The Big Question
When interacting with swimmers, or any athlete, there’s one question every coach needs to be asking, often.
What are you working on, right now?
Evaluate Engagement- The tone, content, and speed of response will give you insight into the current level of engagement with the task. If everyone is disengaged, it might be time to change something. If it’s just one individual, it’s a subtle reminder to start getting engaged. By asking this question, you’re also reinforcing that engagement matters.
Understand Thought Process- The swimmer’s answer will help you understand how they think about their swimming, and how they are working through their skills. A lot of swimmers have bizarre ideas about what facilitates fast swimming. This can help you understand what you’re working with and provide you with the opportunity to intervene effectively.
Understand Priorities- The answers you consistently receive will demonstrate what skills the swimmer believes are most important. This can help you understand how they work through the skills as well as when they’re attacking or avoiding weaknesses/strengths.
Encourage Ownership- By expecting an answer, and valuing their response, you’re encouraging swimmers to take ownership of their swimming. The more the onus is on them, the more often they’re going to make the little decisions, in and out of the pool, that make a big difference. By providing instructions without considering a swimmer’s current focus, you are taking ownership away.
Establish Dialogue- Coaching is a partnership. Asking questions is how you establish that partnership. The information a swimmer provides you is a starting point from which you can help them work through challenges. A great follow-up question is, ‘how is it going?’. This will give you all the information you need to take the next step.
Prevent Conflicting Information- In settings where multiple coaches are working with swimmers, asking the question can give you a better sense of what communication is happening with other coaches. This helps coaches get on the same page, avoid confusing swimmers, or avoid contradicting/undermining another coach’s instruction. Coaches can then rectify any conflicts off the deck, maintaining a front of unity.
One simple question, big benefits.