Growing up with his grandfather’s stopwatch and coaching towel, assistant swimming coach Lyle Robelot couldn’t be expected to have a career far from the pool.
“Swimming has been in my family for a couple of generations,” said Robelot. “My grandpa was a swim coach in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so I was very involved through him. My brother is a collegiate coach at Virginia Tech, so it’s really in my family.”
With this background, it’s no surprise that Robelot got his first coaching job at the age of 14. He coached kids at a summer league for the first time and got the opportunity to develop his skills. Starting at a young age helped shape his unique personality as a coach.
“I was never that great of a swimmer; I did it to stay in shape, and I loved the sport. I’ve always been a better coach than a swimmer,” said Robelot.
Although Robelot spent his summers coaching summer leagues, he resolved that coaching was his dream career once he was in college. His first real job coaching was at a swimming club called Crawfish Aquatics in Louisiana.
“I also got a head coaching job for the summer league and kind of worked my way up from there,” said Robelot.
He then got another head coaching job at St. Joseph’s Academy, a Catholic high school in Baton Rouge, where he led the team to a state championship. He was also named the CCSL Coach of the Year while coaching there.
After gaining enough experience, Robelot decided he had enough clout to become a volunteer student assistant at Louisiana State University, where he continued to learn and gain experience. He also earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise sciences from LSU.
“I volunteered and continued to coach at the club. I absolutely loved it, and it was especially close to my heart, since I graduated from LSU,” said Robelot.
Outside of coaching, Robelot sings and plays the trombone, as he was part of a band during college.
“I played since I was a little kid. My band developed, and we traveled all over the country,” said Robelot. “So I was coaching, going to school full time, and I was playing probably a 100 shows a year.”
Growing up, Robelot also played soccer because it was a much better sport for his body type. His team voted for him to become the captain his senior year of high school.
“A lot of my work ethic came from that period of time. I was determined to work on being a leader. I had coached, so that had something to do with it. It made me study coaching and motivation, so that was definitely a turning point in my career,” said Robelot.
Robelot emphasized a caring and motivating approach throughout his career. He is a role model for student athletes because he believes that coaching is all about being there for the athletes and actually wanting to be there.
“I definitely can’t swim [as well as] some of the athletes on our team. This is where I want to be. I never want to get the morning off; I’d rather be at practice on the deck with the athletes,” said Robelot.
To Robelot, it’s harder being the swimmer than being the coach. He is inspired by what the swimmers are able to do.
“Sometimes, I’d say to them ‘Of course you should be able to do this,’ but in my head I’m like, ‘Wow, this amazes me,’” said Robelot.
Robelot’s coaching style can be described as peer-driven and ruled by motivation. His relationship with the swimmers is not built on the basis of fearing the coach, but rather on the basis that the swimmers don’t want to disappoint their coach.
“I guess my coaching style is pestering them to perfection,” said Robelot.
Robelot also motivates his swimmers by building their confidence through positive feedback.
“Feedback is not only about what to say, but also about when to say it. Even when I say something negative, I usually say it in a positive way because I found that they respond better that way,” said Robelot.
As for his future goals, Robelot has insight and a great satisfaction when it comes to his career. It’s not out of the question that every assistant coach dreams of becoming a head coach someday, but it’s all about how to reach that level.
“I want to be moving forward. It’s not about being the head coach; when you’re a head coach you have more headaches. You don’t get to coach as often as the assistants. You’re doing much more administrative work,” said Robelot. “My job is less pressure, and I get just as much reward. It’s not always like this everywhere, so I consider myself to be very lucky. I get the best of both worlds.”
Photo Credit: M.CALLAHAN