Artistic swimming expert breaks down the art of being an accomplished coach

Jennifer Koptie recognizes the human element of high-performing sport

TORONTO – Jennifer Koptie, a synchro coach for over 25 years, reveals her experience with coaching and why being a swimmer prior has helped her become a more present, understanding, and knowledgeable leader in the artistic swimming community.

Jennifer Koptie
For Jennifer Koptie, growth is an integral part of becoming a successful athlete but is also a key piece in being a triumphant coach. (Canada Artistic Swimming)

“Being an athlete is about you and often times your teammates. Coaching is always about others,” said Koptie. “I have found supporting other’s success to be significantly more exciting and meaningful than experiencing my own.”

Coaching is comparable to an art form. To be a successful coach, you must possess the ability to visualize your athletes’ movements in a manner that allows you to bridge the gap between your own mental imagery and their execution.

This is mandatory in artistic swimming.

“I was a pretty good swimmer, but not the best… I think that assisted me in recognizing the strengths of all athletes on the teams I coached,” said Koptie. “I believe that not having the genetics that are helpful in synchro, also helped me understand the ‘how’ better. Often when athletes have the natural ability for synchro, they then have a difficult time understanding what they’re doing to make it happen.”

While experience holds significance in coaching, so does underlying purpose.

Individual coaching styles are a direct representation of one’s personality and values. They mirror the underlying motivations that drive a person to commit themselves to their craft. Much like parenting, coaching can either stem from a desire to relive successes through others or from a genuine intent to support and enhance another person’s journey.

“I am so excited when athletes achieve what they are hoping for and this includes their successes after sport,” said Koptie. “There is nothing more authentic for me, then writing a reference letter for an athlete applying for a program or a job, and having a chance to reflect on what part, even though small, I may have had in helping them grow and achieve that. There is a pride that comes from coaching that I did not have as a swimmer.”

Amy Armstrong, formerly an artistic swimmer under Jen’s guidance and now a coach at Koptie’s club Remix Artistic Swimming, shares insights about the individual and mentor that Koptie embodies.

Amy Armstrong and the team in 2013 at their annual Florida Training Camp before Junior Nationals. (Photo by: Natasha Claudia)

“Jen creates an inclusive and positive environment for all athletes to develop lifelong skills. She truly cares about the whole athlete and supports their growth in and out of the sport which helps athletes achieve and create success beyond their athletic feats.”

Growth is an integral part of becoming a successful athlete but is also a key piece in being a triumphant coach. Goals are made and then shift as one becomes more aware that winning in sport does not always mean there is a gold medal around your neck. 

“What I hope to achieve as a coach has shifted a lot in my career, but I would say that as a coach I love to build the capacity of others,” says Koptie. “As a coach my philosophy has always been to coach the whole human… I think that in high performance sports especially, there is a risk to put all of your focus on the sport alone and I really try to support athletes in looking bigger than the sport on its own.”

Koptie’s remarkable achievements serve as an inspiration to those fortunate enough to cross paths with her. Koptie’s firm belief in the power of coaching ripples through the lives she touches, leaving a lasting mark on both her athletes and the broader coaching community.

As she continues on this boundless journey, there is no doubt that Koptie will continue to be a beacon of excellence in the world of artistic swimming, forever pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

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Posted: Sep 18 2023 12:01 pm
Filed under: Sports Swimming