Motivating and Inspiring Open Water Swimmers

Since covering and participating in competitive swimming – both in the pool and open water over the last four decades, I have observed that it is harder to get the average person TO a pool than it is to coach the same person ACROSS a pool.

The first goal of getting a person to a pool requires addressing their motivations, desires, and fears. The second goal of getting them across the pool requires patience, and knowledge of water safety, technique, and sound training strategies.

The first goal depends more than swimmer; the second goal depends more on the coach.

Some coaches are better suited at achieving the first goal while other coaches are better at achieving the second goal. But the best coaches – at any level – are excellent at achieving both goals. You can see the inherent joy of their swimmers; they smile and talk excitedly with their teammates, before, during and after their workouts. The swimmers ask questions of their coach and they share information with each other.

The top coaches can get their swimmers – or potential swimmers – to the pool with a smile, a wink, a nod, and sometimes a bit of verbal encouragement. The top coaches get those swimmers – or potential swimmers – across the pool safely, enjoyably, and quickly. They get the swimmers to work hard – in a manner that is clearly enjoyable even while setting goals that may initially seem out of their reach.

Shelley Taylor-Smith is one of those coaches who motivates and inspires swimmers to the pool in the first place, and then gets them across the pool – or in many cases – across or in open bodies of water safely, enjoyably, and quickly (relatively speaking).

Why and how does the former 7-time world professional marathon swimming champion achieve both goals?

  • Knowledge of technique is important.
  • Decades of personal experience is key, as a swimmer, handler, mentor, referee, and administrator [see Taylor-Smith swimming around Atlantic City above].
  • Decades of experience of the proper training methodologies and workout sets for swimmers of every age, ability, and background is essential.
  • Understanding and experiencing disappointment and failure are critical for understanding how others feel and react to hardships.
  • Having a positive, cheerful, encouraging attitude.
  • Possessing a constant thirst for knowledge and new concepts, technologies, and methodologies.

But Taylor-Smith’s profound love of the sport and her deep passion for sharing the joys and challenges of the sport are the essence of her coaching excellence. These characteristics drive her every day – helping her bring out the best in those who she touches and coaches.

For more information, visit

Shelley Taylor-Smith won 7 Majors during her career: 

  • 1990 Maratona del Golfo Capri Napoli
  • 1991 International Marathon Swimming Federation #1 World Ranking
  • 1992/1993 Marathon Swimming World Series Championship
  • 1988 FINA Long Distance Swimming World Cup championships
  • 1994 FINA Long Distance Swimming World Cup championships
  • 1993/1994 FINA Marathon Swimming World Series championship
  • 1991 25 km FINA World Championship
  • In 1991, she earned the highest number of International Marathon Swimming Federation World Ranking Points of all swimmers, male and female
  • She also won five Manhattan Island Marathon Swims, the overall male and female winner
  • She also served as the Honorary Secretary of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee and head referee at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim

© 2023 Daily News of Open Water Swimming

to educate, enthuse, and entertain all those who venture past the shoreline

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