Coach and Manager


Coach or Manager? Coach and Manager!

by Dick Hannula for ISCA's Classic Collection

I have served as a coach and as a manager on USA's international teams. In this capacity, the manager has defined areas outside of direct coaching. The manager gets his/her hands a little dirtier in the work process, but the manager has to think and act like a coach to be the most productive in the role of manager. This separation from manager and coach is not so evident when we play the role of coach on our own teams.

Dick Hannula throwback black-and-white photo

Dick Hannula, classic photo of classic coach and leader.

Successful business managers are coaches.

They are in the people business. To be productive, they must manage people in such a way to give success the highest possible chance. Managers coach people. Coaches manage people. We strive to have our athletes attain the highest productivity levels. We continue to assess our goals and shoot for new attainment levels. We must effectively manage people in order for this to happen.

Successful managers and successful coaches are leaders. Excellent leaders have guts, and they share an ability to get people to focus their attention on one or two key goals.

Successful leaders believe. They believe in accountability, in leadership, and in persistence. This is what a coach should be teaching. It requires discipline. It is discipline.

I have told my swimmers that the greatest gift that swimming can give to each of them is self discipline. It is not a college scholarship, travel, or some other tangible reward. 

When we believe in accountability, attendance is important. Punctuality is important. And, mental tenacity is important. Accountability accepts self discipline.

When we believe in leadership, we give opportunities to swimmers to step out of the pack, to break away and provide leadership.

When we believe in persistence, we can learn-by-defeat and learn-by-failure. Every such failure is only temporary nonsuccess. Success is just another step, or two, or three away.

It isn't getting knocked down that determines the eventual winner, it is how quickly you get back up, and what you do after getting back on your feet. 

Persistence is necessary for any major success. Leadership and persistence require self discipline.

How does a manager get employees to stay on course and focus on your company's goals?

These came directly from a business magazine article.

  • (1) Inaugurate the new target or plan with a highly visible, symbolic, or dramatic event.
  • (2) Consistently stress the critical theme in the day to day activities.
  • (3) Celebrate small wins. When you see some success, recognize it.
  • (4) Don't ever give up. Effective leaders are those who through "courageous patience" drive new ideas into being. By the 60th time you call attention to your goal, you are just beginning to mobilize support among your people.
  • (5) As you relentlessly push your priorities, treat people with care. Leadership is not the raw exercise of power, but the ability to get talent and energy directed towards a worthwhile goal.

If this is true for the successful business manager, then how much more true for the successful swimming coach. Many times we started our high school season with a major goal of winning the state championship. One year, we had “#1 buttons.” Another year the team’s t-shirt said, "Twenty years, and still no peers."

We always stressed a critical theme -- train hard, swim fast to make it happen. You have to keep coming back to this on a daily basis, as team members begin to lose focus. We celebrate small wins. Put names on special boards. Chart special point additions on a point accumulation chart. Even a handshake at the right time is part of the recognition process for small wins.

How can a swim coach or swimmer attain success if someone gives up with any perceived failure. We are never super every day. We all get tired sometime.

Stop watches and pace clocks rarely break. Time is always present to measure our daily successes (and temporary non-successes).

We must have "courageous patience" in ourselves and especially in the swimmers that we coach. Teaching a skill is never teaching it once. Teaching a skill may be repeating it, in one way or another, more than a 1,000 times in any swimmer's career.


No champion became a champion overnight. No coach became successful without the patience to permit what might be.

As you push your priorities, treat people with care.

How many parents have stepped over the line and angered their children and diminished their respect?

How many coaches can mix authority and care to attain the best results?

In business and in coaching, too much emphasis on success may have an unexpected backlash -- failure.

Every coach and every manager must recognize when intensity has become self defeating. There must be times to laugh, and times to play in every successful endeavor. Watch for early warning signs of chronic, sloppy performances by swimmers and/or by coaches. Denial, anger and fear are signs too.

Crisis avoidance.

The pre-crisis period can be used constructively to break tension, and avoid the crisis showdown.

When a team is worn down from academic finals and long, hard training, it can be jolted back to a healthy, happy spirit by a break in the training routine.

What if the squad goes to the beach for a day as a team?

What if we play SKWIM or do water polo passing as a team activity?

What if calls are made for a pizza treat after a short relay workout?

There are hundreds of ways to deal with a pre-crisis situation. Each coach can use his/her best tools. The secret is to be able to recognize that things are not going well, and that we have to change directions and the emphasis for a short time, in order to get everyone back on course.

Setting goals.

Setting goals too high by the coach, or manager; or by the swimmers, or employees can also be self defeating. In order for real, living goals, then the coach and the swimmers must be able to see those goals as attainable throughout every grueling training session.

The team must have a say in what the goals will be. Business managers have learned that employees work best when they have a say in their directions. Coaches and managers need to develop team input.

Accountability and the freedom to make choices go hand in hand. If one is accountable, then that person has to be given the freedom to make his/her own choices. You can't have one without the other. Accountability must always include evaluation. If you are held accountable for your level of performance, then it is necessary that the performance be evaluated.

Good managers can keep their employees focused on the purpose of their work. Good coaches can keep their swimmers focused on the purpose of their training.

Coaches and managers must be leaders. Real leadership begins with respect for people. A person is not a leader until his or her people accept him or her as their leader. Great leaders have a respect for their followers. That respect runs as deep as their respect for that leader.

Leadership is getting the job done through people, and leadership is being the person that people want to follow.

Successful coaches and managers must be persistent.

Persistence is determination. There is no substitute for a determined belief that hard work and effort will pay off. It is the willingness to endure to the end. It is stubbornness with a purpose. It comes from a decision to reach a goal that is in sight. When you find a goal, and make a commitment, then all that is left is to persist. Successful coaches and managers know this, and they accept it as the price of achievement.

Successful business managers have a clear vision of where they are going, and they have a pressing need to succeed. Successful swimming coaches also have a clear vision of where they are going, what they are doing, and a pressing need to succeed. This separates the successful coach/manager from the average coach/manager. Be a coach and manage. Be a manager and coach. You can't have one without the other, and still count yourself successful. Coach and manager!

by Dick Hannula for ISCA's Classic Collection

Dick Hannula is a Hall of Fame coach, author, and a role model. His classic articles still ring true today. Coach Hannula was a successful high school, club, college, and international coach before his retirement.

Wilson High School (Tacoma, WA) was undefeated in 323 consecutive dual meets while winning for 24 consecutive state championships. He coached and managed several international teams, was president of the ASCA, and authored several books and articles.

Dick Hannula throwback black-and-white photo

Dick Hannula, classic photo of classic coach and leader.

You may also like

Helping those with hearing and vision issues – out of Canada

Helping those with hearing and vision issues – out of Canada

Kevin’s first song hits YouTube

Kevin’s first song hits YouTube

ESPN virtual even on November 9

ESPN virtual even on November 9

World Swim Day! October 28

World Swim Day! October 28

Presentations from Dr. Ernie Maglischo in Chicago and Philadelphia

Presentations from Dr. Ernie Maglischo in Chicago and Philadelphia

Page [tcb_pagination_current_page] of [tcb_pagination_total_pages]

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Let's be more social and share!