The American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA) World Clinic is an annual conference that brings together top coaches and aquatic leaders from around the world for a week of learning, inspiration and networking. This year’s world clinic was particularly exciting as we head into the final stretch before the Olympic games in Rio!

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Veteran coaches Bob Bowman and David Marsh were selected as head Olympic coaches to lead Team USA’s men and women programs in Rio. At the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, 6 coaches were honored for their contribution to the sport. Beyond the networking and inspiring stories coaches share of training athletes past and present, the most valuable part of the conference is the educational component. At this clinic, coaches are provided some of the tools necessary to build better swimmers and programs at every level.

Here are three big takeaways from this year’s world clinic:

1) Build a Successful Culture 

Swimming is a sport of deferred gratification. Coaches have the opportunity to impact the lives of their athletes beyond the pool by teaching the importance of hard work and dedication. Coach Rich Axtell of Minuteman Masters explained the importance of defining a clear vision for your program and delivering a consistent message to your athletes. What is your team known for? What do you stand for as a program?

The answers to these questions define a program’s culture. In a talk titled ‘Belief, Expectation, and Peak Performance’, Coach Carol Capitani of the University of Texas rhetorically asked coaches:

“Can other people’s expectations of you alter what you can do physically?”

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She stressed the importance of open communication with your athletes and aligning both team and individual goals to achieve ultimate success. When building a vision, be open and transparent about it. Building off two conference titles after a drought of success at the University of Akron, Head Coach Brian Peresie states:

“We’re not afraid to talk about it (winning)…it’s ok to think big!”

2) Manage Diversity In The Pool

chad_rose_bowl_mastersWhether coaching age-groupers, adults, or a learn-to-swim program, it’s important to know your audience and why they’re swimming. In masters, adults come to the pool with very diverse goals. Some may be triathletes; others are training for fitness or competition. In age-group swimming, some athletes may have collegiate aspirations while others are looking for an Olympic birth.

Whatever your athlete’s goals are, make sure you’re highly aware to help them be successful. Make sure you train to win in the competitive environment the athlete is going to face in competition, and remember to have fun. I liked the way Coach Chad Durieux put it:

“Make it fun! It’s Masters, you can have fun!”

This applies to all levels of swimming! Nurture the beginners, push the pros, and remember to always equally weight all your athletes.

3) Swimming is Evolving, Contribute to its Growth

Swimming has a bright future, and the landscape of the sport will continue to evolve in the next decade and beyond. There’s no question that the world is getting faster. The depth of our sport grows with every championship season, and this heightened sense of competitiveness brings an entirely new set of opportunities and challenges to swimming.

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The safety of the athlete and their competitive environment comes first and everything else follows. Coaches play a pivotal role in the sport’s development. When problems arise, don’t sit on your hands, take action! As legendary Olympic coach Bill Sweetenham stated on recent trends governing the safety of our sport internationally:

“If you accept poor judgment as an excuse, then you’re part of the problem”

Do what you can to maintain the integrity and safety of swimming as the sport evolves. Do your part to positively impact your athlete’s development and the growth of the sport. As a coach, ask yourself two questions after every workout:

  • Did I coach at my best today?
  • Did my coaching make a difference in the athlete’s lives?