Youth sports are indisputably an optimal way to kickstart a mentally and physically healthy lifestyle. Sport participation helps develop time-management, work ethic, socialization, goal-setting, and a strong, well-adapted body. In particular, swimming enables visualization of long- and short-term goals, development of body awareness, refining of mental toughness, and strengthening of commitment. Further, swimming can be continued for most of an athlete’s lifetime. Lessons learned will impact “who” our young athletes become in adulthood. Coach Certification.
Therefore, it is crucial that leaders within the swimming sphere are not only knowledgeable, but also have youth swimmers’ best interest at heart. It is no secret that youth sports can lure predators. Here, we will discuss benefits of having summer league swim coaches certified, some providers of coach certification, background on USA Swimming (the national governing body of year-round “club” swimming)’s Safe Sport policies, and how the entity Summer League Swimming seeks to match Safe Sport on summer swim’s level.
Why Certify My Coaches?
There are many reasons why certifying summer recreational coaches makes sense. We have narrowed our list to the following:
- Firstly, coach certification lends legitimacy to your program. Additionally, it boosts the program’s reputation. Parents know practices are delivered by “experts” and can feel confident they are receiving the best service possible.
- Certification establishes coaches as professionals in their sphere. This is particularly relevant when a team has younger coaches on staff (i.e. “junior” coaches still in high school or college). It helps bridge the gap between these younger coaches being swimmers themselves and being coaches.
- Certification ensures instruction/drills/workout content is up to date and backed by current research on competitive swimming, body mechanics, and sport psychology.
- Certification creates a foundation between different coaches on staff. Instruction is consistent for all swimmers and all age groups (as athletes move through the program and from coach to coach)
- Certification protects minors (more on this below). Most certification programs include background checks which ensure adults involved are contributing to a ‘safe space.’
Protecting Our Young Athletes
Most youth organizations are doing their utmost to identify predators. USA Swimming prides itself on cultivating safe and healthy opportunities for children of diverse backgrounds. As part of this mission, USA Swimming upholds a comprehensive abuse protection program called Safe Sport. Each year, club coaches must be Safe Sport certified under USA Swimming’s program. This program includes extensive prevention tool kits for teams, avenues to report predators/inappropriate behavior, background checks, athlete protection training, and an easily accessible list of suspended coaches. Safe Sport is well-established in the club swimming world and actively upheld. But what about summer recreational swimming?
Though summer recreational swim team is a ‘right of passage’ in some parts of the United States, it is also challenging to govern. Like a many legged octopus, depending on the state (or even city!), summer swim might look different. Parts of the country have distinct rules, season start/end times, and competition schedules. Coaches undergo different selection processes and may possess varying experience. Despite its popularity, summer swim could be totally different from one coast to the next and everywhere in between.
To maintain legitimacy, program strength, and athlete safety, it is optimal to certify coaches and conduct thorough background checks. There are several ways this can be done.
Where Can I Certify and Verify My Coaches?
- Reach out to local year-round club teams! See where their coaches are getting doing coach certification and investigate whether these clinics are available to summer swim coaches, too.
- Search the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA)’s website. This site lists coach clinics across the USA as well as each clinic’s primary topic matter and speakers. Here are ASCA’s clinic listings (with both in-person and virtual options).
- Summer League Swimming (SLS), a national organization providing resources tailored specifically to summer swim coaches, offers a swim coach certification based on psychological/sport research, a level 2 coach background check, and a Safe Summer Program that packages the background check, coach certification, and adds comprehensive team insurance coverage. Check out their site here.
Altogether, swimming is a phenomenal sport in which athletes will create memories, habits, and skills to last them a lifetime. It is critical our athletes are both protected and receiving the best instruction possible. Clinics, background checks, and potentially even team insurance can help ensure that summer swimming continues to be an irreplaceably fun and exciting summer staple.