So the here is the scenario. You worked all season towards this one goal. You woke up early, you listened to your coach, you wore your lucky suit, and you had the perfect shave down. Yet, when you touched the wall and looked up at the clock, you were met with disappointment. That wasn’t the time you trained for. That wasn’t the time that you put all of your effort into. So now what?
Take a breath and be a good sport in the moment
Take a deep breath and give the frustration a chance to get out of you. Then look to your left and right and make sure you respond if one of your competitors offers a congratulations and a hand shake. Better yet, if they haven’t, take the chance to initiate it. No matter how devastating this moment is for you, swimming is a sport. There is honor in swimming the race, so be sure to end the process by being respectful of your competitors.
Even if it’s the last race of your meet and you hate the warm-down area/pool; get in. Not only will the time in the water give your body some recovery time, it will give you time to think and unwind. Take the time you are swimming to do some soul searching. Choose one or two things you did well in the race. Did you have a great dive of the blocks? Did you finally avoid circle swimming or breathing off the wall? Find that thing, internalize, and focus on it. Keep your focus on the good until you finish up and your heart rate is lowered.
Talk to your coach
With the positive already in mind, head over to your coach. He/she will likely give you race feedback. Take everything in and try to keep your emotions separate from the practical. If he/she asks your opinion about the race, be sure to offer both the good and the bad. As a coach, I know that I really appreciate when a swimmer has thought about the race prior to talking to me. Don’t worry! If you get upset or emotional while talking to your coach, it’s okay. It happens and we are here to help but do try to remember that something went right along with what went wrong.
You can’t change an event that has already happened and devoting stress and attention to the past only keeps that energy from moving forward. Find something to move your mind on to. If you have a race quickly approaching, think about it and visualize success. If that race is in the far future, focus on your teammates. While swimming can seem like a pure individual sports at times, it isn’t. You spend countless hours working with the people on your team. You share the ups, the downs, the terrible sets, and the funny moments. There isn’t a better place for your focus to shift to than bringing a good energy to your team. I assure you that you will get as good as you give. If you are at a meet alone and have down time, find a third party interest. Read a book, listen to your favorite song, or check out the newest articles on swimswam.com.
If you still have more events to swim, live in those moments. Every new buzzer sound is another chance at greatness. If your meet is over, start planning for the next step of training and practice. Every failure is only a failure if you don’t learn and move forward from it. A bad swim does not define you or your season. It is simply numbers on a clock and chance to hone your craft. It isn’t easy to take but that is part of being the competitor you are. Don’t be content with mediocrity but at the same time, embrace that every success is built on the skeletons of past lessons. Be confident that you will get them next time. More than anything don’t let a bad race tell you what you can’t do. In life, there will be plenty of people and situations that can’t wait to tell you what you can’t do. Don’t be a voice in the nonsense choir. Believe in yourself and get back to loving what you do.