Many years ago, in a land far far away, I wrote the "Slacker's Guide to College Coaching Survival". It was intended as a companion piece to the excellent "Slacker's Guide[s]" by Mike Gustafson, one for training trip and one for taper survival. Those, entries, sadly, have been lost in the internet void. The Coach's guide, however has not, but when I looked at it recently I realized how sorely it was in need of updating. As I leave the college coaching profession for the time being, I felt it necessary to impart all the lessons I've learned in the last five years about being a slacker coach.
First's lets revisit the ground rules from 2008 and see where they need updating:
1. Avoid physical exertion of any kind (Yup, this one still applies). Now, in some ways coaching swimming is physically no joke: the hours of standing around can do a number on your back. However, no amount of standing can compensate for the all out gorging you will do at "hospitality". Bonus points for sitting down during practice. Double bonus points for sitting down in an elevated lifeguard chair so that you cannot hear any of the swimmers in the water, in the unlikely event that they actually want to talk with you.
2. Assistants, Assistants, Assistants. (This one is still good as well.) The key to a well oiled assistant coaching staff is to squeeze as much as possible out of them for as long as you can, and then swap them out for newer, more eager models when they become disillusioned. More on this later
3. Finally, never forget the slacker coach's motto: When the swimmers or team are successful, you did it! Whenever they fail, they did it!
Ok, now on to the specifics:
Recruiting is one of the top areas where you can make it look like you are working extremely hard while doing next to nothing. Why? Because most recruiting takes place while none of your assistant coaches are watching. Therefore, feel free to embellish about all your connections, athletes that are supposedly interested in the team because of your grand reputation, and the fruitful conversations you are having. Always give the impression that you have a really big fish on the line. It is doubtful that anyone will keep a running tally of how many swimmers you actually recruit. Finally, if you must, "recruit" several kids who would basically give one of their kidneys to come to your school regardless of what you say. Pat yourself on the back, you've got a recruiting class!
The off-season is a crucial time of year for a slacker coach. The best part of the off season for many coaches is that you are still getting paid, while having no official obligation to coach practice. If you are at a major conference division one program, there may be some pressure to run year round swimming. Delegate all responsibility to one of your assistant coaches, collect money for your "club", then count the extra money you can make for doing nothing! Of course, as above, it is important that you talk a lot about how important the off season is to your entire team, then spend the summer on vacation. Better yet, get yourself hired coaching a local summer team. Now you've tripled your money with no real additional work! Congratulations!
When I wrote the original slacker's guide, I deemed that the apex of slacker coaching was finding the absolute "can't miss" swimmers on your team and putting them in your "group". Well since then, I've learned better. The best slacker coaches retreat from even having a defined set of swimmers for the year. Instead, they "oversee" the whole program. Let's review the advantages of this method:
-Not having to prepare any practices? Check
-Able to take credit for literally anything good that happens over the year? Check
-Ease of putting responsibility for failure on your assistants? CHECK!
One of the downsides is that people may expect that you actually know what's going on team-wide with this approach. Put that notion off by continually stating that you are still in the process of "observing".
4. Championship Season
There is one huge key to slacking your way through championship season: Amnesia. The great thing about "taper" is that it's nearly impossible that swimmers will not improve over their performances for that given season. Still, given your lack of motivation to coach them, some of them (particularly your upperclassmen) may have disappointing results in relation to their career bests. Amnesia provides the best way to pave over this challenge. You must forget the results that all swimmers had over previous seasons and switch over to exult how they just "went a best" over and over. If they still object, suggest that their lack of a positive attitude is to blame
Some final tips and strategies
-"Motivating". Motivating is really difficult and should be avoided at all consequences. Still, you need to give the impression that you are running some semblance of a functioning program, and for that to work you will need other people to do what you say. There are two key techniques in the slacker coaches motivational arsenal: intimidation and guilt.
Guilt is your first line of defense. You will have swimmers and coaches working underneath you that have a sense of loyalty and devotion to the school and team. Put them in positions where they have to compromise this loyalty to do your work for you.
Of course, the longer you play guilt the more likely you are to be found out. That's when it's time to move to intimidation. Bring whomever you need to "motivate" into a one on one meeting and accuse them of "not being on the same page". Make outsized threats: "do it or your off the team!" or "I will relieve you of your duties". You do not have to be able to follow through on your threats. In fact, you likely will not be, but most people will not be willing to test that out. Scaring people will get them in line for the time being, and if you are doing it right swimmers and coaches will be on their way out by the time they figure you out.
Being a slacker coach is not easy: it takes practice and time. Take heart: your diligence at not working hard will surely pay off.