Be A Good Listener

Written By: Eric Peterson

My name is Eric Peterson. I started my coaching journey in 1990 in Tallmadge, Ohio coaching club, middle school, and high school. I have been very fortunate in my career to work with some amazing coaches and swimmers. I have had some incredible experiences through mentorship and coaching.

I share this as I think we all find ourselves struggling from time to time with how to overcome a particular challenge. I will tell you and I am upfront with anyone who asks, I have very few original ideas. I listen a lot. I listen to swimmers, coaches, business leaders, and education professionals. I listen for ideas that I think will help our current team get better faster. I take those ideas and mold them for our particular circumstances and needs. So that is the gist of my advice, decide what you are good at, go out and do it to the best of your ability or better and then beg, borrow, and steal ideas from everywhere and anywhere you can to help fill in the gaps of areas that aren’t your strength. I find that some of the best coaches I have known over the years, to a person, all talk about having a small group of people they communicate with on a regular basis to share ideas. Don’t isolate yourself. Don’t think you are the only one having the issue. If you reach out and someone isn’t willing to help, you still learned. Find the people who are willing to share and share with them. Most of the successful coaches are more than happy to share. I will say they too figure out pretty quick who the people are just talking to them to “use” them and cookie cutter an idea and paste it on their swimmers. They will appreciate it if you are one of the ones who don’t do that and share and ask questions. Old adage, “no such thing as stupid question” applies here. Be informed by asking educated questions. I worked at the Stanford Swim Camp in the 90’s and early 2000’s. I am still amazed by the number of contacts I made through that experience and still use today. The opportunity to work for Richard Quick and Skip Kenney helped shape my coaching philosophy and career. One of the things that amazed me about Richard in particular was his genuine willingness to help others. That has stuck with me.

Locally I work with and learn from the coaches we have right in our backyard on a regular basis. I go to swim meets, and when we don’t have swimmers in the water I tend to watch interactions between other coaches and their athletes. I watch how they interact with their swimmers after each race and how the swimmers react in front of them and if there is a change when they are away from their coach. We are very fortunate in Lake Erie to have several teams that are annually in the top 10% of clubs in the country. I try to find clubs that I feel are consistently performing well and then figure out why and what it is about what they are doing that we might be able to incorporate into our program. Pre-Covid19 I would schedule 3-4 days every fall that I would go and visit these programs. I would sit on deck and watch how they teach what they are doing and how the kids learn. We tried to work it out for my assistants to do the same. We are so fortunate in this area to have so many coaches willing to share. We have set up test sets that each week for 3-4 weeks we would do the same test and then have compared results. One of the coaches compiled the results from each team. They even color coded the results. We would post at our pool. Kids got pretty excited to see themselves improve and how their improvement compared with others from other teams. I have collaborated with local area coaches on suit vendors, club organization, workout and season planning, and almost every aspect of the sport.

Be a good listener. One of the coaches commented recently that in choosing a captain he watched for who were the best followers. I thought that had value. I wish you all the best in these challenging times.

Thank you Streamline Teams for the opportunity to share these thoughts.

I am currently coaching in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I am the Head Coach/Director for the Shaker Sharks Swimming USA Swimming Team and Head Coach for the Shaker Heights High School Swimming and Diving team. So this is how I manage my current team, which, as of this past weekend it has 4 sites. We are a medium to large size team with 170-230 club swimmers 6-20 years old. We have a robust USMS program with a group size of about 70. The club has had as many as 450+ USA Swimmers and 100+ USMS swimmers. Ohio places a pretty high swimming priority on high school swimming. We have an average of 60+ on the combined high school team of boys and girls. We have a Middle School swim team that boast an average of 50+ combined boys and girls as well. We are very fortunate to have two 6 lane 25 yard pools that we are permitted to use by the school district. We also enjoy access to the City run 8 lane 50 meter long course pool in the summer. Our team runs 1 large (1000+ swimmer) short course meet each year and 1 early season long course meet each year. We are a coach run parent supported organization that is a 501c3 Non-Profit corporation. Our staff is all “part-time”. Our most recent history of competition has had swimmers at the LSC championships through the Summer Junior Nationals. I got married in 2018 and moved into my now family of (7). We got a “COVID-19” puppy in the spring just in case we didn’t have enough going all already. I have served on our LSC Board of Directors in a wide variety of capacities. I have been a Zone head coach, camp coordinator, and host for the LSC Swimposiums as well. I am serving as the current president of our State High School Swim Coaches Association. I work at the school during the day as a Swim Instructor teaching 5th & 6th grade swimming as part of their PE unit. I am the aquatic director and swim coach for the local Country Club in the summers as well. I say these things to just give an example that I have to have things very organized and communicated in all aspects of my life. Things go astray very quickly if I don’t. I love what I do. This Pandemic has at times been a struggle for me, like many others. I could never have imagined being out of the sport I love for 4 months straight and in a limited capacity for 8 months.

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