Coaching is tough … but rewarding!

About a year ago I took my Level 1 Swimming Coaching qualification, in order to help out at Wyre Forest Swimming Club, as they were a bit short, and I fancied having a go, thinking it might also help my swimming. I’d seen a few people coach and it seemed to me like “how hard can it be?”.

Believe you me.  It can be hard.

The age group I’ve chosen to focus on at the moment is the 11-14 year olds. I love chatting and interacting with the children, and at that age, you hope they can begin to understand some of the more complex aspects of the sport.  But given a class of 20 odd kids, with varying levels of motivation, add to that a swimming training programme whereby you’re meant to get through 2500-3500m a session, add to that the swimmers wanting to go to the loo, adjust their goggles, forgot their hats, want to swim with their mates, forgotten their drinks, etc, etc it can turn out to be quite a frantic 90 to 120 mins of your life…

Some sessions just rock.  They just seem to click, the kids get on, they don’t fuss, they just do exactly what you ask and it’s oh so easy, you come away buzzing.

Other sessions, individuals are tired, motivation and effort is lacking and the programme doesn’t seem to flow, you come away disheartened and doubting your own ability.

Been through both types of session recently. Luckily I have several fantastic people I can turn to help for, coaches who have  forgotten more about coaching than I’m ever likely to learn, who I can only dream of emulating.

I love working with the kids, they are such fantastic characters each and everyone of them. They’re all volunteers, they all work extremely hard and it’s so fantastic to see them succeed.  When they hit a target time or win a medal, their faces just light up and it make all the hard graft worthwhile.

Swimming is such a hard, hard sport to compete in. It is one of the most gruelling training regimes out there, and much of it relies on the individuals self-discipline during training. Some children have that self-discipline naturally, others acquire it though training.  But the plain fact is , you cannot make everybody successful, you can only try to help people to be successful.  I think that’s a lesson I still need to learn myself …

Looking forward to the next session.  Hopefully I can say just one little thing to one of the kids which will make a positive difference to just one them and maybe help them get that County Time or that Gold Medal …


Dave Mc


Knowing the Fundamentals is the Key to Great Performance …

I’m constantly amazed at the lack of realisation by people that you have to invest time and effort in understanding and mastering the fundamentals if you really want to be good at something.

I’ll give you three examples from my experience Software Development, Swimming and Music.

Software Development.  In order to be good at software development and to move beyond the ‘code monkey’ level, where we all start, we need to grasp the fact that our software sits on top of other software, so in order to really understand how our programs are going to function in  real systems, we must understand and master the fundamentals of those systems.  For example, to be really good at configuring SharePoint you really need to be good at configuring Kerberos.  In order to be good at configuring Kerberos, you really need to understand the principles of what is going on. It’s not enough to say “Oh you run setspn and then click the radio button to allow Delegation to all Kerberos Services”.  It’s true that will work – some of the time, but if you hit an issue, unless you understand why you do that, you’ll never be an “expert” in that area. It’s just an example.  Another example is understanding things like Regular Expressions or XSLT – if you don’t understand why they work the way they do, you’ll never master them, know when they can be used or their limitations.  I think I heard or read Spencer Harbar say once that he is astounded how many people don’t actually understand the basic way that the Windows operating system works or how AD works or DNS, yet we’re working with these things all the time.

Swimming.  I swim a bit, my son swims a lot. He’s really good at Butterfly. It’s perceived to be the ‘hardest stroke’, and in a race, it can be physically very demanding, but to actually swim it, I found out this evening is actually really easy.  Our Swimming Club’s Head Coach Mark Wilmot has mastered the fundamentals, he knows how the swimming strokes work and as such I was somewhat startled at first this evening when he said “butterfly is easy”, by the end of the session I believed him.  I’ve seen many swimming coaches teach butterfly by concentrating on the arms, focussing on getting the arms out of the water.  Mark was totally different to all but one coach I’ve heard in my recollection(apologies to any other coaches who’ve also taught this who I know).  He focussed on the kick. “All the power comes from the kick, and it’s simple, One, Two, One, Two, One,  Two … let you arms follow – kick in, kick out, kick in , kick out, One, Two” over and over again he said it. He got us to go up and down not worrying about the arms, just that kicking rhythm “One, Two, One, Two …”.  You know what?  By the end , my arms were starting to be driven by my legs and the effort diminished considerably.  The Coach at Swim Therapy in Leicester Matt, said the same thing and Matt has been instrumental in getting my son’s Buterfly out of a rut and back on track for National Qualification time this year, we hope. It’s because they know the fundamentals.

Music.  Lastly, another example of mastering the fundamentals was demonstrated to me by my older son who plays the Drums.  I’ve always loved the fantastic drum beat on Deep Purple’s “You Fool No One” courtesy of Ian Paice.  I’ve always thought that would be a real stretch for my lad to play.  But, his drum teacher understood and could teach the fundamentals, called rudiments in drumming, and my son learnt those thoroughly, so a few months back I said “listen to this” and played him the Deep Purple track. He listened and said “Oh that’s easy – it’s just a paradiddle like this …” and played it beat perfect almost immediately. I was impressed! But looking back on it, it’s just because he knows and has mastered the fundamentals.

It takes time, dedication, but it’s worth it.  Learn the Fundamentals …


Dave Mc