Action Step Your Way to Success

This post will be a bit different from the usual technical post, but I had such a great coaching session on the weekend I could not help, but share it with you.

I recently started working with a swimmer I had never worked with before. I kind of thought this might be a one off coaching stint with her.  The practice went well and quickly.  The session went so well I probably could have coached her for 8 hours and the time would have flown by.  After our session, I sent her things to think about and drills to try.

This weekend I had the opportunity to work with her again.  In the past two weeks she has improved tremendously.  Some skills are unrecognizably better. This is so inspiring to me as a coach.  There is no way that my coaching session alone made her improve like that.  I gave her some tools she did not have, but it was her desire and commitment to put the effort in to get better that gave her the results.  As coaches we can only do so much.  The rest falls on the swimmer.

I was told that she goes to the pool everyday to practice.  Sometimes with her club and other times all by herself.  She even goes by herself to morning practices.  She works on what she can at home.  She has a goal and she is going to doing everything she can to reach it.

I know we have all coached swimmers that have said they wanted to reach some goal, but despite all the tools we give them they are lacking something.  They lack commitment, action and focus beyond all else to achieve it.  We need to teach them how to take action to reach their goals.

Here’s one exercise you can use to help your swimmers reach their goals. 

1.  What is it that you really want?  Be specific and only pick 3-5 things.

2.  On a cue card write out one action step you can do to help you reach that goal. Write out one action step per goal. (Keep the cue cards so you can track your success.)

3.  Do this every day.  Write out one action step you can do to get you closer to your goal.

If the swimmer follows their daily action steps, in one month they will take 30 action steps towards their goal.  Over time that effort will compound.  You just need to take small DAILY steps toward your goals.  Daily action keeps the momentum going.

The goal and action steps need to be written.   It is easy to skip the action steps if you do not see them. I like to put my action steps somewhere I cannot miss them.  I have a blackboard in the my kitchen that I see often and that works for me.  A water bottle may be a good spot for swimmers.

If possible get the action steps finished early in the day.  That ensures you cannot run out of time to get them done or make excuses.

“If you go looking for an excuse you’ll find one”

The action steps can be small.  The key is that you just need to take action.

Take a look at this example.

Goal: To have all my swimmers flat in right leg splits on land by Christmas (specific and measurable)

Action step day 1: plan 3-5 minutes of flexibility into practice today

Action step day 2: google flexibility ideas

Action step day 3: plan 3-5 minutes of flexibility into practice today

Action step day 4: make a chart to follow athletes stretching at home

Action step day 5: call a flexibility coach and inquire about costs.

I hope you can use this exercise to inspire your swimmers to action.  It was a real treat to coach a swimmer that was ready to put the work in to help realize her goal and I want all of you to have that experience more often than not.

If you really want something, the best way to get there is with hard work and focused action.  Saying you want something is not enough.

Share below what your goals are or post them on my Facebook page.


  1. holly on November 27, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    Thanks for this post!! It really inspired me to try something a little different when it come to goal setting with my athletes this month.

    • Vanessa Keenan on November 27, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      I am glad you were inspired. A great book that goes through this particular process is “GPS Your Best Life: Charting Your destination and Getting There in Style” by Charmaine Hammond and Debra Kasowski. Let me know how it goes and good luck.

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