In the world of sports, training and coaching are often used interchangeably, but in real they are two very different things. They both have the same goal – to better the skills of a swimmer, but they go about it in different ways. Swim coaching and swimming training can go hand-in-hand, or they can be used individually. When the two work in sync, the athlete benefits tremendously.
Training: Instruction and Physical Techniques
Training is really a form of instruction. Whether it is used in the workplace, in the gym, or in the natatorium, it usually involves new knowledge or skills. An example of this is, a swimming “trainer” will teach the swimmer a new move that will help the swimmer better perform the skill. For example, if a swimmer is having difficulty getting a good tuck before a flip-turn, with good training, she can learn skills to help strengthen abdominal muscles. To train those muscles, the swimmer repeats the move as often as the trainer suggests.
Trainers tend to work on basic skills. Often the trainer will describe skill. Then the trainer will show it. When it comes to swimming, trainers usually show the skill on the deck rather than in the pool. Then, the swimmer will perform the skill with the trainer watching the technique. There might be a physical “test” after the skill has been performed a few times so the trainer can see if the swimmer understands what to do and how to do it properly. This might seem like a lot of steps, but it does help the athlete get better.
When it comes to training, swimmers might not find it overly enjoyable. It tends to be tough and physical. The athlete might be sore after a long training session. But, to be an elite swimmer or even a competitive swimmer, training is a core part of the practice. It tends to be repetitive, which is why swimmers might find it tedious at times. But, if a swimmer truly loves his or her sport, that repetition can be pure joy.
Swim Coaching, on the other hand, is more relationship-based than training. A good coach works with more than just the physical qualities of the swimmer. The swim coach is more involved in feedback, either critical or constructive. The swim coach will look at how the training is affecting the swimmer’s technique, speed, form and offer criticism of the way she is advancing. In reality, coaching tends to take place more than official training, as a trainer will spend a short amount of time with the swimmer, then give the practice up to her.
When a swim coach works with a swimmer, the coach is focused on developing the whole swimmer, mind and body. The swim coach helps the swimmer makes decisions and solve problems that may arise. For example, a coach might help the swimmer visualize a race and figure out what to do during the race if things do not go as planned. This coaching takes place one-on-one, but a training session could take place with an entire group of swimmers.
Swimmers who have worked with swimming trainers and swim coaches, usually find that they have a stronger working relationship with the coach. The swim coach is there during the competitive events and during the daily practices – not to guide the techniques being practiced, but to guide the swimmer. This might sound a bit strange, but the swim coach will encourage the athlete and push the swimmer. The swimming trainer provides the techniques to get the swimmer to a higher level. This is why swimmers will thank their coaches more frequently than the trainers.