The COVID-19 pandemic is a stressful time for swim coaches and teams across the world. There is uncertainty about when pools will reopen and how to adapt to this new reality to stay financially afloat.
Our Co-Founder and CEO Fares Ksebati shared tips to help swim coaches navigate the strategic unknowns from the business perspective and effectively communicate with key stakeholders, including swimmers, parents, board members and the community.
Watch the Video
Listen to the Podcast
Fares’ Coaching Experience
Fares has coached for about 10 years, from USA Swimming age-group and senior level to masters level. He has served in nearly every role at the club level and understands what it’s like to interact with parents, board members, athletes and other coaches. He’s sharing his perspective as a coach and successful entrepreneur to help fellow swim coaches tackle this unique challenge!
The first thing you need to do is take a deep breath! Just like you take a long-term approach to planning out your swim season, think long-term when adapting to the pandemic. However, the pandemic makes planning more difficult because we don’t have a definitive end date for pool closures. We could be closed for 3-6 months, 12 months or more!
Don’t waste time waiting for pools to reopen — dive in and start working on alternative plans to provide value to your swimmers.
Communication & Engagement with Stakeholders
Communication is key in this time of uncertainty! Make sure you have a plan in place to connect with the stakeholders in your community:
- Parents (Members)
- Other Coaches
- Local Business Community
Each stakeholder group requires a different frequency and type of communication.
Communication with Members
Think of your swimmers’ parents as your first group of stakeholders. This group funds your salary as a coach. It’s essential that you call every single family and share the value you plan to provide to keep their athlete engaged in the long term.
Connecting with every family opens a two-way stream of communication, allowing the parents to voice concerns and give feedback. Listen to that feedback and implement what makes sense.
Communication with Athletes
Empower your athletes to be active most days in a way that abides by your community’s rules relating to the pandemic. Share optional, bodyweight dryland workouts that limit crazy movements to avoid injury.
Be specific with your dryland workouts and set up a schedule so swimmers know what to expect. Get involved in the workouts with your swimmers and encourage their parents to participate, too! Try hosting live, video workouts via Zoom or a similar service to maintain some team camaraderie.
Consult with your legal team to ensure you have the proper insurance and waivers in place when you share these workouts with your athletes.
Related: MySwimPro Dryland Training Plans
Communicate with Your Coaches
If you have multiple coaches on staff, be transparent with them and communicate regularly about the team’s financial situation. If you had to lay off coaches, keep in touch with them and maintain a relationship. You’re not going to have coaches when we get back into the swing of things if you aren’t transparent. Keep them engaged, let them know your plan and show them that they are appreciated.
Related: How to Run a Remote Company
Communicate with Other Programs
You are likely connected with other swim teams and coaches in your community. Talk with them to share ideas and navigate this challenging time together! Some questions to ask other coaches include:
- How much are you charging? Did you suspend billing?
- What are you doing to keep swimmers engaged?
- How are you differentiating from other fitness programs and sports?
- How are you keeping coaches engaged?
Differentiate from Other Youth Activities
Leverage the strength of your team! Before the pandemic, your main differentiator from other sports was the pool. While you don’t have access to the pool, keep the team dynamics strong with fun activities. Game nights on Zoom, weekly giveaways and social media contests help keep you top of mind and keep swimmers connected to their teammates.
Related: How to Work Out at Home
Be a Life Coach
Reframe the way you think about your role. Before the pandemic, you were a swim coach. Now, you should take a more holistic approach: You’re a life coach and CEO who works to keep your swimmers positive and engaged.
You will return to the pool eventually, but right now you’re helping swimmers with broader facets of their training and mental health:
- Injury Prevention
- Dryland Training
- Seasonal Planning
- Goal Setting
Coaches often say swimming teaches life lessons. Now is the time to show your swimmers how those life lessons apply out of the water!
Related: How to Set SMART Goals
Understand Your Financial Situation
When it comes to finances during the pandemic, it’s important to ask the hard questions to make sure you understand the situation. Have an honest conversation with your board about finances. Ask them:
- How much cash is in the bank?
- What are our expenses?
- Will I continue getting paid?
Apply for Small Business Assistance
If you’re based in the United States, you can apply for a Small Business Administration disaster assistance loan to help with finances. These loans are available for non-profit and for-profit businesses.
You can also apply for payroll assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides small businesses and non-profits with up to $10 million to cover payroll. If you maintain your workforce, the Small Business Administration will forgive a portion of this loan.
Be sure to check the rules in your state so you know what you’re getting into.
The pandemic will end eventually, and it’s important to stay positive! Communicate to your swimmers that the health and well-being of the community is more important than training in the pool. Now is an opportunity for your swimmers to work on often-neglected aspects of training, such as shoulder health, core strength and mobility so they get back in the water stronger.
If you coach younger swimmers, let them know that they won’t get slower if they take a few months off from swimming. This mental and physical break allows swimmers to reset their mindset and come back to the pool recovered and ready to work!