Balance is Better Champion Willy Benson is a former Olympic swimmer and now head coach at the Heretaunga Sundevils Swimming Club in Hawke’s Bay. While Willy achieved success in elite swimming, he believes the most profound impacts on his career come from his experiences out of the pool.
The social value of sports
For Willy, a large part of the value of sports for young people is the social connections and crucial life skills developed both in and out of the pool. “Sport was important to me. It provided me with great mates who shared similar values. It was just a way for me to challenge myself.”
In his current role with the Sundevils, Willy incorporates these lessons into his coaching philosophy. He observes that what happens in the pool is “more than just swimming”.
“Some of the most memorable times of my life are nothing to do with winning or making teams. They’re to do with the experiences that swimming enables,” he says.
Teaching important life skills
According to Willy, the main value of sport for young people is helping to build the ability to be consistent, work hard, and forge a unique journey.
Great coaches prioritise the best interests of participants, listening to and understanding them to deliver quality experiences. Willy says he was fortunate to have positive influences early in his sporting journey.
“I think in terms of a positive impact, my original swimming coach Jon was a big part of that. He was pretty off the wall with his approach and wasn’t afraid to be different,” Willy says.
Understanding that it’s their journey
Willy places a lot of emphasis on ensuring young people take away a positive experience from their involvement in sport, and offers some sage advice to anyone supporting young athletes.
“Support them and be proud of their effort. Understand that it’s their journey. As coaches, parents, and family, we are all just there to help them on that journey.” Having the right support plays an important role in ensuring positive sporting experiences, and parents, coaches, and whānau all have a unique opportunity to positively shape the lives of young athletes. By fostering a supportive environment, we can contribute to a lifelong love of sports, ensuring that young people receive the full range of benefits that sport brings, from social connections to invaluable life skills.