A couple of excerpts and personal thoughts about coaching after reading the article “Why Learning to Fly (or Code) Is Easier Than You Think” by James Somers in The Atlantic, Jan 11, 2011.
 (Instructor): “Flying an airplane is the ultimate test of multitasking.” He’s right–most of the challenge…seems to be in efficiently collecting, triaging, and acting on a mass of messy information. But I can only seem to focus on one thing at a time… [There] are dangerous tradeoffs, and an experienced pilot doesn’t make them. [In] a small recreational plane…he spends–surprisingly, I think–90% of his time looking out of the window and just 10% looking at his instruments. He is a master at sizing things up. “What you have to do is kind of pop in every once in a while and take a quick look at all of your indicators. If something’s yellow or red, you take care of that. Otherwise you make sure everything’s on target and go back to looking out the canopy. It’s situational awareness.”
[Comment] – Coaching is like that, too. The analogies to what we do while coaching should be obvious.
 [My] radically fast introduction to flying reminds me so much of another marvel that seems, at first, to be totally unrelated: the ease with which I learned to write nontrivial computer programs.
Maybe “ease” isn’t the right word–I went through years of false starts before I finally started snowballing toward being a decently capable programmer. But once I got over that initial hump, it took only four or five months of intense studying in my sophomore year of college before I was suddenly able to create [many different programs].
It’s just like my [flying] jaunt over the Florida coast. In both cases, I’ve unwittingly taken advantage of an incredible kind of leverage, in the sense that the stick I maneuver and the functions I write are tied to a deep brobdingnagian complex of other people’s work. The miracle is that these accumulated layers of mechanism and edifice and expertise cohere so tightly, have been black-boxed and wrapped up into such friendly interfaces, that even a nitwit like me can put them to productive use.
Thus the twin facts that I was able to take control of a plane after a few moments’ introduction and write useful programs after just a few months of work have basically nothing to do with my aptitude, and all to do with the equipment and know-how made available to me.
In the programming case, I have an overwhelming number of tutorials, walkthroughs, introductions, books, and other guides. I have massive repositories of thoroughly documented open source code to reuse and imitate. The net effect of which is to make “programming” an exercise in (a) wanting to do something, (b) realizing that someone’s probably done it before, (c) looking up what they did, and (d) tweaking it a little bit. As I tweak I begin to understand, and to become less a user of all this wonderful mess than a contributor to it.
There is no doubt danger in all this abstraction–how easy it is nowadays to use a thing without knowing how it works…
[Comment] There are myriad sources available to all coaches to share coaching techniques, drills, practice sets, how to write a daily practice, how to plan a season, etc. You should avail yourself of what you believe will help you progress, and your teams and athletes succeed, but you shouldn’t just *copy*. You should try to understand how and why something functions the way it does and go ahead and try tweaking it along your own path to discovery. Ask other coaches a lot of questions (in person, email, or pick up the phone), post your queries here and on swimming blogs, go to clinics and conferences, READ.
Your passion for our sport is more than likely why you got started. As suggested above, others have successfully coached before you, research how they did it. Just like the best senior swimmers, it didn’t happen overnight. It takes time. It takes laying a good foundation. Be patient. Stay hungry. Believe. And keep asking questions. When we’re young, we tend to think we know everything. When we mature, we realize how much we *don’t* know. Keep your fire burning and keep filling your bucket!