By Kelsey Reese//USA Swimming Communications Intern
Editor’s Note: Every Friday, usaswimming.org will publish “Coaches You Should Know” featuring some of the best age group and grassroots coaches in the nation. This week, we bring you ASCA’s Ohio 2012 Age Group Coach of the Year, Chris Hadden.
Chris Hadden received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio State University where he extended his swimming career through his freshman year as a walk-on member of the team.
Throughout his coaching years, Hadden has coached successful programs in Florida, Louisiana, Washington D.C., and Ohio. During his time in the nation’s capital, Hadden helped train 20 swimmers with 2000 Olympic Trials Cuts. Currently, Hadden is the head coach at the United Swim Association, a club with five locations in the Columbus, Ohio area.
When did you first start swimming?
I started swimming my sophomore year in high school. Actually I was a big soccer player and tennis player. Then I joined my high school swim team and a club team right after and never looked back. I swam all through high school. I immediately loved swimming. I joined the club team and luckily they had a lot of great guys and girls that I clicked with. We had a nice senior group. I just loved it and enjoyed the training and stuck with it.
How did you begin coaching?
My best friend, whom I swam club with and who also went to Ohio State, walked into a head coaching job in Tampa, Florida where we grew up. He had asked me if I was interested in helping him out. At the time I was living in Phoenix and was looking to get back to the east coast and decided to move back. I started coaching with him while looking at other career opportunities and I just immediately fell in love with it. I was introduced to ASCA a couple years later by another coach who worked at another program in Tampa and decided to proceed with coaching as my career at that point.
Who was most influential on your swimming experience?
From a swimming perspective, Ross Bohlken. He was my head club coach in high school. He really helped motivate me to be my best in the water.
Do you have any advice for other coaches?
My advice for other coaches is to work hard. It is important to be on deck and work hard for every athlete in your group, to be there, leading by example. When working with age group and high school swimmers, don’t get lost in the science of training the athletes. Technique and efficiency is the number one way to continue progression in swimmers in my experience. Continue to be a sponge and always seek to learn more about your craft. Be a teacher and work hard daily to help every kid you coach. I also recommend working with the 8-and-unders a couple times a week to remind you why you do what you do, and to keep you sharp with verbalizing your instructions. Have a great coaching staff and keep it fresh and fun. The sport is a marathon not a sprint.
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
I coach team and not athletes. Every athlete is equally important to me. I also don’t sweat the small stuff, meaning I don’t get lost trying to control or micro-manage every little thing. I create a fun, productive and successful environment in my program and on deck daily. I motivate my swimmers to be great through encouragement and building relationships with them, not fear of failure. My training philosophy is technique, technique, technique. I believe muscle memory for efficiency is the key to success. I also create a family-team environment for my program.
The main focus with me is on building the relationship and working with each athlete technically again to get the most out of their ability. I’m big on getting into kids’ heads and figuring out what they need to hear on deck and at meets to bring out their best performance.