targets in training must be completed to get Competition results. If you do not do your best every day in training, do not expect results in competitions.
  • Sport is much harder than business…there is only one gold medal in sport.

And for coaches…Bill discussed the need for a culture change in swimming clubs. If Clubs are successful then the country will be successful.

  • How do we covert the majority of swimmers in our training programs who train 3 to 8 times a week at a mediocre level to take the next step and train and perform at an elite level?
  • As a coach, massive change is needed to convert these swimmers to become professionals.
  • In general the parent group at each program has mediocre tendencies and intent.
  • If you fail to be a teacher, you can never be a coach. You have to be good at both to be effective.
  • Teach winning in your program. Champions come from a winning culture. Give every swimmer in your program the chance to win. Select appropriate meets for each squad and ensure the level enables every child to win throughout each season. Change the culture of your Club…teach winning!
  • Coaches have to be great leaders – for the swimmers, parents, coaches underneath them, Committees and of course the swimmers.
  • 20% Can make it as a successful coach, 40% might make it and 40% will struggle…which category do you fall into?
  • Be innovative, creative and use your instinct. Can youwrite down something that you have done this year with your squad that you have never tried before?

Bill’s speeches were inspirational and his wealth of knowledge is huge.
If you want to swim or coach at another level, take a look at your attitude. Your attitude will determine whether you will move from a might do it to a can do it!

Gary Barclay

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