Coaching Plans – A Key Tool for Consistency & High Performance

We think all our coaches are pretty awesome.  Each brings their unique experience to the team.  But that creates challenges too.  Athletes need consistency in what they are being taught.  So there needs to be some way for each coach to take advantage of the best techniques from the rest of the staff.  Today we talk to Head Coach Leah Pinette about how she blends the strengths of her staff with her own direction for the benefit of every athlete and the whole team.

ANA Synchro: We’re sure that all the girls would love for you to be their coach every day, but you are only one person.  How do you manage it on a big team like this such that every girl feels impacted by you and your expertise?


Leah Pinette (Head Coach): Well, first, I have to say, we have a great staff of coaches, and we work together really well.  For example, when I teach a particular technique, like how to do sculls, the other coaches will listen in so they can teach it the same way.  We just want a very consistent teaching method.

ANA Synchro: So you’re driving all of it?

Leah Pinette (Head Coach): Oh no, it’s not just me.  We coaches are a real team.  In addition to having swum synchro, two of our coaches, Erica Courtmanche and Meaghan Arsenault did speed swimming in college.  So I’m learning what they do with swimming technique.  Both Yoshiko Gray and Zsuzsa Belhazy-Kovacs are so in tune with body mechanics from their yoga practices that we all pick things up from them about stretching safely and effectively.  We just don’t want the girls to get confused or wonder what they should be focusing on, so we coaches try to be on the same page with how we teach different things.

Head Coach Leah Pinette confers with coaches Zsuzsa Belhazy-Kovacs and Erica Courtmanche about the plan for the day.

ANA Synchro: How do you direct all the girls’ learning on a day-to-day basis?

Leah Pinette (Head Coach): I write coaching plans every day for each group.  I write, usually by the half hour, what each group should be doing and what I expect. Maybe the first half hour is workout conditioning, and then we’ll focus on support sculls.  Maybe next week it’s going to be eggbeater technique.  I also write in which figures we want to work on. Sometimes, if multiple groups are practicing at the same time, we’ll do certain things together if it makes sense, but then we’ll go into our separate groups for routine work.


ANA Synchro: What about when the girls need to practice to their music?

Leah Pinette (Head Coach): Yes, that’s part of it. Every day, I write in where we’re going to slot music time because that can be the hardest part of having multiple groups in the water at the same time.  Otherwise, it would be so chaotic.


ANA Synchro: How do you ensure your coaching plans are being implemented the way you intended when you wrote them?

Leah Pinette (Head Coach): Well, I am on the pool deck at every practice, so I do see every girl throughout the week.  I will often walk over to the other groups, see what they’re doing, and talk to their coaches.  I make sure what they’re doing is what I envisioned and what we’ve discussed as a coaching staff.  Not that my way is always the best way, but I am accountable for everything that happens.  I hold my coaching staff and our athletes to the high standards I would hold for myself.

Head Coach Leah Pinette watches carefully as an athlete practices a figure.

ANA Synchro: Anything else to add about coaching plans?

Leah Pinette (Head Coach): One of the particular things on my to-do list is making sure we’re all together on techniques for figures. We finally got all the new figures in the rule book including what the judges will be looking for.  This is great because we don’t want to be teaching something that might not be important for competition.  So I want all of us coaches to have this information when we work on figures.  Consistency is key.  

For more information on Leah Pinette and the coaching staff at ANA Synchro, click here: ANA Synchro is the competitive synchronized swimming team of the Merrimack Valley YMCA’s Andover/North Andover Branch.  To visit the ANA YMCA’s website, click here: