By By Lauren Hardy//Contributor | Thursday, November 6, 2014
At age 12, Kim Seaman, who is now the Georgia Stingrays Lead Coach, had a decision to make: commit to swimming year-round, or pursue a competitive tennis career.
“I loved both sports, but I always had a deeper passion for swimming that I couldn’t shake,” Seaman says.After dedicating herself to the sport of swimming, Seaman never looked back. She says she knew it was exactly where she was supposed to be, and the same has held true for her swim-coaching career.
“From my very first coaching position right out of college, I have always loved being a coach,” she says. “I had a bit of fear starting out, but in time I realized how fortunate I am to have a job where I do not feel like what I am doing is ‘work,’ but is rather truly fun and meaningful.”
With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in kinesiology with an emphasis in coaching, Seaman says that understanding motivation and sport psychology has been critical to her success as a coach. In her studies, Seaman learned that intrinsic motivation (motivation from within) is tied to an individual’s perceived sense of autonomy, belonging and competency, and she remains aware of those three needs when working with her swimmers.
To give her swimmers individual ownership over their swimming and decisions, Seaman gives them choices that allow for autonomy and encourage an open environment.
“I want my athletes to feel like they can freely talk with me and ask questions,” she says. “I also strive to promote a team spirit and positivity toward everyone on the team so that all feel encouraged each day – both by me, as their coach, and by the group as a whole. This works towards creating belonging. As for competency, I rely on teaching and instruction to create an overall sense of confidence.”
As the coach of the Stingrays’ youngest swimmers—ages 6-14—Seaman appreciates the responsibility that comes with setting the foundation upon which swimmers enter the sport. Her greatest achievement? “Seeing my swimmers keep coming back for more because they love it!” she says.
Before joining the Stingrays coaching staff, Seaman coached for various summer leagues, schools and other USA Swimming club teams. This year, she was selected as one of nine coaches in the country to be a 2013-2014 ASCA fellow, which has allowed her to further develop her skills as a coach. Of the many people she has met through ASCA, her new friendship with Doug Ingram has inspired her to become a more organized, humble and service-oriented coach.
Seaman is also currently working with the Stingrays to implement a new program called LAPS that will allow for some flexibility in the year-round swimming structure.
“The program will seek to give athletes of other sports, as well as swimmers with competitive and/or non-competitive goals the opportunity to be involved in swimming. Through that open door, my goal is to reach more young children with a love for swimming, health, and fitness,” she says.
Whatever program Seaman has worked in, she has found that through it all, keeping a positive attitude, being intentional and caring about swimmers is the ultimate pathway to victory.
Here are five of Seaman’s specific keys to success:
1. Enthusiasm – It’s contagious and helps make swimming fun for everyone.
2. Purpose - Seeing the importance and impact behind my job in the lives of children creates a deep dedication within me to do my best for them.
3. Relationship minded – I take my swimmers seriously no matter how young they are or how naïve their questions may seem to be. I think they sense this, which gives them the confidence to ask questions and really grow and learn from where they are.
4. Setting clear expectations – Communicating to my swimmers my expectations for behavior, safety, and effort level allow the fun atmosphere I strive for to be possible and still effective for reaching the goals of the practice and program.
5. Being open to grow and learn myself – I was always listening to every word my coaches said as a swimmer myself, and I see myself still using what they taught me. Additionally, I always try to be open to learning and growing so I can keep improving myself.