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Mental Physical Technical Swimming

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: Are You A Worrywort?

Are You A Worrywort?

08 May

Teaching essential mental skills to swimmers can be a daunting task for any coach, due in part, to the sheer number of skills that need to be taught. If one were to prioritize the teaching of mental skills from most to least important, I believe the ability to effectively deal with swimmers’ worry would top the list. At a recent PEAK clinic, I asked the participants to raise their hands if they felt worry was a major performance inhibitor for them, and all but one did! With a response like that, it’s easy to understand why worry is a foe that must be reckoned with.

Swimmers, who allow worry to get the upper hand, are virtually doomed to a poor performance. It really doesn’t matter how physically fit or technically fit they are; once excessive worry takes over their minds, little else matters.

Well-meaning coaches and parents often tell swimmers not to worry. Unfortunately, this tactic typically backfires, leading to even more worry. In my experience, the simplest and most effective way to deal with worry is through the use of distraction. On a personal note, whenever I go to a good movie, my worries are temporarily postponed. The same holds true when I listen to my favorite music, spend time playing with my dogs, or meet good friends for dinner. Distraction, in my view, is one of the greatest cures for a worried mind.

Swimmers, who allow worry to get the better of them, would be well-served to create a series of distraction techniques that could be used prior and during competition. Examples may include: listening to music, texting or talking to friends on the phone, reading a book, striking up a conversation with teammates, playing video games, stretching, or jumping up and down behind the blocks. It really doesn’t matter what distraction techniques are used – provided they do the job.


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