“Just friggin’ coach McCord,” was the answer he gave me.
For 35 years I have played at the best job in the world and for many of those years I have been my own boss. I have only really worked as an assistant coach for one head coach for 2 years. For the other 33 years I worked for my own. In the days before the web appeared, you did coach education courses; read books; attended conferences and talked to your colleagues. Most of the time it was trial and error and we had pretty good success.
If you had a pretty good swimmer and they got fast, you had to figure it out fast and keep your swimmer moving forward. My first really fast swimmer was Richmond Rapids Head Coach Robert Pettifer. He had some success with two international tour teams at the Eight Nations Meet in Cadiz Spain.
My coaching world changed when a couple of brothers joined my squad and enriched the swimming pedigree of the program. Kevin and Brian Johns would become cornerstones of a training group that would send many swimmers off to university programs and produce an Olympian and a Paralympian in 2000. Vancouver Pacific Head Coach Brian Johns became that Olympian. In the early 90’s Johns was a scrappy 10 year old who started to swim fast and over the next 8 years got better and better. There was still no mentoring for me, just a lot of hard work to keep up with this tenacious group of swimmers and keep them moving forward.
Early in the fall of 1998, Swimming Canada hosted a series of camps across the country with experts from around the world. Brian was invited to the Victoria Camp and I was not. I contacted then National Coach Dave Johnson and begged to come to the camp. My club paid my way and I spent 5 days getting mentored by Gennadi Touretski and other coaches. It changed my coaching career in so many ways. I got the first power-up of many in my coaching career.
Later November 1998 Brian was selected to be part of the Canadian World Cup team and I was selected to be a member of the coaching staff, we would do a double Edmonton Alberta and College Station Texas. Anytime you get a National Team appointment, it is a pretty big deal. I was so proud and scared to death at the same time. What was I going to have to do; I had never been inside a team staff before.
I arrived in Edmonton for the meet with Brian and we had our first team meeting and I was introduced to the swimmers we would be working with. I was intimidated as hell. I had this rising star young swimmer and was handed a couple of veterans as well, my expectations of myself were huge, but what was I supposed to do?
I met with Dave Johnson and asked him this question. “ What am I supposed to do Dave?” He just looked at me, smiled and said, “ Just friggin’ coach McCord!” “You know what to do with your swimmer, do the same with the others you are coaching, just coach, you will be fine.” It was a simple concise statement and a huge mentoring moment that I have conveyed to many coaches since then.
Did I get it right at those two meets, to this day I am not sure, but we had success at the two meets. Since that trip I have sought out mentoring moments from people I think that can help me move forward, not only in the water, but also in all aspects of my life.
35 years into this game, I will say this to all coaches. You will never get it perfect; just keep coaching and coach hard. You will move closer and closer towards that pinnacle performance as long as:
- You always do your best!
- You are positive and pursue your work with passion.
- You create a optimal, positive daily teaching and training environment.
- You swallow your pride and ask for help when you are struggling, power-ups and mentors are everywhere.
- You are a lifelong learner in all areas and be willing to make mistakes everyday.
- You smile and your body language says that you enjoy your job.