by Chelsea white//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. Also during April, as a part of #CoachesAre month, the “Coach You Should Know” will be telling you what being a coach means to them. This week, we bring you ASCA’s Minnesota 2012-2013 Age Group Coach of the Year, Beth Youngers.
Beth Youngers is the head of developmental programs at the Rochester Swim Club in Rochester, Minn. Having been a competitive swimmer of the club when she was a kid, Coach Youngers has now been a vital part of RSC for over eighteen years. Her primary focus is the 8-and-under swimmers, but she’s also an instructor for the Rochester Swim Club swim school. Coach Youngers graduated from St. Olaf College with a degree in English.
Finish this sentence: #CoachesAre________
#CoachesAre impacting the lives of their swimmers.
“I think that being a coach is one of the most important parts of my life because I am making an impact on these kids. Coaching is not just about swimming obviously; you see day-to-day improvements and see successes and that is amazing, but you are also having an impact on them as people. Hopefully we are teaching them self-confidence, discipline, sportsmanship and how to be good teammates. So it is not just about the sport, it is about other things too. Some of our swimmers, maybe they are not going to be the best swimmers in the world, but some of them end up teaching swim school for us or they work with our 8-and-unders and they become really good teachers. So it is more than just the swimming part of it and I think that is an amazing thing that we as coaches do—just help them become better as a person.”
What is your swimming background?
“I started swimming when I was about nine years old with the Rochester Swim Club, which is where I work now. I swam with the club for a while and then when I was in my teens I started teaching swim school. Then when I was a senior in high school I started working with the 8-and-under program; I did that on and off through college. Whenever I had breaks or anything in school I would come back to the club and help. So when I was finished with college I moved back to Rochester and started a full-time job with them.”
You graduated college with an English degree, which is a little different from coaching swimming. How did you make that transition?
“When I kept working periodically at the club through college it became something that I really liked to do. I guess an English major is not all that useful, so when I graduated I knew I could get a job with the Rochester Swim Club so that is just kind of where I ended up. The more I coached the more I enjoyed it and now it is something that I really have a passion for. So I am glad that I ended up here.”
Is it special for you that you get to coach at the same club in which you grew up as a swimmer?
“Yes, because I have a lot of history there. It is kind of interesting because a lot of the senior swimmers I either taught at swim school or I had them a long time ago when I was coaching at age 18. So I have kind of seen them grow up through the program; I can remember when they were really little. I know pretty much everyone on the team even though we are at about 400-plus swimmers; I have a lot of knowledge of everyone.”
What is the secret to age-group coaching?
“I guess I think what we do is we really have to lay the base of technique down and make sure the kids know everything they are going to do in the future. As an age-group coach you have to make sure they know what they are doing and have the technique down so when they are older they do not lose that. I think that it is so important that they be able to do things right and hold it when they do longer sets. So if a swimmer can’t do a 50 of a correct butterfly there is no point of doing a 200 of butterfly. I think it is so important to lay that down first. But then the other thing is that if they do not like swimming now, they are not going to like swimming later. So we really try in our club to make sure they are having a lot of fun. And I think we really do a good job of retaining our 12-and-under swimmers and making sure they like what they are doing. They have peer groups at the club so we keep them with their same age groups so they can hang out with their friends.”
What are your favorite coaching moments?
“Our team won the short course state championship back in 2011, which is really a cool thing because it had never been done with a team outside of the Twin Cities; so that was really neat. But in terms of favorite memories, for me, it is kind of a day-to-day thing. I think you have to find something each day that makes you happy and is kind of inspiring to you because otherwise what do you have to keep you going? It is exciting at meets when someone wins a state championship or someone makes their first “B” time or something like that but it is also exciting when at practice a six-year-old learns how to do a legal breaststroke kick or someone gets the timing in butterfly. Other times it is when a kid comes in with a picture they have colored. We have a lot of younger kids on the team who will bring in a card, or I have some kids who tell me that they want to be a swim coach when they grow up. You know that is really touching because you know that you have inspired that or you have made a difference in their life.”
What is your coaching philosophy?
“Discipline and organization first. I am the head of our developmental program so I am in charge of the 8-and-unders and we have a lot of 8-and-unders—they are pure chaos. So you have to be organized or else it is a disaster. But also once you have that discipline down then it is all about being fun, goofy, crazy and making them laugh. You have to make they want to be there and want to swim or else it doesn’t matter anymore because once they quit swimming they are not going to continue with the program. So I would say discipline first and then it is all about having fun and making them enjoy what they are doing.”
“I like making up drills and coming up with fun ways to do things. I am constantly changing what I do, which is another important part of my coaching philosophy: not being afraid to change. I know I did things years ago that were absolutely wrong, so you have to be flexible and realize you made mistakes with kids. You have to adapt and realize that you are not perfect and sometimes you have to make changes.”