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The Mental Game Of Swimming

Mind Over Matter Results In Success


Bill Cole, MS, MA
The Mental Game Coach™
Silicon Valley, California


Over many years I've been the mental game coach to many high-level swimmers and divers who compete at the Olympic, international, national, regional, state and local levels. It's been a pleasure helping them improve their mental skills and in developing the mental toughness required to win under pressure.

How about you? How is your mental game? Are you happy with how you approach swimming from a mental perspective? What in your mental game could you improve? What have your coaches told you that needs improving from a mental stance? Have you taken time to write down your mental strengths and also what you need to work on to become great?

Here are four mental strategies you can use to raise the level of your game—immediately.

  1. Relax More To Go Faster: It's common for many swimmers to practice fast, yet compete slower. Why is this? A swimmer who puts forth good effort in training may believe, erroneously, that this daily, normal level of effort will be insufficient for an actual meet. So they get to the meet and attempt to "amp up their effort level" 10-80% higher. They are not used to this new level and that alone can mess up their coordination. But the larger problem is tight muscles. Yes-the extra effort also results in tight muscles, and you know what they say--a tight muscle is a slow muscle. The solution? Relax and race at your normal effort levels. It's what you know and what you can handle.

  2. Don't Blow Big Meets Out Of Proportion: If you tell people you are "going to a big meet" that can create pressure and stress and make yourself feel tight mentally and physically. Better to look at these larger meets as "just another day at the office". This way you will not blow it up out of proportion. The meet is indeed larger and more important, but looking at it as just one more meet can keep you calmer. I have found over my 30 plus years of mental game coaching that very few people need to "psych up" for a meet. Most everyone is already a bit nervous about it, so instead, they need to "psych down" and relax.

  3. If You Are A Star, Expect Some Flak: I am coaching a high school freshman who has great times and has become a star on the varsity swim team. Unfortunately, she has encountered much resentment and negative comments from the older members of the team. She asked me why. I said it's because they believe your success is making them "look bad". This is a very sad aspect of human behavior. Humans can be so insecure that they will often drag someone else down so they can appear to be elevated in status in comparison. If you are a star, expect some negativity to be thrown your way. This is simply a fact of competitive sports life.

  4. Keep Your Parents Under Control: On meet day, maybe your parents try to tell you how to prepare. They may tell you to "get your game face on" very early in the day. If they see you being too sociable, too close to the meet, they may believe you are not taking it seriously enough. You can tell them I said to cool it. Being sociable is a very smart and common way athletes stay calm and keep stress at a low level prior to a contest. No one wants to be thinking about the meet 24-7. That just burns you out. Tell your parents to relax, as you are doing.

Now you have four quick-acting mental strategies you can use right away to improve your swimming. And now you know more about the mental game of swimming, and of how to manage your own mental approach. Remember to relax at meets, look at them like a practice session, expect some envy from others, and keep your parents under control. Do all this and I know you will see improved times, and have more fun.


For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths and weaknesses. Here is a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot. This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program you undertake with mental coach Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture about your mental game.


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Copyright © 2014 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.


Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time college athletics.


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The Mental Game of Swimming


Bill Cole, MS, MA
Sports Psychology Coaching

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