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Collaborate With Your Coach

The power of your poolside partnership

Coach Diane Bartlett was recently interviewed by the U.S. Masters Swimming staff regarding coaching methods, flexibility and importance of having fun.

Coach Diane Bartlett's success with Grand Strand Masters Swimming in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., can be traced to her flexible approach to swim practice design.

The U.S. Masters Swimming-certified Level 4 coach prints out a workout for each lane, but she doesn't hesitate to alter the plan. If she sees an opportunity for improving technique. Bartlett, a recipient of the USMS Kerry O'Brien Coaching Award in 2011, may change the set or even the focus of the entire workout.

Coaches, she says, need to explain to their swimmers why they're making the change. And to do this effectively, she adds, swimmers need to communicate clearly with their coaches about feedback they don't understand.

Bartlett recommends that swimmers do the following three things.


Come to practice prepared to put great effort into cranking out the sets, but be ready to embrace a change in direction if your coach notices an opportunity for extra instruction. Bartlett continually assesses workouts and talks with her swimmers to explain the changes she'd like to see. These may be related to drills, changes in technique, or a shift in focus regarding an element of a stroke. Recognize that such alterations are intended to clarify how to swim effectively and put your best effort into following your coach's recommendations. 


Bartlett asks for feedback from her swimmers to ensure that her thoughts are coming across clearly. If you're confused by the instructions, ask for clarification. "This is your workout, not mine," Bartlett says.

You must take responsibility for your end of the conversation. If you don't understand the changes your coach is suggesting, or if you don't grasp the reason for making the change, ask your coach to explain it in another way. Understanding the goal and the method for achieving it is a key component of improvement. Sometimes your coach might need clarification to know whether he or she explained it well enough.

Bartlett also uses hand signals and sign language to communicate concepts to swimmers with hearing impairments. If you have ideas about how to enhance communication with your coach, be sure to share them. Then, if you don't feel good about your attempt to implement the change, ask for additional feedback.


Bartlett's swimmers do a lot of crazy workouts, from horse-themed sets on the day of the Kentucky Derby to creepy creations on Halloween to snow-sports sets during the Winter Olympics. "Masters Swimming is supposed to be fun," says Bartlett, who enjoy the suggestion for offbeat workouts that come from her swimmers. If you have an idea for something to spice up the workout, let your coach know.


- Terry Heggy, U.S. Masters Swimming, August/September 2018 Edition

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