Developing a Winning Attitude

Can anyone expect more from an athlete than giving their best personal effort each and every day? Many teams and athletes believe that they are committed wholeheartedly, yet they continue to fall short of their goals. Why would this happen? In achieving a peak performance all aspects of a swimmers preparation must come together at the same time, including a well-developed mind-set. For swimmers, this is especially important given the fact that the difference between happiness and disappointment is measured by less than one one-hundredth of a second. Unfortunately, many swimmers neglect to take advantage of a comprehensive mental plan for success. As a result, some even subconsciously hold themselves back to ensure a built in excuse in case they fall short of their goals. This is largely due to the perception that their self-worth depends on how good they perform. Good performance, good person. Bad performance, bad person. Nothing could be further from the truth and ultimately misses the point of competition. What the majority of world-class athletes report immediately before 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 anything that is not within their control. That’s because at this point they are wholeheartedly committed. They are able to answer “yes” to the following question; ‘Am I willing to commit with the fullness of my being when there is no guarantee of the outcome?’ At this point, they let go, and enjoy the moment. Imagine what your performance would feel like if you were able to consistently achieve a world-class...

Training and Competing With Intention

Just as swimmers conduct a physical warm-up just prior to a practice or competition the best prepared swimmers have also developed a comprehensive psychological or mental warm up in order to put them in the best frame of mind for a great training opportunity or peak performance. This can be easily accomplished in just a few hours and, over time, can be refined and individualized in order to give you a distinct advantage and enable you to “win the mind game.” Planning What frees you up to perform your best? Think about a previous performance that you are proud of. What three words would you use to describe your thoughts and feelings just prior to that performance? What interferes with you reaching your true potential? Self-doubt? Worry about mistakes? Lack of confidence? Rest and sleep? Nutrition? What three words would you use to describe your emotions just prior to that performance? Keep in mind that when we take our thoughts away from the moment, we automatically limit our potential. This is true in practice as well as in meets. Try taking 2 minutes prior to practice, or your next set, to create some challenges for yourself. Recall your best performance, or your best technique. Resolve to take on this next challenge with more focus and intention than ever before. So, is there anything that you would like to improve about the way you approach practices and competitions? Attitude? Intensity level? Nervousness? Self-talk? Technique? Execution How would you prefer to think, feel, or act just prior to getting in the water to train or compete? Most world class swimmers report...

You Are Not How You Perform

Athletes at all levels experience the pressures of competition. Such pressures may come from parents, coaches, teammates or, most likely, from the athletes own expectations for their performance. While these pressures are quite common they are sure to limit an individual’s level of competitive intensity by taking the focus away from what they already do well, and putting it squarely on the outcome. Where do these self-imposed pressures come from, and what can athletes do to manage them? It is fair to say that we live in a negativity culture. Television, magazines, media and peer influences seem to place a constant focus on what can, or does, go wrong. This necessarily creates a negativity bias in our brain, and for athletes, leads to performance limitations. Rather than focusing on the task at hand many swimmers report thinking of the “dire” consequences of a perceived poor performance. This type of negative thinking takes away from the positive energy needed to generate a powerful performance, and in reality, prophesizes a disappointing one. I remember talking with a foreign born Olympic medalist some years ago about the pressures he felt from his fellow countrymen to win Gold. By the time he got up to the block he was so fraught with worry that he wasn’t even focused on the start. So, how can swimmers alleviate these societal and self-imposed pressures? According to psychologist and researcher Carol Dweck, we can either approach challenges with a growth mindset (I love a challenge…I am going to get there…I am curious about where this leads) or a fixed mindset (I am judged as good or not...

4 Ways to get in the Performance Zone and Stay There

When swimmers are asked to recall their best performances, they typically describe a feeling of effortless power, excitement, and readiness for the upcoming challenge. In Sport Psychology terms, this is known as achieving a State of Flow. Research tells us that those who frequently experience flow states are; More confident More Self aware More in control of their lives and interests Higher achievers More committed to reaching their goals Having more fun So, the question that follows is ‘how do I achieve this flow state?’ Is it simply luck, or can we create circumstances for ourselves that are likely to manifest this state of being? Csiksentmihalyi’s Flow Theory describes moment to moment subjective experience, defined by the relationship between person (perceived skill level) and environment (perceived level of challenge), that is engaged in for the sole purpose of enjoyment. In other words, how we think and feel about our upcoming challenge determines how much joy, passion, and fun we have. There are four possibilities for approaching a competition. Remember though, this is all based on our perceptions of the task. High Challenge + Low Skill = nervousness, emotionality, over-thinking High Skill + Low Challenge = boredom and apathy Low Challenge + Low skill = Asleep/disengaged High Challenge + High Skill = Engaged, energized, and aware Certainly, we would all prefer to find ourselves in this high challenge/high skill situation, and the good news is that you can create this at any time! The next time you are in practice, or a meet see if you can creatively do some of the following; Find a balance between the challenge of...