Coaching The Head & The Heart

Written By: Hannah Burandt


I coach the head and the heart. I find and seek out teachable moments. I make time to talk with my kids about the tough stuff most people shy away from.


Swimming is not my priority in coaching. Yes, you read that correctly. I am the Head Swimming and Diving Coach at Cleveland State University and swimming is not my priority. We just had our best season in the worst possible year. We broke several program records, swam all life-time or season best times, came away winning the men’s 400 IM and 200 Fly and Bob Fick won Freshman of the Year. We didn’t have a pool to train in, my kids were quarantined or isolated a combined total of 893 days, with the average being 24 days. There is a reason solitary confinement is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. To really understand the adversity we persevered through read our story here -->https://spark.adobe.com/page/n6uhsKJa29J45/


Swimming is not the thing that wakes me up in the morning or keeps me up at night. I worry about my kids mental health and safety. (Yes, I call them kids) How are they doing in school? On the weekend I worry: will someone get hit by a drunk driver while walking home from a bar? Will they drive drunk? Will someone be date raped? Will someone get alcohol poisoning? When my phone rings late at night, is it about one of my kids? What’s the crisis? How is my staff? Are they feeling fulfilled? Cared about? Empowered? These are the questions that keep me up at night.


My Coaching Philosophy: If we do not meet our athlete’s needs as people first (psychologically and emotionally) we won’t be able to help meet their athletic needs. Fast swimming and academic success is a by-product of coaching through empowerment, education, support and promotion of wellness. I believe in pushing myself to be able to provide for whatever my athletes need on any given day. Sometimes it’s a new drill or thinking outside the box for practice. Sometimes it’s pointing them in the direction of counseling, tutors, nutritionists, or sport medicine staff. Most times that need is “life” related and accompanied by a teaching moment. Other times it’s knowing when to do or say less and not get in the way.

As a college coach, we get to be there through three major life moments: 1) The transition into college 2) The transition through college 3) The transition into life beyond college. I take these moments seriously and my role in the process of these transitions. We cannot help our kids reach their potential in the pool until we’ve helped them first as people and as students second. If we take care of the things we HAVE TO take care then we GET TO take care of swimming which becomes really really fun. Swimming for me is a “get to” instead of a “have to”.


As coaches we all have our “niche”, what makes us unique and great at what we do. Coaching the head and the heart is my thing. Here is my attempt to provide my “credentials” and some advice and tips you might be able to easily incorporate in your coaching toolkit.

Four important things to know about me:

  1. I am a trained educator. I majored in Secondary Mathematics Education with a Minor in Health Education at Eastern Michigan University. I rely on my education in education, and my health education extensively in my coaching.

  2. I have my master’s degree in Sport Administration from the University of Louisville in which my electives were focused on leadership, management, communication and the business of division I athletics. I rely on my leadership coursework in how I lead and develop my team and my staff.

  3. I grew up in a “psych house”--both of my parents are retired mental health professionals with over 60 years combined experience. My mother is a retired psychiatric nurse who managed her own psych unit and my father is a retired counselor. In addition to working with mental illness, together they have extensive work in drug and alcohol treatment units, both worked on a methadone unit, and experience with abuse and neglect.

  4. I’ve experienced A LOT of shit in my personal life. I’ve been coaching at the college level for 10 years now and have coached some of my kids through some MAJOR life shit. If you’re struggling with an athlete’s struggles OR your own struggles (hello PANDEMIC!) I’ve either been through it myself or can find a transferable experience to relate and pull from. Just a few examples include eating disorders, suicide attempts, depression/anxiety, death of loved ones, death of a teammate, sexual harassment and Title IX investigations


Hannah Burandt’s Coaching the Head & Heart Tips & Toolkit

  1. Become friends with your counseling center. Know the resources and programming they provide. Bring them to your practices. I brought our counseling center to the pool deck for “granola and gatorade” think “chat & chew” or a “lunch & learn”. They mingled with the team and then presented on anxiety and perfectionism. They did a survey to collect input on what programming my kids wanted. The counseling center did multiple workshops in person last year and via zoom this year. I have referred countless kids to our counseling center in 1.5 years. I can call them, text them, or send over an email. I have walked kids over. Sometimes, when a person is in crisis and they come to you for help, it is too overwhelming for them to take that next step. Be the bridge.

  2. Become friends with your Title IX office. Get to know their procedures and protocols. You are a MANDATED REPORTER. If you have a student athlete confide in you that they are in danger or are having self harm thoughts that confidence does not get to stay with you. It doesn’t matter if they are already having outside help from a counselor or therapist, you must report. You need to know who and how and what you need to report. If you don’t trust your head coach or they don’t believe in following the procedures, go above them and go outside the athletic department. It is in your best interest AND the athletes best interest. CSU has mandatory Alcohol/Drug/Sexual Harassment trainings. As coaches, we get to pick from a list. It is important for me to know who is speaking to my program. I took my entire staff over to the Title IX office to meet them. They have been an amazing resource for me, my staff, and my program. They are your friends NOT your enemy.

  3. Become friends with your SWA. There are so many resources that your athletic department can provide to you or connect you to inside the department and on campus. You’ll never know if you don’t have the relationship or ask how they can help you.

  4. Be willing to apologize. We are human. We are not perfect. You have no clue how much a simple genuine apology will go or resonate with your student-athletes and your staff.

