Episode 47 – Planning

Your Sports Resource

In this episode, we kick off our series on planning by exploring how coaches can create the necessary space for reflection and what key factors to consider during this vital process.

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00:00:03 – Introduction

This is the Your Sports Resource Podcast, where each week you’ll learn actionable strategies that you can implement so the operations of your club support your coaching staff and the direction of your organization. We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.


00:00:26 – Renata

Hello everyone and welcome to the Your Sports Resource podcast. My name is Renata and today I have Matt Bos joining me. We are gonna have a discussion about planning. So welcome Matt.


We thought this would be really good timing since we’re coming out of the long course season, so we’re ending the year so to speak.


We thought it would be a great time to start sharing with everyone our thoughts on. Planning for the next year, so the 2023-2024 short course of long season, and next year is such a massive year for a lot of clubs and university programs.


So, we are hoping that this is great timing for everybody. So today what we’re going to discuss is we’re going to do a little bit about reflection and how to prepare for your planning.


And then we’re going to get into a little bit of some operational thoughts that I think are important.


And then the next few episodes, Jack wrote, he’s going to also join us and we’re going to get into more deeply into the wet side and we’re going to talk about seasonal and quad planning.


And you know, maybe even some coach coaching strategies as far as development is concerned and those will be on the next sessions.


So, let’s start today talking about how do we get into the overall reflection of the previous season. So that would be or seasons or year, both short course and long course.


So, what should a coach do from your perspective, Matt, as far as making space to do that reflection and you know, and what are some of the things that maybe should be considered when you go through that process?


00:02:20 – Matt

Yeah, I mean, as we get now towards, like you said, the end of long course, you got to kind of start looking ahead because short course season is coming up faster than we probably would.


Maybe some people would like as you get there, now is the time to start kind of going through that preparation.


So, as you get through your season, I think it’s always good to, once you get through championship meets, to kind of look back and say, okay, here’s kind of where we were, here’s where we wanted to be, here’s what worked well for us, here’s what didn’t work well for us.


So, you can start making those changes as you go into kind of that little probably break and into short course season. So, you’re going to look at that from the athlete standpoint. I know we’re going to kind of touch base with Jack and kind of dig into that.


But from the coaching side of it, what worked well for me this year, what are things that I’d like to see change? And as you kind of look at your club, it’s, what did we do well as a coaching staff, right?


What are the things that we really honed in on that we thought worked with the athletes? Did we have the coaches in the right spots? Did we have them working with the right athletes? And are there things that if you’re a head coach, are there things that you can do to help support them better? Right.


There’s going to be things that you may identify that you’re like, hey, they did a great job with this, but we could also kind of support them with a little bit more of something specific to kind of see that group maybe advance more.


And this is also the time where you’re going to kind of look and consider making changes. And that’s not a bad thing, right? It’s not saying that, hey, this just didn’t work well. You know, sometimes it’s just the environment makes a big difference on how the athletes are going to perform.


So sometimes you want to just kind of look at making changes as an organization or as individuals on what can we do to best suit our athletes, to kind of perform the best. And a lot of times that environment has a lot to do with it. And then obviously, you said there’s a lot of operational stuff, right?


00:04:45 – Renata

Right. From a reflection on the wet side. So, should a coach look at the results? And I know that’s hard when you’re going, I understand in the elite and the top age groups, but when you get in the lower age groups, this may be a little bit more difficult, but should they look at how the swimmers perform?


And I don’t mean placement, I mean individual performance and improvement, right? Should they look at that and then compare that to how they trained and the structure of their groups? Does that help inform what needs to be improved?


00:05:26 – Matt

Yeah. And I mean, everybody should be at the beginning of the season, there should be if we have a specific group, we should have kind of a general set of goals for that group where we want to see them progress.


And then obviously you break it down to the individual and some are going to get there, some are not. But as a group, you want to look at and say, hey, here was the intention for this group this year.


Here’s what we wanted to see from them, and did we accomplish that? And then right. It’s not necessarily where did we place where were the time drops, necessarily, because that does matter. But at the end of the day, we’re looking at development.


So now we’re moving in from kind of one season, and now we’re going to kind of replan what that short course season is going to look like as far as a competition schedule. And then we’re going to get into kind of training cycles and things like that.


