1 – Take care of your body
Although training is getting easier, your immune system can have trouble keeping up with the change. Stay healthy this championship season by avoiding sick teammates, eating healthy, and sleeping as much as possible. You can’t afford to be pulled out of the water with only weeks to go until conference.
2 – Take care of your academics
When talking to an alumnus last year, I asked her if there was one thing she could change about her senior year what would it have been. She said she regretted not getting ahead on schoolwork and being stressed about midterm papers at the NCAA’s. Take her advice and get your work done well ahead of time so you can focus and enjoy your end of season meets without deadlines hanging over your head.
3 – Trust your training
Most likely the training you have done this past year has been totally different than ever before. Trust your coaches, trust the work you put in, trust that those crushingly hard training trip sets will come through for you when its time to race.
4 – Talk to the Returners
This taper will most likely be different than any you have done before. Ask a returning junior or senior swimmer what exactly to expect as the meet gets closer. Why you are swimming so few yards, how to talk to teachers to stay on top of classes, what the event order is, how the warm-ups work…. etc. Your teammates who have done this multiple times are your best resource. There are no dumb questions when it comes to getting you mentally prepared to go fast.
5 – Take control of your taper
Taper is 50% mental and 50% science. Let the coaches analyze the science, while you do everything possible to get your mind ready to race fast. Don’t be swept away with pressure and anxiety, think on the things you can control like effort in practice, details in races, and encouraging your teammates. The rest will take care of itself.
6 – Write down some notes for yourself for next year
Be humble and recognize where you could improve next year. If you find that it’s the end of your season and you still need to work on your start. Recognize that it is not the time to do 300 starts a day. Focus on few repetitions but perfect technique and remember this when spring training comes and you have all the time in the world to dedicate to perfecting your skills.
7 – Enjoy the process
Although last, this tip is the most important. Some of my most memorable championship season moments were just letting go of the stress and having a blast alongside my teammates. Sing along during a taper kick set, cheer for your friend’s entire mile, hug your relay when you touch another team out, and take tons of pictures. Time will fly, records will be broken and time standards will get faster, but the memories and friendships you make in college swimming can last forever.