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
Here are four mental strategies you can use to raise the level of
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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
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