Every year, swim clubs contend with unnecessary issues that make things harder than they should be. They’re often caused by avoidable problems like confusion, unmet expectations and misunderstandings. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s one simple and universal tool that can help coaches, swimmers, and parents have a better all-round swim team experience - Better Communication
For clubs and coaches- Communicate early and often.
Start each season by sending critical information to swimmers and parents, especially new ones. Set expectations for how (and when) to reach coaches, what to expect at practices and meets, and the philosophy of your club. Try to foresee questions and answer them before they are asked. Send regular updates (I recommend a weekly email newsletter) to keep parents and swimmers updated throughout the season. Give them info on upcoming meets and events. Cover your practices, what you’re working on, and how your team is progressing.
Train your swimmers and parents to look to your newsletter first when they have questions or concerns. This will save you untold time answering the same questions over and over again. Set office hours when swimmers and parents can expect you to be “available” to speak with them and answer questions.
For Parents- Be part of the solution
Ask, don’t tell - If you have an issue with the coach or another parent, don’t give them a piece of your mind, ask them about it. The commonest issues are simple misunderstandings or miscommunication. Asking about them can diffuse your concerns, while airing them can escalate to conflict, and harboring unspoken frustrations will only make them worse.
Assume good intentions - Most of the time, your coach is there because they love the sport and want your athlete to succeed. Assume your coach has your swimmer’s best interest at heart, and don’t communicate your frustrations to other parents.
Do not assume you know your coach’s perspective. If you don’t understand why your swimmer is in one event over others, as the coach. Swimming is a long haul. Maybe it’s to develop their skill in a new stroke or build on the training they’re doing at practice. Simply put, they may be sacrificing today’s results to try and make your athlete a better swimmer in the long run.
When conflicts do happen in swim teams, it’s often because people are working with different information and different expectations. Communicating openly can clear up these differences and lead to a better understanding between coaches, swimmers and parents.