If you observe advertisements for swim lessons in India, almost all of them make a marked reference to a “Swim Coach”. I find the idea quite problematic. A coach is akin to a college professor. Would you have a college professor teach toddlers their ABCs? Or a kindergarten teacher teach quantum physics? 

The fact that we use Swim Teacher and Swim Coach interchangeably is reflective of a bigger problem. It highlights a lack of awareness about aquatics education, a big gap which narrows down to impractical expectations : people believe that they can learn to swim in three weeks, while in reality it takes years; or that anyone who knows how to swim can teach – or rather, ‘coach’ – which leads to frustrating initiation lessons like ‘dunking’ that only results in fear and disinterest. 

A key way we can learn to swim safely, correctly and enjoyably, and get a billion Indians to swim – very important goals for us at Swimming Matters – is to understand the distinct roles that the teacher and coach play and acknowledge the importance of each. Each is a key contributor in the evolution of a swimmer. 

How does a Swim Teacher contribute?

  • A Swim Teacher introduces the life saving skill to you
  • A Swim Teacher inculcates the love of engaging with the water
  • A Swim Teacher teaches swimming to people of all ages and ability
  • A Swim Teacher instills the right fundamentals in swimming skills and water safety in the student
  • A Swim Teacher teaches the student to be safe in, on and around water
  • Fundamentals are taught by them in slow based progression over a long term period, running into years
  • A Swim Teacher plans and delivers lessons appropriate to age and ability of the student
  • A Swim Teacher teaches alongside a group of students in the pool, providing explanations and demonstrating swimming skills
  • A Swim Teacher can help students enjoy swimming for recreation, health and engage with other water based activities
  • A Swim Teacher educates and builds student’s attitude towards clothes and body image

How does a Swim Coach contribute?

  • A Swim Coach trains a high-potential swimmer with strong fundamentals into a high-performance one
  • A Swim Coach works with the swimmer, committed to his or her competitive development
  • A Swim Coach identifies and assesses talent of swimmers to be recruited in a competitive sports program
  • A Swim Coach builds a roster of talented swimmers to work with
  • A Swim Coach prepares and conditions the swimmer for competitive swimming, developing in him a competitive nature
  • A Swim Coach grooms a swimmer about ethical behavior and good sportsmanship learned through competition
  • A Swim Coach helps in strategic honing of technique and strokes required for competitive swimming  
  • A Swim coach understands government rules and regulations, FINA rules, anti-doping laws and international policies governing the sport. 
  • A Swim Coach is updated about national and international events and competitions.
  • A Swim Coach understands aspects of health, nutrition, psychology, exercise science and physical education

Now that you can see how distinctly each one contributes, are you able to understand the differences? Here is a handy list.





Focus Area Correct Skills and Water Safety Endurance, Speed, Power
Objective Enjoy the water and stay safe Swim faster
Target group All students, irrespective of age or ability Talented swimmers
Group size In smaller groups of 6-8 students In larger groups of about 30 swimmers
Workplace In the pool Outside the pool
Teaching tools Noodles, toys, ball, songs and games Whistle, stopwatch, race clock, pace clock, video analysis
Environment  Provide safe, familiar and comfortable environment to learn  Push boundaries to create a competitive environment
Methodologies Demonstrations, drills, practical training, observation Command teaching
Knowledge Skill based progressions in swimming and water safety  Health, nutrition, fitness, psychology, exercise science, government regulations
Specialization Best teaching practices Knowledge of swimming at a competitive level, Strategise and plan sessions and programs


The foundation of a strong, positive culture of swimming and water safety that we aspire for India, can only be built if we pay attention to the smallest building block. Terminology is definitely one of them. So the next time you wonder if you need a teacher or a coach to help you with your swimming, we hope you find this post handy!


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1 Comment

  1. This requires wide publicity in India specially in clubs where most of the members have never played
    Any sports.They are just members of the club because they have paid big amounts to get memberships of the clubs.They are under miss impression that if they spent more money they can
    learn any sports skills in no time.
    Most of them even highly academically qualified think that learn to swim is by trial and error.They
    Have miss concept that anyone who has lived near lake,pond,sea, river,or even well will learn to
    Swim without any teaching. And will be ideal person to teach swimming to. Anyone.
    Even coaches in India treat swimming teachers not with due respect and don’t communicate with them.On the contrary they should realised that a good teacher of swimming can make his task much easier if he can teach swimming in the proper technique with correct stroke at early level instead of
    teaching with trials and error..
    Coaches and swim teacher if work in proper coordination and as one team in any orgnlsation I am sure getting world class swimmers will not be very difficult task.

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