By By Keenan Robinson//Director of Sports Medicine and Science | Monday, December 16, 2019
Many of you may know me or have seen me on the pool deck working with the U.S. National Team, but let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Keenan Robinson, and I am the Director of Sports Medicine and Science at USA Swimming.
For more than 10 years, I have worked with our National Team athletes and coaches to prepare them for the rigors of training and competition to be at our best. We can all agree, consistency is essential to a repeat performance within the swimming world. One area of focus for our entire USA Swimming staff has been around coaches’ health and wellness. How do we improve it, how do we help facilitate it, and most importantly, how do we make it a priority in the coaching culture of USA Swimming?
Coaching any sport at any level is one of the most rewarding opportunities a person can have. The ability to impact a young child positively, to aid swimmers in reaching their goals, and truly plant the seed for a lifetime of positive health benefits. However, the sport of swimming has an impact on a coach’s physical and emotional health.
As I know you are already aware, this is one of the few sports where there truly is no offseason. Every major holiday falls during important times in a swim season, and the days and weeks are long given the need to run practices for multiple groups. Swim meets are perhaps the most “punishing” part on the swim coach. Oftentimes, you are away from your own family, standing on deck for 13-plus hours a day. You are managing your athletes’ highs and lows, as well as your own internal cross examination of your coaching plan. Compound that with suboptimal timing and quality meal opportunities, erratic sleep patterns, and essentially no time for personal physical exercise.
With any change, it’s important to be aware of what strengths already exist. Swim coaches are the ultimate planners, so within the extended weekend swim meet scenario, have your own personal plan for swim meets. Meal prep/hospitality prep to fuel yourself at normal hours, even if that means stepping off deck for 10-15 minutes. Don’t wait until the evening session is over to have your dinner, as this usually leads to less than optimal food choices, and it dramatically impacts your sleep in a negative way. Find a way to set aside at least 15 minutes for physical fitness, have your workout for each day written down before you leave for the meet. For most of you this can be a 15-minute routine to relieve stress and help your body recover from standing all day. Setting up this daily plan for yourself will increase the quality of time you spend with your athletes. It is a very simple and effective approach that will balance the challenges you face as coaches.
You will hear from respected USA Swimming coaches in this newsletter about their own challenges and how they found ways to offset them. At the end of the day, we learn best from each other, and our community needs to continue that cycle, especially on the topic of our own health and wellness.
Wishing you the happiest of holidays!
Director of Sports Medicine and Science