So those are the times now we’re like, okay, maybe some of the stuff we did worked really well, maybe it didn’t. So then if it didn’t, it’s like, you know, okay, now we cross that off and we don’t do it again. Maybe, but maybe some of those things did work well, and now we want to expand on it.


So, I think that’s really up to those coaches, and as a staff, that’s crucial when you’re planning, right? And it should be where you have those kids in a group or training with somebody and there is that kind of group goals for them, and then you can kind of break it down individually.


00:06:59 – Renata

Okay, so for me, from my perspective, I would go back to just typical planning behavior, right?


So, I would say that let’s say you’re looking across the board and you’re noticing that in one group or one area that they really didn’t kind of meet the performance expectations or didn’t move in the same percentage of success as all the other groups.


So, I mean, that could come down to a myriad of things. So, once you’re recognizing some gaps, then you’ve got to really evaluate what falls into that.


So, is it because you have a new coach that’s just learning and maybe you need to spend more time with them or get them into more ASCA courses? Right. Is it because you have a coach that’s unwilling to learn and unwilling to shift and change?


That’s a behavior situation that you need to evaluate. Is it because you really don’t have a clean and concise plan across the board on how your groups flow from each other? Right.


So, you would expect there’s a baseline for your eight and unders that they have to know before they move into nine and ten. And so maybe there’s that flow of structure or expectations or criteria that they’re not meeting.


So, I think from my perspective, when you’re doing that overall reflection, especially when you’re talking about athletes and what’s happening in the water and your human nature with coaches, I don’t think you can superficially look at one item and go, oh yeah, that’s it.


You got to really dig deeper because it could be many different variables. So, on the reflection, obviously, you need to look at how you’re competing, how that translated into how you built your plans for training, and then kind of understand where the gaps are there.


I think the other thing that we’ll probably talk in the next episode, but I just want to touch on it here is really reviewing your seasonal or quad plan and how did that work and how did all those pieces fit together with each group.


Is there anything that we should probably call out in today’s episode for them to evaluate as far as those are concerned?


00:09:31 – Matt

Yeah, I think it’s first have a plan, right? You shouldn’t be going into a season without at least what that seasonal plan. And then we can expand that out to a quad plan.


If that’s something that your club is kind of doing and it doesn’t even necessarily need to be the quad plan, right? Maybe it’s you breaking it down into smaller where it’s, hey, we got a two-year plan for each group of athletes or a certain group of athletes.


Because what you want to see is at some point you should have some sort of criteria that, hey, if they’re in this group to move up to that next group, they need to be able to do these kinds of certain things. So that’s part of it.


But having a training plan is something that you can kind of then reflect on, right? So, if you don’t have it, it’s hard to make those changes where you can’t kind of go back and look and say, hey, here’s what we were doing, here’s what we saw with our athletes.


All right, maybe we need to do a little bit more of this, a little less of this. Maybe we need to give them a little more recovery. And there’s so many aspects of that that can kind of fall in.


So, yeah, I think every year it should be or every season from short course to long course and then back to short course, like, hey, what have we done? Where do we want to make those changes again? So, it is crucial.


00:10:49 – Renata

Yeah, so it should be an ever-evolving right? Because you would think that swimming is a pretty straightforward sport. But no, I mean, there’s so much changes as far as training is concerned. So, I take your point that you actually have to have a plan first.


So if you don’t have a plan and creating a plan that works for you as an organization, so it may not necessarily be a four-year plan, you may choose to do smaller increments, or you just choose to look at seasonal whatever it works for you and your comfort level and then understanding what that looks like across the board.


I think the next step would be how are you planning to get that message across to all your coaches as to what the seasonal plan is, what their seasonal plan is, and making sure that it all kind of aligns and matches up for the yearly plan.


So, I guess my other thought process, as you’re doing this evaluation piece or this reflection piece, that you also think through how you’re going to communicate it and how you’re gathering the information. I would hate that the head coach does everything in isolation.


They really shouldn’t. They should be asking for feedback from their other coaches. And then also, even if they feel like they’ve got it all sussed out, there may be little things that they’ve missed that if they got the feedback from other coaches, that would help inform them better.


