Becoming a swimming coach

Last September I got myself on one of the last “Level 1” Coach courses before the ASA stopped them running to revamp all the swimming coach courses. The course was partially online (most of the Health and Safety and Safeguarding bits) and the remainder took place at the Plymouth Life Centre, about 90 minutes drive from home.

As someone who never trained as a club swimmer and without access to a head coach (the club where my children swim was without a head coach at the time) I found it quite hard going. Although there were no significant prerequisites for the course there was a fair degree of assumed knowledge that there’s probably no reason to expect someone who hasn’t been involved in competitive swimming to have.

Most difficult of all was the requirement to actually write a session plan and then deliver it to a group of actual age-group swimmers. The course documentation clearly stated that as a Level 1 Coach you’d not be expected to be write session plans and the course itself had nothing on the syllabus that included teaching us to write session plans, but we were nonetheless expected to be able to produce one that was coherent enough to use. That was a stressful evening 🙁

In addition, whilst the course did cover how to behave and communicate with swimmers once you’re poolside, there wasn’t any chance to shadow someone else doing it or to have a go and get feedback before actually reaching the point of being assessed. Perhaps if you’re part of a large club with more senior coaches who have the opportunity to keep themselves up-to-date and who do mentor the more junior coaches that’s something you can work through, but coming from a club that at the time had only two Level 1 coaches keeping the whole show going I didn’t feel at all confident that I was doing things right (and sometimes that I really even knew what I was doing).

In the end however I passed and received my shiny certificate to prove it. Since then I’ve been coaching at the club three times a week. Sometimes it’s like herding cats, but it’s also incredibly rewarding to see people improving their swimming and then taking them to competitions and watching them do well. So much so in fact that I applied to get on one of the first “Swimming Coach” courses (the replacement for the previous Level 2 Coach qualification), which I start next week.

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