Women in Coaching: Liz Hinkleman


Liz Hinkleman head shot. (Free Crop)By Lauren Hardy//Correspondent

Like the name of the first club she swam for, “TNT,” Liz Hinkleman is coaching dynamite. As one of the youngest head coaches in NCAA Division I swimming at the University of Toledo, Hinkleman led the Rockets to their second-ever MAC Championship title in 2012.

But her achievements go beyond the pool. In addition to receiving MAC Coach of the Year, Hinkleman’s coaching helped the Lady Rockets reach their highest term grade-point average in program history, with a 3.455 GPA. Today, Hinkleman advances her career as an assistant coach for the Ohio State women’s swim team. “Simply put, Liz Hinkleman is a winner,” said Ohio State head coach, Bill Dorenkott, in a July 2012 press release.

So what sets this newcomer apart from other coaches? For Hinkleman, it’s not just about training philosophy. An emphasis on a relevant and individualized coaching style is equally, if not more, important.

“There are so many ways to make an athlete faster, but if you cannot connect with them and have a level of trust, no amount of hard work will make them reach their highest level of success,” she says. “Each athlete needs to be motivated in different ways.”

Though she has a knack and love for coaching, Hinkleman stays accountable and current by reaching out to other coaches for advice, from all areas of sport. She credits some of her most valuable acquired coaching knowledge to those outside of the swimming bubble. As a coach, she realizes she doesn’t have to be on an island; coaching can have an element of collaborative teamwork, too.

Many coaches, including Hinkleman, have adjusted their coaching philosophy in response to the sporting world changes over the last 10 years. “[Sports are] more about the mentality of the athlete than how great a workout was written,” Hinkleman says. “The generation now is constantly stimulated through technology and social media…swimming needs to be more than chasing a black line. The work must be mentally compelling and purposeful.”

Hinkleman spends a large portion of time motivating her team through purpose-driven workouts, but she also stresses the need for coaches to teach swimmers the importance of a balanced lifestyle.

“I always tell my athletes that when you are in Chemistry class, do not think about how to split a 200 fly. And when you are in the pool, do not worry about balancing math equations and art projects. There is a time a place for everything, and if you want success in all aspects, you need to devote yourself entirely to the task at hand.”

Swimmers are able to see this balancing concept played out because Hinkleman leads by example. An integral part of coaching, she says, is learning how to balance your life, emotions and feelings and keep them out of the sport. She encourages the next generation of women coaches to stay focused and think things through before they act.

“If you let [emotions] drive your decisions, you will get run down and lose focus on what you want to build. There is no doubt that you will still feel sad or mad or upset or happy on a daily basis (or even in one single practice), but it cannot be what ultimately leads you to act,” she says.

Combined with her attention to detail and personal approach, this dedication to self-control and excellence are what keep Hinkleman and her swimmers at the top of their game.

Liz Hinkleman’s 5 Keys to Coaching Success 

  1. Take Initiative
  2. Always Communicate
  3. Be Adaptable
  4. Never Stop Learning
  5. Keep It Simple and Fun