But also, the best way to get all of your people to engage in some type of change that you want to affect or improvement that you want to create is to get them part of the process. So, you need to engage them in how you communicate it out and get it across.


So really, part of your planning needs to be, okay, how am I going to receive information back from my coaches, and how am I going to disseminate it back out to make sure that we’re all on the same page?


00:12:56 – Matt 

Yeah, well, many minds usually work better than one, right? And those are the people, like, if they’re with those groups, they know those kids better than coaches who aren’t working with those.


Yeah, it is definitely a group effort, and that goes obviously, as the whole team. Right. Now, there’s the operational and business side of it as well, that we need to kind of look and plan and kind of look at as well.


00:13:21 – Renata

Yeah, absolutely. So, the more feedback you get, the better the decisions will be. Now, I’m not saying you decide via committee, but you can only make decisions based on the information that you truly know, not what you think you know.


So I think you have to get that feedback to make sure you actually know. All right, so you’ve brought up operational a couple of times. Let’s go ahead and move into a few areas.


And there’s a lot of different operational things that you can do from a planning perspective, but I’ve got a few that I really want to go across that I feel like as you, as coaches are planning for your new year, that you really need to think through how you’re giving and getting feedback.


So, the first area that I want to talk about is your end-of-year reviews and whatever that looks like. So it could be that how are you doing your staff evaluations? Are you doing things like 360 reviews where you’re collecting information from your peers or the person’s peers, their direct reports, and then their manager? Right.


Or are you a coach who’s been paying attention, has taken notes, and you just want to provide feedback for that review and gain feedback through that process? Are you getting information from your members on how the year went?


I know in both of these processes, a lot of coaches, okay, they feel like it’s either too business-like, which you are a business, let’s not forget that. But the other side of it is they sometimes just don’t want to hear the negative feedback.


But I think you have to go through the ugly in order to get through the good. I know a lot of teams have dismissed their membership surveys completely. They’re not doing them at all, which I think does you a disservice.


Yes, you’re going to have the complainers, but there’s probably some really good positive meaty feedback that your coaches would love to hear, to know that they’re doing a good job. Or if there’s areas that have like if there’s a thread of everybody’s kind of saying, hey, you got a gap here, why would you not listen to that?


So, I think the first step for me is in order to inform you on planning if you have not already done it, you need to get on the ball and actually do your reviews of your staff, so you know how to develop them and you need to gain feedback from your membership.


00:16:07 – Matt

Yeah. We got to remember we’re there for the membership. Right. And I think you touched on it. Sometimes you can learn more from a bad review as well. Right.


I mean, it’s you should be able to take some information from all of those. But if you’re there to serve your membership, then finding ways to do that. You know, this like you stay within if it’s within the mission and the values of your program.


So, you’re not saying to change drastically what you’re doing, but there’s always going to be little things that we can look at to say, hey, this maybe does make a better experience for people.


00:16:45 – Renata

Yeah. And the other thing is going back to the coaches and probably even the board, a lot of times the focus goes on the negative because the positive people really aren’t giving feedback.


So, you may have a handful of complainers, and your assumption or the board’s assumption is that the club is just not successful when you know in your heart or your gut that you guys are successful. So, by avoiding getting that feedback from the membership, you’re removing all opportunities for you to hear that positive information.


Because typically people don’t just say positive things. You have to ask them like, hey, how are we doing? And then you get all that feedback, and you find out that that negative information is like 1% of your membership.


So why are you focusing so hard on that? Right. Sometimes people just need that reassurance. So again, the starting place is doing your end of reviews and your surveys, and then that will inform how you communicate and do a few other things.


Now I’m going to Pivot, and I want to go into budgeting because I think that I think that coaches aren’t trained very well. I don’t think they really care, but they should about doing an appropriate budget.


And I want to talk about it a bit as far as how to look at your budget, how to understand where you need to make adjustments, and being solid and grounded in asking for what you need. A lot of times the boards will go, hey, you didn’t put it in your budget. Well, now’s your time.


So, what are your thoughts as far as gathering the data and the information that you need in order to prepare to make an appropriate budget request or propose a budget?


