As human beings, our behaviors and the things that we do are very much dictated and determined by our beliefs. Every single day, and in everything that you do, the decisions you make, the actions you take, and the way you train and perform in the pool are all greatly influenced by what you believe about the world around you, the sport of swimming, and most importantly, who you think you are and what you think you’re capable of as a swimmer.
Each week, in my coaching practice, I have conversations with swimmers who are very talented, skilled, and more than physically capable of performing exceptionally and producing success, yet struggle to do so. It’s not because they’re out of shape, have bad technique, or use a poor race strategy. It’s because, when they step behind the block, they get so nervous that they totally freeze up, and that frozen state prevents all of their talent, skill, and physical capabilities from being utilized to their fullest. It’s purely a mental thing.
I’ve said it a million times before, but I’ll say it yet again – The mind is what makes the difference.
If you take two people of equal or near equal talent, skill, ability, and preparation, the one with greater mental strength, emotional resilience, and better overall mindset towards swimming is going to perform better, achieve more, and have a greater overall level of life satisfaction than the one that doesn’t.
Ultimately, without doubt, the mental side of the sport of swimming is the difference maker. The fact is, you train as much as you want, you can receive world-class training, you can go hard in the gym, you can eat a pristine diet, you can taper perfectly, and you can have the most modern, hi-tech suit in the world. However, when you show up on the day to perform, if your mind is not in the right place, none of that stuff is going to count for anything. You simply won’t be able to be your best.
Your physical performance in the pool is a direct reflection of your mental state when swimming. If you’re feeling fearful, unconfident, stressed, and tense in the water, those feelings will become manifested through your physical actions in the pool. Your stroke will be tight and tense. Your power and pace will be lacking and labored. Your body will feel heavy and slow. This means that, when you climb onto the block and jump in to compete, you need to be in the right frame of mind.