Club Excellence Spotlight: Nitro Swimming
By Emily Sampl//Correspondent
Creating a fun, motivational environment for both athletes and coaches is a proven recipe for success in any sport. Head coach Mike Koleber has made this a priority at Nitro Swimming in Austin, Texas, and the team’s philosophy has certainly paid off with six consecutive Texas Age Group (TAGS) championships and a seventh-place finish in the 2013 USA Swimming Club Excellence program standings.
With a full range swim program that includes learn-to-swim, USA Swimming age group competition and Masters, Nitro continues to churn out some of the top-ranked talent in Texas. Koleber, himself a former NCAA All-American and national qualifier, offers a closer look at the club’s unique atmosphere and keys to success:
1. Accessibility of Coaches. We have bleachers on our pool deck, welcoming parents at any time to sit and watch as much or as little of practice as they want. They are the paying customer, and if they want an up-close look to see and hear how we conduct our practices, great. We find that having the parents around tends to keep us on our toes more! Most parents tend to morph into the drop off/pick up type of parent once they know the kids are in good hands. We also respond to all emails within 24 hours.
2. Going out of our way to make new kids feel welcome. We have one rule at swim meets: no one sits alone. We assign a "Big Brother" or "Big Sister" whenever a new swimmer arrives on our pool deck. We all remember what it was like to be the "new kid." It's stressful, awkward and uncomfortable. We do what we can to make that first day with us go smoothly.
3. We allow ourselves to have some fun on the pool deck as coaches. We're always shouting out movie lines to each other, trying to keep things light even during intense sets. The kids enjoy it more if they see the coaches enjoying it more.
4. Three touches per kiddo per practice. Notice every athlete, every practice. The parent who drove 45 minutes one way and is sacrificing about everything they have to keep their kiddo engaged in this sport of ours only wants to hear one kid's name during practice – theirs! Do what you can to move around the group, not just paying attention to the lane leaders.
5. Lights, Camera, Action. Whether it's your first group of the day or your fourth or fifth, whoever is in front of you, it's their first and most times their only practice for the day. Coach like it is your first. They deserve at least that from you. No hands in pockets, no texting, no phone calls, no sitting down. We stay engaged every practice, and do our best to send the kids home with a smile.