Swimmers with Disabilities: How to Find a Coach

Swimming can be one of the most inclusive sports.

Swimming can be one of the most inclusive sports.

If you are a swimmer with a disability or a parent of a child with a disability and you want to find a swimming coach or join a swimming team, the path is shockingly simple:

Learn to swim at a swim school.


You can join as USA Swimming team.

You can join a YMCA team.

You can join your summer rec league team.

Or whatever swimming program is close to your home.

But okay…..

I know that you called the team and said, “I am a Paralympic hopeful, I have a disability, and I am looking for a disability swimming program.”

And I know that the person on the other end of the phone (or the person answering the email) said, basically, “We don’t have a disability swimming program. We don’t have a Paralympic team.”

I know you left it at that and called the next team the search algorithm churned up, hoping to find a team with a special program, getting increasingly frustrated and ostracized and possibly angry. Where are the opportunities for YOU? For YOUR kids?

I know. Disability-only programs are few and far between.

Go with me here: the magical beauty of swimming is that you don’t need anything special. All you need is a supportive coach who really knows the sport.

You need a certified swimming coach who has a flexible mind-set, is willing to be creative, and who loves teaching. You need a coach who understands the fundamentals of swimming technique, and who isn’t afraid to ASK YOU questions.

Working with a coach – for any athlete of any ability in any sport – is all about communication and understanding. The athlete-coach partnership works best when the athlete can communicate what’s going on for them, and the coach can understand who the athlete is and how they physically and mentally operate.


If you’re a swimmer with a disability looking for a coach or a team, especially in Northern California, and you want to know more about how to ask the right questions to determine if a coach or a program is a good place for you, drop me a message.

p.s. For the swimming coach sitting here thinking, “But I don’t know the first thing about coaching swimmers with disabilities,” think again. You definitely can. The fundamentals are the same. Still don’t believe me? Drop me a line…

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