  5. Be willing to listen. Remember, you are in a position of power. If your kids come to you asking for help it’s because they want and need your help. Yes, they are college adults, however, if they are turning to you it’s because they want and need your guidance. Ask them what they need. Do they need to vent? Do they need connected to resources? Do they need some communication skills? This generation is not the most skilled at direct conversations. You need to be a teacher and a role-model for them. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying “I hear you and see you. This sounds very frustrating for you. How can I help you?”

  6. Be open to taking risks. To trying something new. To taking and making the time to talk. I spent New Years Day TALKING for 4 hours instead of having a practice. You have no clue the impact your words can truly have. Some of my ramblings have opened the door for my kids to come in the office and disclose big shit. I am very open, very honest, very unfiltered with my team. I don’t know any other way.

  7. Please remove these phrases from your vocabulary:

  8. Tough Girls Don’t Cry

  9. Man Up/Grow a Pair

  10. Positive vibes only

  11. Don’t be a pussy

I hope some of this advice is helpful for you. I wanted to provide you one more tool. This is a tool I developed in my last season at University of Houston. I have since taught this tool to my entire program and will continue to do so and will share it with anyone who wants to use it. Just give credit where credit is due :)


Hannah Burandt’s Wellness & Swimming Wheel- A Holistic Approach to Goal Setting: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uozoAY1BJxlusU7udpLO6yUnN16TcRvr8zX2iU6hav8/edit?usp=sharing


Hannah Burandt’s Resource List: Check out some resources I utilize and recommend to help differentiate your coaching toolbelt

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lO70IYtwGa68-cc_aWe_mpIkwI8GxpsBwKcyTtftuAg/edit?usp=sharing


Please, do not hesitate to reach out. I truly believe that as coaches we are each other’s teammates. I believe in learning and growing. I believe in sharing. We are better together. Be safe, be well, and let’s take care of each other and the sport we all love.


Cleveland State University Director of Athletics Scott Garrett announced the hiring of Hannah Burandt, a Cleveland-area native, as head men's and women's swimming & diving coach June 3, 2019. Burandt led the Vikings to numerous successes in her first season at the helm. She helped both the men’s and women’s programs to runner-up showings at the 2020 Horizon League Championships. On the women’s side, Burandt led the Vikings to the best showing by a CSU squad at the league meet in seven years, in terms of both placement and point total. The Vikings had tied for third in the preseason poll, but CSU not only surged ahead of the team it was tied with but also leapt past the preseason runner-up when it was all said and done. The CSU men won six titles at the league championships under Burandt’s guidance, the program’s second-best mark over the past seven years. Timothy Kubacki and Dominic Poletta both won a pair of individual HL titles while the latter subsequently won two individual titles at the National Invitational Championship. Burandt led the Vikings as they broke school records in six events, three men’s and three women’s, in her first season. Combining the men’s and women’s teams, CSU surpassed NCAA qualifying marks in nine distinct events and posted 89 swims during the season that rewrote the all-time top-10 lists at CSU. Burandt also led Cleveland State to successes away from the pool. During her first semester at CSU, the women’s program posted a 3.55 grade point average, tied for highest in the league. Meanwhile, the men’s team had the most selections to the Horizon League Academic Honor Roll among all league men’s swimming teams in fall 2019. Prior to CSU, Burandt had spent the past six years as a Division I assistant. She returned to Cleveland after spending the past four seasons as the assistant swimming and diving coach at Houston, playing a significant role in the revitalization of the program. Burandt played a large role in Houston going from worst-to-first in just two years in the American Athletic Conference. In her first season on staff, the Cougars leapt from last place to third place as the program produced six individual conference champions. In the 2016-17 season, Houston won its first conference title in program history, winning the meet by over 100 points. The Cougars continued to excel after that first championship, winning AAC titles in each of the next two years, as they increased their conference championship point total in each of Burandt's four seasons. Houston sent three individuals to the NCAA Championships in 2018, the most from any school outside a Power-Five conference. Houston scored its most points (916) at a conference meet in 40 years in 2018-19 and posted 15 NCAA 'B' times while sending another student-athlete to the NCAA Championships. Burandt also helped improve the team academic culture upon her arrival at Houston. The team grade point average increased in each of her four years, culminating with a 3.50 mark in 2018-19, the best in program history. Prior to Houston, Burandt spent time on staff at both Georgetown and Louisville. She helped the Hoyas to Big East runner-up men's and women's finishes in 2015 and a combined 23 all-conference honors. While at Louisville, Burandt helped the Cardinals to men's and women's AAC Championships in 2014 along with a pair of top-15 NCAA Championship finishes. The women posted their highest NCAA finish to date that season while the men's team won two individual national titles. Burandt began her collegiate coaching career at nearby Oberlin College where she also aided the Associate Athletic Director with facilities management and scheduling responsibilities. Burandt was a four-time Mid-American Conference champion at Eastern Michigan University and achieved NCAA 'B' cuts in the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle and 800 freestyle relay. She was a Mid-Major All-America Honorable Mention selection and helped set school records in all three freestyle relays. She also played a role in helping the Eagles claim their first two MAC titles in program history in 2006 and 2007. A native of Parma, Ohio, and a graduate of Parma High School, Burandt graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Michigan in 2009. She proceeded to earn a Master of Science degree in sport administration from Louisville in 2018.

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