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The Importance of Language

Written By: Nico Messer

Another challenging year has come to close and I would like to first and foremost say “Thank You” for going above and beyond of what might be expected of you in your daily coaching life. I believe we have all relearned during this pandemic that communication is a crucial, if not the most important part in our profession working with athletes.

Language has so many benefits, it may seem obvious why language is important: language is a vital part of human connection, language allows us to share our ideas, thoughts, and feelings with others.

Coaching is about transferring knowledge and language is integral to our everyday lives, where speaking and writing are the primary tools for expression and communication.

ProSwimWorkouts X Streamline Teams

2022 is going to be an exciting year! The ST and PSW partnership will further strengthen our common goal of connecting coaches to coaches and building “the professional network” for the swimming coaches community. PSW will be providing a blog post every month and run different Mentorship Teams throughout the year. Stay tuned for the official announcement and more details from the ST crew!

Understanding the role of language is important for anyone who coaches

Let me provide some context as to why I choose language as the topic for this first post. Growing up in Switzerland, I spent my Age Group years in a city with two teams - not because of the fact that there were enough athletes interested in swimming to run two separate clubs but because one of them was for the German and one of them for the French speaking citizens (think inclusion although there is a funny story going with this one as well).

Take this to the next level and you’ll find yourself among athletes talking German, French, and Italian (or English as the “official” language for the National Team). Luckily in Switzerland most people are used to talking to someone not necessarily speaking your own language but probably understanding enough of it to have a conversation with each responding in his own tongue.

Needless to say that language has been an important part of my “career” early on. However, I really only realized the impact language can have when I started coaching in the Florida Keys working with athletes from Developmental to High School ages. English isn’t my first language and although the general swimming lingo came quite easy to me, I spent a good amount of my time preparing for practices online browsing different “dictionaries” looking up synonyms (or other words) in order to improve my communication with the athletes.

Your job as a coach is to communicate with your athletes in a way that helps them to get more out of themselves!

Language is a powerful tool, and how you communicate as a coach goes a long way towards shaping your team’s culture and environment. Therefore if you want to improve your coaching and help your athletes get better, you need to improve your communication. Learn to incorporate more effective language and be intentional about the language you use.

After moving back to Switzerland to take on my first Head Coach position, I was once again made aware of that very fact and upon recommendation decided to go through some coaching myself. This person shadowed me on several occasions before, during, and after our practices (even joined us on our winter training trip). He also spent time talking to the athletes and made recordings (audio and video) from some of our sessions for the big review at the end. “The reveal” was in many ways shocking! But let me assure you that it was the best thing for my coaching and our team! As our communication improved, so did our coach-athlete relationships and eventually it showed big time in our performances!

You can find a few interesting mic’d up coaching videos from Swimming Australia online. In case my rambling above didn’t convince you maybe these videos will provide the motivation to try it for yourself. It for sure would be my “one thing” for you to try to improve your coaching in 2022!

Wishing all of you coaches reading, your staff, your athletes, and your teams a successful year!

Nicolas Messer is in his second season as the Head Coach of the Swim Regio Solothurn in Switzerland and the founder of the ProSwimWorkouts platform. Previous coaching stops included working with the High Performance Program of the Swiss Armed Forces and other club teams in Switzerland. Nico has also spent time living and coaching in Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway) as well as in the US.

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