Swimming has been a part of Emily Labuz’s life for as long as she can remember. Now the head swim coach for Life Time in Chanhassen, Minn., she first joined a swim team at age 6 — and she attributes much of her success to the many encouraging coaches she encountered over the years.
“The coaches I grew up with helped shape and influence who I am today, and I became a coach because I wanted to share my knowledge and passion to positively impact others,” says Labuz. “My coaches helped me learn to handle setbacks and disappointments, how to be a team player and a gracious leader, and the value of kindness.”
We spoke with Labuz to learn more about what makes a great coach and how positive coaching can have a lasting effect on the lives of athletes.
Life Time Editorial | What is your favorite part about coaching?
Emily Labuz | Bringing people together. I love watching kids become friends and create a bond over swimming. When you’re a part of a community, everyone steps up to become the best versions of themselves.
LTE | What is one of your proudest moments as a coach?
EL | My proudest moments are watching athletes I work with achieve their personal and team goals. The pure joy and excitement they exude is priceless.
LTE | How does your coaching style differ from others?
EL | My coaching philosophy is simple: Focus on technique, work hard, be kind, listen, and bring lots of energy. Athletes respond to their coach’s behavior and will often model it. Being energetic and ready to work hard is contagious.
LTE | What are the benefits of joining a swim team for kids?
EL | Being part of an athletic team, no matter the sport, provides far more than just athletic benefits. Swimming, in particular, delivers the following:
- Confidence and motivation: Swimming competitively provides space for setting goals and building resilience and requires you to work for both your personal and your team’s achievements.
- Brain benefits: Swimming is great for the brain. Competitive swimmers spend a lot of time during practice counting strokes, adding times, and breaking down splits. This continuous focus helps swimmers develop concentration abilities for other areas of life.
- Life-long activity: Swimming is a low-impact, healthy activity that will always be available to you. You might join a master’s team as an adult or take up open-water lake swimming. Floating and playing in the pool are also great family activities and help encourage kids to stay active throughout their lives.
LTE | How do you keep your athletes motivated?
EL | Everything we do as a team ties back to our individual and team goals — and I’m big on clear communication about that. At every practice, my team knows how the drills and sets of the day are helping them get to where they want to be as an athlete.
LTE | What advice do you have for parents of a swimmer?
EL | Swimming is a life-long endeavor. Be patient and model that for your kids. Take comfort in knowing that when you drop your kid off at practice or at a meet, they are surrounded by a community of supportive friends and mentors.
Hear it From the Team
We also talked to several of Labuz’s swim-team members at Life Time to hear about their experience with the sport and their coaches.
Our swim-team panel:
- Emmie, age 14
- Elin, age 14
- Molly, age 14
- Joel, age 12
- Sophia, age 8
- Ava, age 14
LTE | What is your favorite thing about your swim coaches?
Emmie | Their positive and supportive energy. Our coaches come to practice excited to teach and are enthusiastic about our goals. They help us to see our progress and highlight our successes.
LTE | Why did you choose to join a swim team?
Elin | After a major injury, I found myself without a sport and a team. Swimming has always been something I enjoyed, so naturally I turned to it as an alternative. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and part of a team, so I joined the Life Time Swim Team.
LTE | What is your favorite part about being on a swim team?
Molly | My favorite part about my team is the community I feel. My teammates are positive, upbeat, and motivating. They’re my second family.
LTE | How do you feel your skills have improved since joining the team?
Joel | It is a great feeling to be working out consistently. Overall, I have improved my endurance, swim more efficiently, and am faster. It feels great to be practicing regularly.
Sophia | When I first started swim team, I struggled to keep up with the intervals. My coaches encouraged me to keep trying. I practiced a lot and now I can make hard intervals.
LTE | What would you tell someone who is thinking of joining a swim team?
Ava | I would highly recommend joining a swim team. I have built so many friendships. When I started, I didn’t really know anything about swimming, but all my coaches taught me how to swim and created my love for swimming.
LTE | What is your proudest moment as a swimmer?
Sophia | When I won the 100-meter individual medley at a swim meet!