Annamay Pierse on how Canadian Swimmers can be difference makers

“I don’t think a lot of people in the Swimming Canada world realize how good they can they be.”

This was one of the most powerful statements that Annamay Pierse made when speaking with SwimSwam. She spoke about the subject with passion, not just about the potential of the young athletes, but about wanting to help them change how they think.

The first question she was asked was, why? Why do you think that Canadian swimmers don’t realize how good they could be?

“Because I think so many people are happy with mediocrity,” said Pierse. “Great you made the team, that is awesome, great you moved up a spot, you didn’t go a best time, but great.

“People don’t have the mental toughness or the viewpoint that they can push themselves further than they ever thought they could, because everything is celebrated.”

“If you do this you get a trophy, if you do this you get a pat on the back, there is never, you need to do better, it has got to be better.”

Pierse is optimistic though, she sees the change in other sports, especially winter sport in Canada where in the last Olympics Canada came away with 14 gold medals, and feels that if they can do it so can swimming, “I think it will change, I think our winter athletes have done it. Being there isn’t good enough they want to be the best, so I think in swimming we can view it that way.”

So what has to be done to make that change?

Her first idea involved a change in leadership, not at the top in areas such as the High Performance Director or National Team Coach, but how the athletes can be shown leadership from experienced athletes who have been there and been successful, “I have actually pitched a mentorship program to Swimming Canada,” explained Pierse. “Having a junior and youth mentorship program where the alumni that have been through it and been successful can teach the younger kids before they get a little bit too old and set in there ways.”

“You start with them young and show them that you are good today, but you have to be better tomorrow. Helping them build some of the strategies that worked for me or that have work for Ryan Cochrane  or have worked for Brent (Hayden), showing them our success can be taught and they can build on it.”

“We have made tons of mistakes and we have learned a lot. We have had lots of success so why not use us to help teach the coaches and teach the younger kids what we did to get to where we were.”

So what are some of those strategies?

To explain the first she used a dancing analogy, “Take dancing; when you see a dancer on stage how many steps do they pull off to do this amazing piece of art? On day one they don’t learn the entire dance, they learn the first little bit and everything is broken down.”

“My 200 breaststroke was broken down into 29 different aspects.”

“I had 29 things from start to finish and if you are going into a race that is completely overwhelming to think about 29 different things, but for the month or the year leading up to my best races everyday I would pick one thing and my coach would pick one thing and you had to do that in practice perfectly. There was something every single day in my workout that had to do with my race, actual straight up 100% this is what I had to do on race day, I did that everyday.”Pierse_Annamay

“So all of a sudden when I am picking a different thing everyday and two things and making it as absolutely perfect as I possibly can, then when you get to the race you don’t have to think about 29 different things, because it is like the dancer you just know what to, they have rehearsed it, they have done it.”

“We are told to set goals and you have your race strategy, but you have to practice it exactly how you want to do it day in and day out. It is impossible to do 29 different things at once, it is impossible to do every possible thing in your race at once, but you pick one tiny thing each day. For me it would be the last stroke into the wall or the bottom part of my pull out, but it is broken down so much by the time I got there I knew exactly what to do, my body just knew.”

The second was simply don’t be satisfied with what you have today, but think about what you need to do tomorrow, “When you do something really well don’t just sit back and say that was great, that was awesome, I did a really great job, you go okay that was great today, but I have to do it better tomorrow.”

“Everyone else is getting better so I need to get better. When you start to do that you start surpassing your goals by so much because everyday you have to figure it out. It becomes such a big stepping stone to pushing yourself further and further and further.”

Her third piece of advice is that a race is never just a race, “Every race matters. You don’t necessarily have to be wearing a racing suit, but never thinking oh it doesn’t really matter.”

“Ever race matters, when you start to think that they don’t then your body starts to think, oh it doesn’t matter, when it does matter how do you flip it around?”

For Swimming Canada to move forward and have more success on the international they would be wise to use not only athletes like Pierse, Cochrane and Hayden, but pull on other alumni like Tweksbury, Ottenbrite and Baumann to offer the lessons they learned on their way to success and hopefully provide Canadian swimmers with not only inspiration, but a way to become difference makers.



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9 years ago

Annamay makes some great points for Canadian swimmers. At American College Connection we have been working with Canadians for the past 12 years with the college recruiting process and I have found them to be outstanding young people who want to come to the states for the right reasons, to get an education and continue their swimming careers.

Canada has some of the best coaches in the world including their college coaches and certainly some of the most talented swimmers. Annamay touched on the “racing” aspect for Canadian swimmers and from my observation, I think this is the missing piece for them. The swimming population is relatively small up north so the kids grow up racing the same individuals all… Read more »