Contributed by Joan Hudak, NEM-CRM
Over 100 USMS members took part in U.S. Masters Swimming’s Boston-area education weekend April 6-7. Offerings included USMS Level 1 & 2 Coach Certification, USMS Level 3 Coach Certification, USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim (ALTS) Instructor Certification, USMS Clinic Course for Coaches, and a USMS Stroke Clinic for swimmers that also served as practical experience for the Clinic Course participants. Read on for newly certified coach Joan Hudak’s perspective on the Level 1 & 2 Coach Certification experience.
MARLBOROUGH, MA — I fell in love with swimming at age six when my mom signed me up for a small summer league with an irregularly-sized pool. I raced through childhood, high school, and college, and by the end of my senior year I was beyond ready for a break. After some time off, some triathlons, and a lot of solo training, I joined U.S Masters Swimming at age 28.
At Masters practice, one of the first things I noticed was how much more passionate about the sport my teammates were than I remembered being when I was younger. When I raced as a kid, I felt like I was partly swimming for someone else: for my parents, for my coaches, for my teammates. Now, I saw how excited my teammates were to swim for themselves. Many didn’t have the benefit of learning at a young age like I did, and they were eager to try new techniques and learn new strokes. Techniques I found intuitive were completely unknown to some of the newer swimmers, and the more I trained with them, the more I wanted to share my knowledge and experience.
This realization drove me to sign up for the USMS Level 1 & 2 Coaching Certification class. I completed the short reading assignment in advance, but as a kinesthetic learner I wasn’t quite sure how a day in a classroom would translate to the pool deck. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the course was run in a workshop-type setting, with frequent breaks and practical exercises to actively engage us in what we were learning.
After a quick round of introductions, it was clear that the 40 participants came from vastly different backgrounds, and that many were still relatively new to the sport. While some of the students were actively coaching for their respective USMS or USAT programs, others, myself included, were there for the love of swimming and desire to begin coaching following the class.
The day began with a brief review of our 15-page reading assignment: a history of United States Masters Swimming, the values and structure of the organization, and basic business practices for managing a safe, inclusive USMS club. We then dove (pun intended) into some coaching techniques and strategies for teaching adult learners – explaining the what, why, and how of each drill or set will ultimately help improve their swimming the most. We also spent a large portion of the class discussing the different types of swimmers that may join a Masters program, and some of the benefits or challenges they may face there.
We then moved onto some practical applications, such as strategies for and benefits of writing workouts of differing intensities (aerobic, anaerobic, VO2 Max, test sets) and setting SMART goals with your athletes. We spent time learning the basics of teaching stroke technique and discussed the necessity of being flexible in teaching, working around injuries, tips for correcting poor technique, and some drills for each of the four strokes (five, when you include the streamline!), turns, and starts. We watched several videos (above and underwater) of Masters swimmers and analyzed their technique and what they may need to work on.
The class ended with a quick assessment and we received our Level 1 and 2 certificates. Not only did I leave feeling confident to work with my own athletes, but I also felt like my own swimming benefitted from the techniques we discussed. I left wanting to try the new drills, work on my walls, and practice my weaker strokes. Overall, I was pleased with how much I gained from a single day in the classroom, and would highly recommend taking the course if you have the opportunity.