Over the years I’ve had many different swim coaches all with different mentalities and strategies for racing. I’ve noticed a slight change in the mentality, they have become more and more focused on the racing aspects of a race. I know that sounds silly like shouldn’t you always be focused on racing during your race? The reality is that most swimmers are more focused on dropping time than actually getting their hand on the wall first. The pressures that are put on them from their coaches, their parents and most times themselves, focusing them to view swimming in this one dimensional way. Without a doubt, swimming is a sport that is focused on time. It is how we measure our performance, the sport is built on this foundation. But, what if we could shift our focus away from time, and back onto racing, like when we were just starting out in the sport? Would we become less anxious about racing? Would we become happier with our performances?
Over the past couple of years, I myself have been trying to make this shift in racing mentality. My coaches in the past have really encouraged this thinking as well. Many times when we would swim at a meet with little rest, our coach would come and talk to us about just trying to win your heat, then win your final. Not to worry about how fast you're swim is, but try swim a good technical race, win that one race.
This was especially evident during my transition from club swimming to university swimming. University swimming is solely based on placement, you need to place well in order to score points which in turn will determine your team's standing in the swim meet and ultimately in the country. Team placement in these swim meets determines the number of points that are carried over to the conference championships, which are also based on points. You can see why this mentality would be so powerful in university swimming. It’s much more a team sport. You're not swimming only for yourself; your races count towards the team’s total, so placing at a every meet is so much more important.
I’ve noticed that since I’ve been trying to race and think this way, I've become much more excited to race as well as less nervous. I’m happier with my performance since I’m only trying to swim fast with good technique. I feel overall less stressed at swim meets and have more fun in general. I’m not searching for a best time and feeling bad if I don’t achieve one. I’m happy with my performance if I tried the hardest that I could and put all my effort into the swim.
Some tips and techniques that I found helpful when trying to get myself to think this way are:
- Try to not think of anything before your race other than small technique points that you want to focus on during that race (e.g. 5 kicks off every wall, finishing your pull so it’s the longest it can be.)
- Don’t worry about what comes after the race. Don’t worry about what your coach or parents will say. Just focus on the task at hand, then worry about all that stuff once the race is over.
- Focus on trying to beat the other people in your heat, don’t worry about what time you’ll swim. If you swim your hardest and try and beat everyone in your heat, you will probably swim pretty darn fast.
I hope these tips and thinking will help some swimmers out there that are struggling with racing. Even if you’re not struggling with racing or swimming in general, I would still try out this technique for one meet and see how you like it. See if you there is any benefit in adding any of these strategies to your race plan. Because at the end of the day everyone wants to swim faster, and any strategy that you can have in your back pocket to help you achieve that goal is a good one.
See you in the next one :)