16 Things to Remember When Coaching Beginners

As requested by Sara here are some tips for coaching beginners.

Coaching beginners can be scary, especially for new coaches.  After I stopped swimming I was fortunate to coach swimmers with lots of experience.  My first time coaching beginners was at a masters club.  Since then I have coached young beginners in aqua squirts, the star program and regular synchro.

swim 3

Coaching beginners has been the most difficult job I have had so far.  I hope my learning experiences will fast track your learning curve.

1.  Make a lesson plan.  There is too much going on at practice for you to just wing it.  The swimmers have short attention spans and need lots of variety at the start.  Sometimes the swimmers cannot do what you have planned.  You need a backup plan or there will be too many moments of inactivity.  Having no plan can cause you unnecessary stress too.

2. Plan too much.  You’ll be surprised how quickly you need to move through activities or skip them altogether.  If you over plan, just use it for the next practice.

3.  Use the deck space you have.  Teach proper positions and techniques on land.  It is a lot easier to keep the swimmers attention on land.  New swimmers love to be underwater where it can be difficult to get their attention.  You can also correct the swimmers faster on land.

4.  Use the wall when the swimmers are in the water.  The wall allows the swimmers some stability before you have the swimmers use unstable floating props like bottles. It is also easy for you to correct from land.

5.  Teach positions they cannot do off the wall yet.  I like teaching verticals, bent knees and cranes on the wall.  One day they will need to know those position so start practicing now. Young swimmers always want to do what the big kids are doing and positions on the wall is something they can mimic.  It is also good practice for the swimmers to go upside down on the wall.

6.  Teach support scull early.  Even though beginners will not be using support scull right away, start teaching them the ultimate synchro scull anyways.  Practice it on land, in the shallow end and using fun drills.  I like support scull tea parties at the bottom of the pool.

7.  Teach the swimmers to float.  This should be your first lesson.  Teach the swimmers how to float on their stomach and on their back in a star.  All points need to be dry.  They need to stretch through all points and keep their head in neutral alignment to float.

swim 2

8.  Work on extension.  At every practice spend a few minutes on toe, ankle, and kneeextension.  This will be key to future success in synchro.  Younger children have more flexibility potential at the younger ages especially between 6-10 years of age.

9.  Quality is key.  Whatever the swimmers do, it needs to be performed properly.  They may not be able to do it properly at first, but you need to always encourage good training habits from the start.  They will eventually be able to do it correctly.  Persist and you will have success.

10.  Younger swimmers have sensitive ears.  If the swimmers are complaining about sore ears they might be swimming too deep.  Always be aware of how deep your swimmers can swim pain free.  Tell the parents to let you know if their kids are experiencing ear pain.

11. Get in the pool.  Swim with the team.  It is easier to move a beginner than explaining it. Although it is not always possible to get in the pool try to recruit older swimmers in the club to help. You’ll find it harder to keep the attention of the swimmers when you are in the water.  Sometimes having the swimmers take off their goggles will help them keep their face out of the water.

12.  Keep the coach swimmer ratio low.  I think the highest ratio to go is 1:6.

13.  Help the swimmers learn how to swim laps.  Just give general tips on swimming the main strokes and the kicks.

14.  Never make beginners do swim workouts.  Play games or have relays instead.

swim 115. Make sure you plan things that the swimmers can be successful doing and then celebrate those successes.

16.  And most of all have fun.  If your practice is not fun and learning is not fun the swimmers will leave.  Teach skills through games.  Use equipment to help the swimmers learn.  Celebrate holidays in the water.

Do you have any great tips to share?  Did I miss something you wanted to know about? Share below or on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheOnlineSynchroCoach


  1. mahnoush on December 3, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    thank u,,,,,very useful!

  2. Nelly Akhmadikina on June 5, 2020 at 6:41 PM

    For #14 you say not to make them do swim workouts. What else can I do with them? I fyou have any examples of games that would be grea! Also how do I work around having girls 7-13 in the beginner group with lots of skills variety, from not being able to swim breast stroke, to almost being at an intermediate level?

    • Vanessa Keenan on June 7, 2020 at 9:24 PM

      Great questions. For workouts or no workouts, the most important thing is may of the reasons for kids joining sport is for fun. Often workouts are the least favourite part. You could do relays or carrying object tasks, follow the leader, swimming patterns. Even using games from land and seeing if you can modify for the water. Now a group that has lots of different levels, ideally having another coach would help so you could split them up. I would use equipment to help. So kids who can’t do breaststroke get kick boards and maybe the other kids get to work on another harder stroke. I would try to challenge all the swimmers appropriately for the skill level they are at. Even explain that to the kids. No one is being pushed, but everyone has different things to improve on. I had a group once where 1/2 the team could not eggbeater. The 1/2 that couldn’t sat on flutter boards and were encouraged to watch their legs. The other 1/2 where in a circle and passed around a ball. We spent 3-5 minutes every practice doing that. I hope that helped. Thanks for the questions.

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