The key to good coaching is having fun

I started part time coaching for learn to swim awhile back ago under the Swim Lab in hopes to inspire younger kids to be the future talents of Singapore Swimming. Honestly, I love these kids a lot! It was definitely a one of a kind experience and I’ve learnt a lot coaching them.


Meet Xander, a student of mine during my part time coaching. Learn to swim coaching is a totally different ball game for me. The emphasis wasn’t so much about stroke mechanics and technique, which was what I was actually expecting when coaching this kids. Instead, the focus was more on the basic fundamentals of swimming, like helping them fully submerge their head underwater.

Sounds easy, right?

WRONG. It was SUPER hard trying to get these kids to put their head in the water.

“Coach Sheng Jun, I really cannot put my head in the water…”
“Why? *puts my head in the water “See, nothing wrong right?”
“Because… There are monsters deep inside the swimming pool.” 

Looking back at it now it was really cute of them to say that, but it does train my patience at times.

Xander was really afraid to put his head in the water as he was kinda traumatized because he fell in the pool when he was young, therefore the fear stayed with him until now.

There were times that it really frustrated me that he couldn’t put his head in the pool, because I really wanted him to enjoy swimming, but the fear of putting his head in the pool was killing his passion for the sport. I could tell that he was trying his best to put his head in but he was just too afraid to do it.


But every time I was about to get angry at Xander, I started to smile again as it kinda brought back memories of myself back in the days where I was so afraid to put my head in the water as well. I was lucky to have really patient learn to swim coaches who constantly reassured me that everything would be ok, because that made me enjoy swimming even more.

So instead of scolding Xander, I constantly reassured him that everything would be ok. Even though it seemed like an impossible task for him to put his head in the water, I never gave up on him, because I knew that he would put his head in eventually.

To further assist in his mission to put his head in the pool, it was really nice for his dad to bring some waterproof toys for us to play, and I was really grateful for that. The game was pretty simple – To pick the toys up from the bottom of the pool in order to ‘win’ the game. Which made swimming much more exciting and enjoyable for him.

… I thought this was the trick to make Xander put his head in the pool without realizing it.

However, let me tell you this – Xander was a really smart kid. I told him that he had to pick the toy up before he could go home as I thought that that would finally make him put his head in the water. Instead, he used his legs and picked the toy up.

“Coach! I did it! I picked the toy up, so can I go home now? You said I could!” 

It seriously left me speechless, but I had to give it to him, that was a really smart move and I had to honor my agreement as well.

“Yes, Xander, I promised that you can go home, but next week will be different, so be prepared!” 

“Hehe, thanks coach! I will put my head in next week I promise. :)” That was what I really liked about coaching Xander, he always kept a positive mindset that he would one day overcome the fear of putting his head in the pool. 

Eventually, with the help of underwater toys, Xander managed to put his head in with ease by the end of the 7th lesson.


“See, Coach Sheng Jun, I managed to put my head in!!!!” Xander exclaimed happily.

There was a really strong sense of accomplishment when I saw his happiness as he put his head in the pool; this happiness was something that money cannot buy, and I’m glad that I was part of this process of overcoming his fear.

This really goes to show that having fun is equally as effective when it comes to coaching, because at the end of the day, he has learnt the same fundamental skill, but it was learnt out of passion, not fear. It may have took him a longer time, but it didn’t jeopardize the passion he had for swimming. Swimming is a long career path so it’s really ok if he took more lessons to master this fundamental skill.

There is a strong difference between doing something out of passion instead of fear, and I’m proud to say that Xander managed to submerge his head in the water because he truly wanted to do it, and I didn’t force it upon him. That made him enjoy the process even more.

I know that there’s a possibility that he may have done it out of fear in the 4th or 5th session, but that would have killed his passion for the sport if he had accomplished this goal out of fear, which is not something that we want especially when it comes to kids who just started to swim. I’m glad that I managed to keep my patience towards Xander.

Overall, It was definitely an unforgettable experience and a great opportunity to be able to get some experience through coaching these learn to swim kids. It has given me a clearer idea on what kind of coach I want to be next time.

There are 3 types of coaching styles –
1) The authoritative coach
2) The submissive coach
3) The cooperative coach.

As I start my coaching career next time I aspire to be a cooperative coach, whereby it wouldn’t be so much of instilling fear in them before they listen to me. Instead, they would swim with fun and passion – that way, their passion for swimming would grow stronger day by day and they would be swimming not for me, but for their own self achievement.


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One Reply to “The key to good coaching is having fun”

  1. Hi,

    I have a daughter that don’t let her face go underwater no matter how hard we tried. She went to swimming class before but stopped her swimming lesson already as she cannot proceed further until she manage to put her face or head under water … last time a coach holding her and on count of 3 held her waist and let her go under water she scream then we change coach now she can swim around only with float and head above water … I don’t know how to make her start even I have think of using toys etc but she reluctant to follow or get into the tricks.

    Can u provide any tips or swim lesson for her? And has one son never learn swimming before and was thinking let them both learn together … Pls advise if u did teach swimming ? If yes where and the fees is how much tks. I stay in Bishan HDB.

    Ms Hng

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