Adult swimmers' reports of personal and social developmental benefits associated with having a Masters swim coach


There has been recent interest in the relationship between Masters sport participation and older adults’ positive development (Baker, Fraser-Thomas, Dionigi, & Horton, 2010). Coaches influence many technical and performance aspects in Masters sport (Rathwell, Callary, Ambrogio, & Young, 2014), and may also impact different outcomes relating to personal and social development. This presentation explores Masters swimmers’ perceptions of personal and social developmental benefits associated with having a swim coach. We conducted semi-structured interviews with ten competitive swimmers aged 45-65 years (5 male, 5 female, M weekly hrs of swimming = 4, range 2.5-7). Masters swimmers were interviewed about experiences within coached competitive swim programs and were prompted to discuss their coaches’ influence on their personal development inside and outside of swimming. Interviews were explored using an interpretative phenomenological analysis (Smith, 2010). Results show swimmers were divided in their opinions about their coaches’ influence on developmental outcomes. Some swimmers felt their coaches helped develop their personal confidence, feelings of competence in swimming, and commitment to learning. Further, they described how coaches facilitated opportunities for community involvement, leadership, and social exchanges. Conversely, other swimmers noted their coaches’ roles had limits and felt coaches were only responsible for athletic development. Finally, many swimmers initially disclaimed the coaches’ role, yet subsequently articulated developmental outcomes attributed to their coach. Findings highlight unique developmental outcomes and experiences for adult athletes (Baker et al., 2010). Further, these results suggest that when compared to working with younger cohorts, coaches have different roles in developing personal and social outcomes when coaching Masters athletes.  Funding for this research was provided by Cape Breton University’s Office of Research and SSHRC.