00:18:51 – Matt

There’s going to be things you’ve probably been discussing over the season, over the course of this season, maybe the last couple where, hey, we need to do this, we should get this piece of equipment. So now is the time, right? And that is having information, doing that little bit of research.


And this is not huge time-consuming stuff. This is just saying, hey, we’ve been talking about wanting to change some things or getting some, like I said, some equipment. Maybe let’s put that down, understand why we want it.


So, then we could potentially go back to the board and say, hey, here’s the reasons we want to make these changes. We want to travel to maybe these different meets, this is why we’re going to do it. But it does take just that little bit of planning, that little bit of research then to have that information to kind of go back with them.


Because it doesn’t usually typically work well when you kind of are in the middle of it and it’s like, hey, maybe we’re budgeted to just make it through this season. So, adding something in at that last minute doesn’t help. And then, I mean, obviously there’s other factors that are going to influence.

00:19:56 – Renata

Those changes midyear happen. They’re going to come up like a pump is going to blow or something like that. They’re going to happen. But that’s really not what we’re talking about.


I really want everybody to front foot their thought process and I think a lot of times coaches just look at their staff salaries. So, let’s talk about staff salaries. Let’s talk about recruitment because I know right now, I just saw the latest post from SwimSwam.


I just can’t believe the number of open jobs that are out there right now. It’s just crazy. Clubs are having a hard time recruiting quality coaches, right? So, think of it this way, if you need to recruit and you know you’re having a hard time recruiting, maybe you need to rethink your offerings.


And it’s not just about salary, right? A big portion of it is culture. Like people want to go where they know they’re going to be valued and feel valued. Okay, so there’s that. But let’s park it because we’re talking about budget.


So, you also need to think about, are there new incentives you guys should be thinking about? Are there different benefits that you should be offering? Should there be a bonus program that is not just for the head coach but trickles down?


I think when it comes to salaries, I think you as head coaches need to sit down and go, what can I do to not only attract quality coaches to my team, but how do I keep them? Like from a financial perspective, again, there’s a lot that goes into it, more than just finances, but from a financial perspective.


I know in a budget that head coaches focus on salaries, but there should be a little bit more to that picture. So now is your time to consider that, right?


00:21:45 – Matt

Yeah. And we know culture, right? Culture and happiness those are the huge factors for retaining people. Right. And it is kind of interesting that we all I think pay is a little bit down on the list if you’re doing those other things. Right. But at that point, people still want to get paid.


00:22:05 – Renata

Yes, absolutely. And I think now is the time that you need to really build in that budget so the board can go back and go, okay, we can’t do it today, but maybe by mid-season, we need to get out there and we need to find that.


We need more sponsors, we need more X, we need more members. How are we going to get there? Right. So, the other thing is to you already brought up equipment, so I don’t really want to go there, but I think there’s areas that coaches kind of miss.


There’s your development. Okay. So, you should be doing consistent development once a month anyways, internally. Right. There should be some type of lesson internally in your meetings, but there also needs to be opportunities for outside learning.


So, what are you doing for your coaches and what are you doing for yourself? Like, who is your mentor? Do you need to go to ask a World Clinic? Do you need to bring someone like Jack Roach in? You should budget for those things.


And the point made to the board should be, if I invest in my coaches, then I recruit better members, I recruit better coaches, and there’s less coach turnover.


And I think the development piece, in my experience in talking about budget, working with coaches, with the teams that I’ve worked with, the professional development piece, they’re like, well, they’re just never going to give it to me.


Sorry. Build that case, build your budget and tell them why you need it. Now, if they dismiss it, that’s on them. But you need to prepare for it, and you need to explain the why and the purpose behind it.


Now, don’t go get silly about asking for, I don’t know, 30,000, unless you’re that big of a club that you can do that. But I think an appropriate ask for development of your coaches is absolutely necessary.


00:24:03 – Matt

And it should be built in. Right. You’re saying that this is the budget and then it’s also the schedule. Right. And it should never be the excuse. We just don’t have time. Right. Build that in.


Because part of that’s going to be, if I’m sending this group of coaches to the ASCA World Clinic, we may need to cover training groups for a few days.


