Wall Speed and Underwater Shimmers

Sometimes an often overlooked aspect for swimming greatness is the time spent underwater off of your start, and each of your turns. This is a huge mistake! Swimmers will never be as fast in the middle of the pool as they are when coming off the wall, or starting block. Why would this be? The answer is simple! You get to push first! In fact, coming off of the wall in a pool is the same thing as jumping off the floor. If you jump off of a solid floor, you’ll go higher than you would jump off of sand, for example. Coming off the wall in the pool is the same concept. The better you can use this strength, the further you will travel down the pool, and the less strokes you’ll have to take! Some key points to remember; Set the balls of your feet on the wall. No need for your heel to be touching here! Keep your feet shoulder width apart. A very common mistake, even among world-class swimmers is to push-off the wall with their feet close together (some even do it when touching!). Why is this better? Try jumping off the floor with your feet touching. Now, do it again with them shoulder width apart. Where is your power? Have your legs at approximately a 90 degree angle. There is no need to have your heals close to your butt. When pushing off, connect your core to your legs.  A good way to remember this is to squeeze your butt, and your gut. This “butt-gut” squeeze will enable you to maximize your velocity...

Thought Stopping

There are times in all of our lives where our thoughts manage to get the best of us. Most of these times, I think we’d all agree, the imagined outcome of our given situation is not nearly as problematic as our earlier thoughts made them out to be. Yet, we continue to have these self-defeating thoughts as if somehow, this time, our preconception of how things are going to be is accurate. But it never really is. This can be particularly true for competitive athletes in crucial situations. One technique in the sport psychologist’s bag of tricks is the concept of thought stopping. When employed successfully, it can significantly reduce our anxiety, and free us up to be at our best. But how do we know when our anxious thoughts are appropriate, and when they are not? Suppose you are driving down the highway in a brand new Cadillac, with brand new tires, and going 100 mph on the open highway. Chances are you’re going to get to your destination in good shape. Anxious thoughts about this circumstance might be somewhat appropriate, but probably unfounded. If, on the other hand, your car is 20 years old and the tires are bald, at the same speed a high level of anxiety is most likely a healthy response and you’re going to ask the driver to slow down, or let you out immediately. Once we are able to recognize whether or not our thoughts are rational and appropriate, we can take steps to manage them. One specific technique is called thought stopping. It works like this; Ask yourself if your worries...

Handling Disappointment

The most important thing we can do following any performance is endeavor to learn from the experience. In so doing we enable ourselves to come back stronger next time. Sulking or feeling sorry for ourselves following a disappointing outcome serves no purpose. Honest, non judgmental evaluation does. Remember, for any peak performance to occur all aspects of an athletes life must come together. The next time you find yourself feeling angry or frustrated following a meet, game, or practice, try setting aside some time for quiet reflection and honestly answer the following questions, and then commit to coming back stronger the next time. Were my goals realistic for this point in the training cycle? For this calendar year? How great were the obstacles that I faced, and what effect did they have on me? Some examples include school stress, illness, friendships and relationships, rest and sleep Did I give my best available effort on a consistent basis? Were my support systems intact? Did I do a good job of managing the competitive environment, or did I allow my nerves to get the best of me? Personal Leadership Skills One of the most important aspects to a great team is the quality of its leadership, and leadership comes in many forms. We all know people who possess the charisma and confidence to be a vocal leader, and while that component is a significant one, there are many ways that you can use your style and influence to positively impact your teammates without being the most vocal. What is most important here is that you are leading your life in the...

Developing a Winning Attitude

Can anyone expect more from an athlete than giving their best personal effort each and every day? How often do we see this occur in individual and team athletic events? Many athletes and teams believe that they do this, yet continue to fall short of their goals. Why would this happen? Don’t all competitive athletes want to win? In achieving a peak performance effort all aspects of an athletes preparation must come together at the same time, including a well-developed mind-set. Unfortunately many young athletes and their coaches fail to recognize the power in possessing a comprehensive mental plan for success. As a result athletes may subconsciously hold themselves back in order to ensure a built-in excuse in case they fall short. This is largely due to the perception that their self-worth depends on how they perform. Good performance, good person; Bad performance, bad person. Nothing could be further from the truth. What the majority of world-class athletes report immediately prior to a major competition is that they are feeling relaxed, confident, and highly focused on the task at hand. They are not worried about their opponent or about anything that is not within their control. They have worked hard to value themselves worthy, and have committed to success with the fullness of their being. This level of commitment is only sufficient when an athlete can answer “yes” to the following question; “ Am I willing to risk everything that I have in mind, body, and spirit even when there is no guarantee of the outcome?” Imagine what your performance would look like if you were able to consistently...

You Are Not How You Perform

Athletes at all levels experience the pressures of competition. Such pressure may come from parents, coaches, teammates, or from the athletes own expectations regarding their performance. While these pressures are quite common they are sure to limit an individuals level of competitive intensity. Rather than focusing on the task at hand many athletes report thinking about the “dire” consequences of a sub par performance. This type of negative thinking takes away from the positive energy needed to generate a powerful performance, and in reality supports a disappointing one. Yet the youth in our country are encouraged and at times taught to think in negative terms. Television, magazines, the media, and peers seem to place constant focus on what goes wrong in the world, or on what we, in our human condition, do incorrectly. This necessarily forces comparisons with others, and takes our focus away from all that we do well. Kids begin to think that in every situation they are either “ one up” or “one down” in relationship to others. It is no wonder then that athletes of all ages tend to look for things that can go wrong with their performance rather than focusing on what they must do in order to be successful. As adults our challenge is to teach and encourage young Americans to remain positive, focused and confident in each of their pursuits. The first step in the lifelong process is helping them to set a goal of overall self acceptance. We must teach them that regardless of the competitive outcome they remain worthy, worthwhile people deserving of love, support, and friendship. In addition,...