What It Means To Be A Coach, Kevin Harrod


As part of #CoachesAre month, every Wednesday we will be having swim coaches write pieces on  What It Means To Be A Coach. If you'd like to be featured, please send an email here.

#CoachesAreAs you read the submissions that all of us coaches send, you will begin to notice common themes in every one of them. These themes include: helping our athletes develop into outstanding young people, teaching the value of hard work, goal setting and commitment to the team. All of these lessons were once taught to us coaches by a coach in our own past, one who was more than just a person holding a stopwatch and writing the hard practices. These coaches were our mentors, friends, teachers, surrogate parents and role models. They helped us to become the people we are today and are directly responsible for our love of the sport. They kindled our passion for coaching and our love for working with young people. I believe our own individual stories are what make each coach unique and different, for that reason I would like to share my story.

I was very fortunate to swim in college at Cleveland State University for Coach Wally Morton. In his 40 plus years at CSU he has touched many lives and helped guide everyone he has coached to be the best person they could be. Swimming was the tool he used to teach us; at a team meeting my freshman year Wally told us that he had only two rules: be honest and be on time. Seventeen years later I still try to live by those rules every day and I try to impart those lessons to all of my swimmers.

What does be honest mean? It means to tell the truth no matter what the situation is or what the possible consequences are. Nothing destroys a team quicker than athletes who are dishonest. If you have an issue you need to communicate that to your coach; don't avoid it, or worse, lie about it. Being honest implies being held accountable for your actions. Did you make all of your required practices in a given week? Did you truly give the best effort you were capable of on a given day or at a meet? Being honest with your teammates, coaches and most importantly yourself will allow you to grow as a person by leaps and bounds and will help you achieve whatever goals you have set for yourself.

What does be on time mean? Simply put—be early. Coach Wally told us that 15 minutes early is on time, on time is actually late. Being on time allows you as a coach to be totally prepared for your workout. When athletes begin to arrive for practice, you are there to greet them with a smile on your face, full of energy and excitement. You are not distracted by the task of finishing writing your workout on the board or setting up for dry-land. The athletes see you are organized and are ready to help them be the best they can be. Teaching this rule to your athletes and then enforcing it will allow them to take more ownership of their swimming. Athletes who arrive on time can look at the workout, take the time to understand it, ask questions about it and more importantly engage their teammates in the usual pre-practice camaraderie that all swimmers do.

I have tried to teach these rules and countless other lessons that I've learned from Coach Wally, and all my other coaches, to my athletes. I hope that when my coaching career is finished I will have been able to make a fraction of the impact on them as all of my coaches made on me. If we as coaches can do that, then we will always be successful.


Kevin Harrod, Solon Stars Swim Club

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