There’s a lot of more planning that goes to it than just sending a couple of coaches to a clinic, potentially, like, there’s filling those positions while they’re gone. And then from a budgeting standpoint, it’s not just, hey, we’re paying to go to the clinic.


You’re paying to go, you’re paying for potential travel, for food to pay those other coaches who are covering their groups potentially. So that’s why the planning of it is super important.


And if you do it right, it shouldn’t be something that you need to skip on. It should be something that’s just this is what happens every single season.


00:25:07 – Renata

I’m glad you brought up that depth of planning because that should be across the board for anything that you do. Right? So, like you said, if you’re going to World Clinic, it’s not just your registration fees, it’s your travel, it’s your food.


It’s also backfill. Right? So that’s great. But that’s for everything that you do, right? So, yeah, my equipment only costs X, but did you also look at the taxes and the shipping okay? And those kinds of things?


And if it’s something big like, I don’t know, retiling a floor or something like that in the locker room. Okay. So don’t forget about the money that’s needed for a temporary locker room. So, what are you going to do while the locker room is torn up? Right?


So, I know that’s a big example, but I just kind of want to make sure that the coaches understand that you need to think end to end about your budget and what that looks like. And if we have a gap, how am I going to pay for overtime for backfill?


How am I going to pay for a temporary locker room or bathroom or whatever it may be? So those need to be added in. And I can tell you right now, your budget is truly going to appreciate that you have given this thought and you actually can explain the why and the necessity of it and how it will benefit the organization.


Doing that work is going to get you a lot farther than just saying, well, the board never approves anything. When they understand the why, they will move heaven and earth to try to make it work. You may not get it right away, but then they’ll go, you know what, we got to do some work.


We need to get this, I don’t know, some spin off committee going to bring us in more sponsors or whatever it needs to be. We need to apply for more grants because this will benefit our club. We have to have this new scoreboard. We have to have these new lane lines.


We need to invest in our coaches. And that all starts with the head coach doing the due diligence and thinking it through and proposing it in a timely fashion, right. Not after the budget has already been approved.


00:27:12 – Matt 

Yeah. And the earlier you do it, the quicker you can go out and hire those new coaches. Right. And then you’ve got to get aligned with your board and then you need to be able to go present some of this stuff to families.


Pretty quick turnaround as that new season is starting. So, the quicker you get on that, the more prepared you are to kind of share that with everybody.


00:27:32 – Renata 

Absolutely. All right. The last area I want to talk on or talk about is the parents manual and the parents kickoff meeting. I don’t know if this is true across the board, but so far, in my experience, the parents manual is old and outdated, just like their bylaws.


They’re not kept up to date. Right. And they feel like the message I’m receiving is parents don’t ever look at it. So, it’s a waste of time and effort.


And I just want to impress upon the coaches who are listening out there that your parents manual and that information on the website should be your one source of truth year after year. Okay.


Yes, it’s going to adjust and change a bit, as it should, because your group requirements may change, but just as an example. But you should be getting in the habit, and your admin should be getting in the habit, and all your coaches and the board should be getting in the habit of going, you know what?


That’s covered in your parents manual. You can find that on the website. You should not be employing people to discuss administrative items. Family after family after family, time after time after time. That’s just a waste of effort. Right.


So, I would like to see clubs get back to developing a robust parents manual and then kicking off with a really strong family meeting. Now, I want to pivot a bit in stating that I really would love to see the biggest focus on the parents manual and the parents kickoff meeting be about culture and volunteering.


I think the culture piece really should go up front. Who you are, where you’ve been, what your vision is, what are your values, what are your expected behaviors, and why are all these things important? I think if you can push that stuff forward, the volunteerism will improve.


And I’ll talk about volunteering a little bit, but the volunteering will improve the expectation setting for behavior in practice and it meets for the athletes is front and center and there’s no shifting or buts or I didn’t know. Right.


And I really think that putting that in the forefront really helps to shape the organization’s expectations from a member behavior point of view is huge, and a culture point of view is huge.


00:30:24 – Matt

And this is important for the new families, but also the returning. Right. This is a message you want to continually get from season to season for those families and those athletes.


