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...

Motivating Boys vs. Girls: Six Ways to Get the Most from Your Swimmers

Most coaches will agree that the way to get the most out of a male swimmer differs from that of a female swimmer. While there are certainly exceptions to gender based motivation, there are cultural and biological differences in boys and girls that do impact the efficacy of strategic motivational interventions. Boys tend to place a higher value on winning, gain more self-confidence by outscoring their opponent, see competition and group play as more hierarchical, and therefore tend to become more sensitive to status. Girls, on the other hand, seem to focus their competitive instinct on growth and personal challenge. For them to reach their true potential, it is important that they feel a sense of support and togetherness from friends, family, coaches, and teammates, with less of an emphasis on performance outcomes. Girls don’t need anybody to tell them what’s at stake. They know. Reminding boys of what’s to come tends to serve as a challenge for them. The following strategies may help coaches, parents, teammates, and individuals support boys and girls sense of autonomy, and degree of intrinsic motivation: Girls and women value attachment and intimacy. “We are all in this together” approaches tend to unite women, and encourage them to want to perform for each other. Men and boys value autonomy, latitude, and winning. Help them prepare by supporting them to embrace the hierarchical challenge, and letting them know you believe in them. Women socialize at every opportunity. Allow them that time together. It will support them to train, and race, with more passion and a sense of fun. Men want the opportunity to prove themselves....

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...

Flow State Development

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory (1975, 1990) describes moment to moment subjective experience, defined by the relationship between person (perceived skills) and environment (perceived challenge) that is engaged in for the sole purpose of enjoyment. Achieving a flow state is the ultimate manfifestation of intrinsic motivation. Empirical research has proven that when entering a flow state, one not only produces positive emotions, but also experiences personal growth. Jackson and Marsh (1996) define the Flow Sate; 1. A balance exists between perceived skills and perceived challenge 2. The task has clear goals for the participant 3. There is a merging of action and awareness. This occurs moment to moment 4. One acts with deep, effortless involvement. As a resuly, worry and self-doubt are eliminated. 5. There is a sense of control over oneself and one’s environment 6. There is a loss of self-consciousness 7. There is full concentration on the task at hand From the above, we can see that it is important to place adolescents (students, athletes, people) in situations where they perceive their skill lvel matches the perceived demand of the task. Any deviation from this challenege/skill balance allows self-consciousness to enter into awareness, thus compromising performance and potentially limiting the quality of one’s experience. Csikszentmihalyi has also stated that experiencing a flow state creates meaning in individuals lives by allowing them to achieve purpose and, therefore, have a positive impact on their emerging self. Pete Thompson, Ed.S., BCC, is a board certified Life Coach and performance psychology practitioner. He works with adolescents and young adults throughout the United States....

Depth on Your Streamlines & Breakouts

Streamlines and breakouts comprise components four and five of your turning sequence. Keep in mind that the more efficient you are with the first three components, the better opportunity you have for a great component four and five. Another way to look at the streamline is underwater travel. So, the question becomes, ‘how can I maximize my underwater travel so that I go farhter, and do it faster, than my opponent?’ By using the following tips in practice, you will make this a reality. 1. Body alignment and body balance are essential tools for an effective streamline. Think of your body as an arrow- elongate your neck and spine and slightly round out your upper back. use the weight from your head to balance the weight of your hips, and your legs. 2. Keep your core tight! The tighter, the better. 3. Too much stretching with your arms, however, will be counter-productive as this will tend to throw your balance off a bit. Your arms hang naturally from your shoulders (when standing) at a slight bend. This is the bend you want for your streamline. 4. Every swimmer has an ideal depth with which they travel the furthest, and fastest. To find yours, you must experiment with various body depth off of your walls. Try coming off very shallow (not too good!) Then, try coming off the wall very deeply. (probably not too great either). Now that you know your ideal depth is somewhere in between shallow and deep, you can play around with it. Be sure to maintain proper balance, alignment and core tightness each time, and feel (and see) how...