Written By: Dana Skelton
Connection - A relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else.
Connection - An energy exchange between people who are paying attention to one another. It has the power to deepen the moment, inspire change, and build trust.
Connection - Being or feeling socially, emotionally, and spiritually linked with others.
Connection #1- I was doing a team visit and went to a practice to watch. There was a young girl working on her flip turns. I worked with her for about 15 minutes, providing her some feedback. She got it! It was so fun to watch and the excitement on her face was contagious. After practice, while waiting to be picked up, she came over and started chatting. We talked about what grade she was in, what she was doing for Spring Break, and what she liked about swimming. We both left the pool deck smiling!
Connection #2- I recently had a 10-year-old in my group come to practice and start crying. She shared that a family dog had recently passed away and she got a bad grade in school. We sat and talked for about 10 minutes. She left the conversation with a smile, had a great practice, and went home happy.
The difference…the first connection took 15 minutes, while the second connection took a year and half to develop. Whether the connect is small or big, takes 10 minutes or 2 years, every connection makes an impact on our lives and the lives of others around us.
Why are connections so important to the life of a coach?
Provides motivation to continue doing what we do.
Our own personal health- strong relationships make us happier and healthier, stronger socially and emotionally. When you know you have a support system, this brings a sense of belonging.
When we connect with our athletes, what they can achieve is greater.
Provides opportunities to learn and grow in your career.
Connections create engagement and loyalty to your team.
Just to name a few!
How to Practice: Like so many of the Words to Grow By articles, making connections is a skill that can be learned and improved upon!
Be Present- Notice in the moment, is this a time to coach/critique or a time to simply connect?
Think of Others- Feeling valued is the catalyst for connection. Others need to know you care, regardless of anything that happens. Make sure you put the person first.
Get to Know Them- Find common ground and build upon it.
Practice Communication Skills (especially listening)- Listening helps people feel important in every interaction. Remember, what you say is important, but your tone and body language speak volumes!
Be Trustworthy- Let them know they can count on you.
Develop a Judgement Free Zone- Accept them as they are.
Be Patient and Consistent- Show up when they need you and remind yourself, that making a connect can often take time.
Take Responsibility- Many connections will be organic and happen naturally, while some take time and need someone to keep trying to find a connection.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Dana is in her 14th season with the First Colony Swim Team. She is the lead coach for Age Group 1, where she gets the privilege to work with the 9- & 10-year-olds. She is also the Head Developmental Coach, working with the awesome coaches in the novice groups. She is an ASCA Level 3 certified coach. Dana started her coaching career with the East Bay Bat Rays in California. This introduction to USA Swimming kick-started her love of coaching, working with young swimmers, and learning what it means to be a great coach. Her coaching philosophy includes doing what is best for each child, parent, and coach in the sport. Focusing on what we can do as a collective whole to promote the sport, help everyone become better people, and have the children see the benefits of working hard. She uses an IM based training (with lots of kick) to ensure the young athletes have a solid base to keep developing through the sport. Dana has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Kinesiology from California State University, East Bay. She enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 daughters. Hobbies include being active, being crafty/creative, exploring the great state of Texas, and seeking out education to continue improving herself (on and off the deck).
FCST rep for Gulf Masters
Texas All Star Camp coaching staff
Southern Zone Select Camp coaching staff
Meet Task Force for Gulf Swimming TPC
Committee Chair for the Texas Select Camp
USA Swimming Age Group Committee Member
Committee Chair for Gulf Club Development Committee