00:30:35 – Renata

Absolutely. And I think when you do your parents meeting, it is not just a new parents meeting. It’s all parents. And I think you need to make the culture piece who you are, why you’re here, what your vision, what your values are, what your behavior expectations are, should all be upfront.


A lot of times I find in the parents meeting, they spend a lot of time talking about, this is how practice is scheduled. It’s a lot of little administrative things, right. This is how to read a heat sheet.


This is what we expect when you show up at a meet. Yeah, you can talk about those things. But I think as a group, you should front focus your culture and your expectations from behaviors. And then from a parent’s meeting, again, it should be a requirement that everybody attends.


But you need to plan on how to impress upon parents why volunteering is so important. First of all, they need to understand the amount of work that the board does or should do and what their role is. Because a lot of times I see on surveys, like, parents have no clue what the board does, which that’s a problem. Right.


And they should also understand the why behind volunteering. I think a lot of parents out there just think it’s their club that’s asking parents to volunteer time.


And they need to understand that coast to coast, this is how it’s done in this country and probably many countries, swimming runs off of the back of volunteers.


And it is an absolute necessity and importance to get that across to your family and for them to understand why. And the why is what gets them engaged.


The celebration of other parents who step forward and do a good job on the volunteering, that is what makes them feel like they’re missing out. Right. So, you kind of want to pull both of those attitudes forward.


But I think what we’re asking today, or what I’m asking today, is that for your planning perspectives, you guys really go back to your parents manual and make sure it’s front and center about behavior and culture.


Of course, you’re going to have all the little administrative items that need to go in there, but they should be in chapters two, three, four, or whatever. And then your parents meetings should be mandatory. And maybe you hold a live one, a face to face live one and offer two zoom meetings.


And then that way you can really hone in and talk about your volunteering and your culture. But I think from a planning perspective, you have to make sure that you think through how those are going to go so they’re successful. Do you have any thoughts on that? Sorry, I talked the whole time.

00:33:26 – Matt

No, I think it’s needed. I think it’s needed. The volunteering is huge, and sometimes it’s easier to get volunteers when they’re in a big group of people and you feel that little bit of like, oh, okay, people are doing it, this person’s doing it, these people are interested in it. You’re more probably willing to step up and take on some stuff there. So.

00:33:46 – Renata

Yeah. Volunteering seems to be the biggest complaint by clubs. Same parents over and over again, all burnt out. Parents are complaining, why can’t I just pay instead of doing volunteer hours? Which is always an option.


But I think if you guys are as you’re planning out your year, you coaches.


If you and the board are planning on raising your dues so you don’t have to have volunteers, well, you still have to pay people, which means you thinking that your monthly fee of going up $10 is probably not going to be enough to cover volunteers for all the meets.


It’s probably much bigger than that. So, again, that comes back to your budgeting.


But you know, if you’re going to raise your membership dues to relieve the pressure of volunteering, make sure that you think that through completely because it’s probably not a minute number, because no matter what if you’re hosting meets, you still have to pay people to attend.


00:34:45 – Matt

And it’s still hard to find people.


00:34:48 – Renata

Yeah. And I think that’s where you really need to drive home your volunteerism. They’ve got to understand that this happens across the country. It’s an expectation from clubs across the country and how much their volunteering gives back to the club, how important it is, how you run.


Why is it important to have meets for your members? Why is it important for you to have meets as a club? And I think the more you can pull them into that, the more successful you will be in the volunteer arena.


But you have to plan that discussion to make sure you’ve got everything that you need to say, said, and you need to make your parents meeting mandatory that they can hear that message. So.


00:35:32 – Matt

I’m excited to get Jack on here and get into more swimming stuff next night.


00:35:36 – Renata

That’s right. So, with that, what we’d like to ask you guys is really maybe go back and do your reflection piece from both the wet and the dry side so you can inform how you’re going to plan and set up the year.


But in the next podcast, we are going to talk about your seasonal plan, how you structure that, how you plan for a bit for that, and how you adapt it for you and your organization. All right, everybody. Well, thank you for joining us.


We appreciate you listening to the Your Sports Resource podcast, and please make sure that you share and talk to other people about our podcast so we can keep reaching more people just like yourself. All right, thank you.