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Does every coach tell you something different?

Do you sometimes get the impression that every swimming coach tells you something different? It’s something a reader mentioned recently.
We’re privileged at H2Open to have a number of experienced and well-respected swimming coaches writing for us. Observant readers may have therefore noticed occasional conflicting advice in the magazine, and what you read in H2Open may differ from what you read, see or hear elsewhere.
How, as a swimmer, do you make sense of this, and which advice do you follow?
Firstly, we should recognise the commonality between different coaches. For example, there is widespread agreement on the need to be streamlined for fast swimming. We should do what we can to minimise drag and prevent our legs from sinking. A breath in front crawl should be taken to the side rather than lifting your head forwards and the hands shouldn’t cross the centre line of the body.
Secondly, most good coaches – including those that write in H2Open – are thoughtful coaches. What they say and write is based on thousands of hours of swimming and coaching experience during which they have reflected deeply on what they do and why. Their methods will have delivered results and they are all dedicated to helping swimmers achieve their goals.
Inevitably though – and this is essential if we want progress and innovation – this original thinking leads to different ideas and proposed solutions. Sometimes these are differences in the words chosen and language used, other times they are differences of substance. It may even just be a difference in emphasis. For example two coaches might agree that you need to both improve your technique and your fitness but they might weight the importance of those two differently, and this could vary depending on how they’ve understood your swimming goals.
As swimmers we need to understand and accept that different coaches will tell us different things at different times. Like coaches we have to think about what we are doing and why. If a coach suggests something you don’t understand or see the point of, ask. Experiment with different approaches to find what works for you and what you feel comfortable with. Listen to the coaches, absorb what they have to say but interpret it according to your own experience and goals.
Next time you read conflicting advice in H2Open – or hear it from two different coaches – the question you ask should not be “which one is right?” but “which one works for me?”. It could also be the case that something that worked for you at one stage on your swimming journey is no longer appropriate. Be prepared to try something new or different but make up your own mind about what works.
Image: Adam Walker at The Triathlon Show 2014