How to Become a Swim Coach (Plus Daily Duties and Skills)
Updated 27 April 2023
Swim coaches work to develop and improve swimmers' abilities by utilising sports science and practical knowledge to improve their physiology and skills. Swimming coaches can gain employment in local sporting clubs, schools, high-performance academies and national coaching schemes. Understanding the duties and job requirements of this role can help you decide if it's the right career for you. In this article, we discuss what a swim coach is, how to become one, their typical responsibilities, their usual skills and their common working conditions.
What is a swimming coach?
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Swimming coaches work to develop and improve swimmers' sporting abilities. A swimming coach usually specialises in a particular swimming stroke and recruits and selects swimmers in a competitive environment. They analyse swim techniques and training programs to identify areas for improvement. Swimming coaches also devise and implement training drills, and use motivational tactics, personalised training, nutritional protocols and fitness tests to improve swimmers' performance.
How to become a swim coach?
When considering how to become a swim coach, it can be important to know that swimming coaches achieve their accreditation through a multi-level training system that helps them gain knowledge and functional skills to enhance their coaching capacity over their careers. The coaching accreditation includes three levels, which are development, advanced and performance. Below you can find steps to consider for becoming a swimming coach:
1. Complete the prerequisite qualifications
To become a swimming coach, there's a general requirement for you to be at least 16 years old and have a reasonable level of fitness and swimming ability. There's generally a requirement for budding coaches to complete first aid training and complete a CPR certificate issued by a Registered Training Organisation. Holding a current Working with Children Check or equivalent is also usually a requirement for anyone engaging in child-related work, as an employee or volunteer, with children under 18 years of age.
2. Become a swimming instructor
A great starting point for your swimming coach career can be to get your swimming instructor qualification. As a qualified swimming instructor, you can teach people of all ages to learn to swim and instruct them on water safety matters. Upon completion of your swimming instructor course, you can usually be an expert in aquatic safety and proficient in swimming 25 metres in any swimming stroke. Those with swimming instructor qualifications often work with young children, teaching them water familiarisation, buoyancy techniques, stroke development and safe water entry techniques.
3. Complete a development coach course
The next step is usually to undertake a development coach course. This course helps you develop a broad range of introductory coaching skills and techniques while promoting competitive swimming participation at club and district levels. You can learn to create teaching experiences that show athletes the benefits of developing skills and increasing fitness. After this course, you may have the knowledge to help swimmers with technical development, goal setting and discovering a sense of achievement by setting challenges while showing respect for safety and psychological comfort.
4. Join a professional body
Once you complete your development course, you may join a professional body to stay informed on the latest trends and research. Joining an industry body can also allow you to access the insurance you require for becoming certified to coach. If you're a member of a professional industry body, you can have a higher chance of gaining employment as a swimming coach throughout the country and internationally.
5. Apply for entry-level jobs
Many swim coaches start their careers in local swimming pools and work their way up, learning what they can from the higher level coaches. You can consider volunteering or applying for entry-level jobs helping with swim squads. While this step isn't essential, it can benefit your long-term success as a swimming coach.
6. Complete an advanced coach course
An advanced coaching course can help you learn how to encourage each athlete's ability by developing and implementing training programs based on their individual requirements. Completing this course can help you implement support systems that develop individual swimmers' physical and psychological fitness and maximise their performance. These skills can help you establish a swimmer's sporting ethics and love of competition and encourage a lifelong love of the sport.
7. Complete a performance coach course
After having your advanced coach certificate for 24 months, you can enrol in the advanced performance coach course. This course develops the skills required to coach elite-level swimmers and become a leader and someone who can help build the next generation in swimming. The performance coach course generally comprises seven online modules. It usually involves assessments, submission of assignments, multiple face-to-face workshops, practical coaching hours under a mentor and a state or national conference presentation. This course often takes students approximately 18 to 24 months to complete.
8. Consider getting a degree
Some swim coaches earn bachelor's degrees in exercise and sports science, nutrition or sports medicine. This level of qualification can often show the extent of your passion and dedication to potential employers and enhance your swim coaching prospects. Having a bachelor's degree can help you gain employment working with advanced athletes. While not all high-performance academies require their coaches to have a bachelor's degree, many do.
9. Apply for a coaching job
Once you have the relevant qualifications and develop your experience in the industry, you can apply for high-performance sports roles. Before applying for jobs, it's beneficial to ensure your resume includes all your current information and follows a logical structure. You can look for employment opportunities on the Indeed job board. You can consider shortlisting the positions that appeal to you the most and then writing a personalised cover letter addressing the key points of each one.
Swimming coach daily duties
Swim coaches work with athletes and teams to develop and enhance their swimming abilities.
Their day-to-day duties typically include:
supervising and conducting athlete and swim team sessions
motivating athletes and providing coaching to foster peak athletic success
preparing and delivering skill-focused lessons and technical guidance based on athletes' abilities
collecting athletes' physiological metrics to assess energy system development
monitoring swimmers' techniques and training loads to prevent injuries and accidents
recruiting and selecting athletes and other coaching team members
consulting with specialist trainers and other sporting professionals
preparing entries into sporting competitions
conducting performance reviews and adjusting strategies accordingly
constructing nutritional protocols to increase swimmers' performance and recovery
travelling with athletes and teams to competitions
receiving questions from athletes and other coaches and responding to them or referring them to the appropriate team member
ensuring equipment is available and placed correctly in the pool area for athletes to conduct their training
attending mandatory swimming organisation professional development
performing any other duties as assigned by supervisors
presenting research at conferences.
Common swimming coach skills
Here, you can find some of the common skills that may assist you in fulfilling your responsibilities as a swimming coach:
There is often a requirement for a swim coach to be an effective communicator when coaching athletes at any level. High levels of communication can allow coaches to develop rapport and a connected team to achieve greater sporting achievements. You can develop your communication skills by increasing the number and variety of people you communicate with daily.
Coaching athletes commonly requires the ability to solve problems. In this role, you may observe athletic performance and have to devise strategies to improve efficiency and performance. You can improve your problem-solving skills by training your brain with complex mind puzzles.
Successful swimming coaches encourage their swimmers to improve fitness and become the best athletes possible through eagerness and psychological improvements. Coaches who can inspire and motivate their athletes can often help to increase their sporting performance and training ability. You can improve your ability to motivate and inspire others by studying sports psychology techniques.
The best coaches often have a natural desire to discover new knowledge, develop better techniques and identify creative ways of solving training problems. Trying to understand why things happen can be a crucial element of being a coach. You can develop your curiosity by always asking ‘why' and thoroughly researching topics.
Swim coach working conditions
Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
Swim coaches can work in various sporting settings, depending on their level of expertise. The level of responsibility of coaches can vary based on their work environment and level of coaching ability. The national average salary for a swim coach is $31 per hour. Elite coaches may work at professional sporting clubs, academies and government high-performance programs, such as the Australian Institute of Sport. In contrast, amateur coaches may volunteer with junior teams or social sporting clubs.
Coaches often gain casual employment at local swimming pools for local sporting clubs. High-level coaches can work at high-performance facilities and often gain full-time employment. Coaches commonly work split shifts, coaching in the morning and returning in the afternoon to coach again.
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