Confessions of a Masters Swimming Coach

I started coaching a Masters group in November 2015. I wanted to share my thoughts on how it’s been going and the swim philosophy that I brought into the group. But, I feel that I need to share my background in swimming first. 

I swam competitively as a kid and was pretty decent at a younger age. I then swam for a YMCA club and then for my high school team. I didn’t end up going to college for swimming, but instead I turned to the US Navy and joined as Rescue Swimmer. In this role I got to jump out of helicopters and swim to save lives. I learned during this time that it’s not always about who is the fastest, but instead who is the strongest and able to get to the victim in the water. It was during my time in the Navy where I picked up triathlon and was in charge of the physical training and conditioning of 70 rescue swimmers in my command/unit. I started coaching triathletes in 2009 and haven’t looked back.

Starting in November 2015 I realized that a big first impression was key to coaching a Masters group. I knew where I wanted the coaching and group to go, but I couldn’t come in and immediately start implementing exactly what I knew this group needed without building trust first.


My coaching philosophy is pretty simple and occasionally I will break these rules, but only when I have a good reason. A lot of this has been taken from previous coaches I have worked with, along with interacting with many professional triathletes and Olympic swimmers, and reading reputable articles online written by world class coaches.

Here are the three simple rules of my swimming philosophy:

  1. Don’t spend time working on skills and drills. We will work on skills closer to the race season (like sighting,buoy turns or dolphin dives, etc…), but the athletes coming to the Masters group are coming to get in shape, get fitter, and become faster swimmers and triathletes. This means getting rid of most, if not all, drills and focusing more on conditioning. I really believe that conditioning trumps drills any day. A coach I follow once said “Technique goes a long way in swimming, but it's nothing without fitness. Working on your fitness works on technique. The opposite is not true", and I have seen that to be the case in this group.
  2. Traditional drills don’t work, but the unconventional ones do. My favorite drill is the two-touch drill which is typically the only traditional drill I give to my swimmers. The unconventional drill work I prescribe includes Bands+Buoys+Paddles and the occasional use of fins and Non-Free/IM training.
  3. Focus on Long Main Sets. That means that I try to give at least 3,000 yards or so per main set. This may look like 30x100s,20x100s or 40x50s. You may think this sounds boring, but I try to make it as fun as I can. However, at the end of the day, we are there to work and so it means 30x100s at a threshold pace. 

I keep workouts as simple as possible and the Masters athletes results speak for themselves. I have heard recently, “My coach says I’ve been running like crazy because of the work in the pool” and “When I race I feel like I have an extra gear”. I will keep up my crazy philosophy until there is a mutiny.

So if you are ever in or around New York City, stop by the Hoboken Masters Swimming Group on Wednesday or Friday mornings and let me know what you think!

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Our athletes, as well as, other athletes can tell you that while participating in a sport, anxiety, stress and challenges can occur.  Some of these stressors come from their parents; while others come from pressure they put on themselves to be successful.  The mind is a powerful tool.  It can push us to succeed or hold us back through fears.  It’s up to us to choose which path we will allow our minds to lead us.

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Our New Triathlon Coach Lisa Campisi's Coaching Philosophy

A: I'd like to introduce to you our new triathlon coach Lisa Campisi! She is a badass coach and I'm excited to see your thoughts on her coaching philosophy and see her grow as a coach. Enjoy!


My goal, as a coach, is to construct a positive and productive individualized training environment for my athletes.  In this environment, they will be able to engage in training and become motivated to reach their goals.  I believe in order to obtain this type of environment; athletes need to feel comfortable and secure with their coach, which in turn enables the coach to establish a good relationship with them.  This is one of the most important keys to being a successful coach.  It is my responsibility to equip my athletes with the best training plan and guidance.

Some important qualities that a coach should possess to meet their athletes needs are passion, empathy, knowledge and understanding.  Another important aspect is to take time to get to know each athlete.  In addition, developing a collaborative relationship will help build upon their success.  I believe it is imperative to have the athlete involved in his/her training plan.  With their involvement a positive plan will be developed that will fit into their busy schedule.

There are multiple aspects of coaching that I believe take strong organizational skills.  These aspects include listening to the athlete’s needs, planning according to their specific needs and differentiating based on the previous weeks workout successes or failures.  It is essential to develop a flexible plan that works for the athlete’s life and abilities, which will help them achieve his/her goals.  

Since no two athletes are alike, I have to create individualized training and workout plans to fit their training style.  I believe that it is imperative to use different methods that include and reflect the athlete’s level of fitness, ability and schedule.  This is why I believe there is no one specific way to train athletes.  By using differentiated training, my athletes will train based on their needs, not someone else’s needs.  The differentiated training model will ensure that my athletes will be able to obtain knowledge and training tips based on their needs.


Being a coach is not just about teaching and guiding my athletes, I have also found that it is important to incorporate passion, empathy and understanding into everything that is done for them.  This is where my organizational skills become necessary to handle a variety of different plans.  In addition, by incorporating a positive environment along with my passion for coaching I believe my athletes will have a constructive training environment in which to build upon their skills and learn new ones.  I truly believe that these are important ingredients, because once you are comfortable in your surroundings, you are open to new experiences and are free to learn, which is my ultimate goal as a coach.

Written and Edited by Lisa Campisi

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While it’s the off-season for a lot of athletes, triathlon race season will be upon us before we know it. Because of this it’s best to prepare your kids to be able to race to their best ability, but what about triathlon prepares your kid for the real world?

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