The Big Meet Went Bad. Now What?

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join 9,000+ swimmers and coaches who read his motivational newsletter last week by clicking here.


Have you ever wanted something so badly in the pool that you couldn’t imagine what it would be like not to achieve it?

Had goals so big, so fantastic, and yet, so right, and still come up short when the big meet came around?

You worked your butt off at the pool, shown up for the optional sessions, and seemingly done everything correctly, and yet…

The meet went stinky.

Whether it was making an international team, hitting that qualifying standard, or breaking that elusive personal best time, we all experience at one time or another those swim meets where results fall short of expectation.

And yes, it sucks. Big time.

There’s no magic formula for getting your head straight after a discouraging competition, but instead of paying cover for the pity party there are some things you can do help yourself bounce back quickly, and ideally, better prepared to level up your swimming.

Here are some things to try the next time things don’t go your way at the big meet:

Find the lesson.

The only thing worse than a brutal meet is not pulling any sort of lesson from it.

It is easy to take the crushing disappointment of a bad meet exceptionally personally. To beat yourself up mentally. To find fault in your training, your preparation, your talent.

Once you’ve had a brief period of time to decompress and run through the frustration and anger get down to figuring out the lesson.

Did you not manage your taper as well as you could have? Were you getting caught up in what other swimmers were doing? Did you get overwhelmed by the pressure?

There is great value (and motivation!) to be found in our failures. It’s your job to find the lesson and move forward smarter and better prepared.

Sit down with your coach and get honest about what happened.

Your swim coach will be in a great position to give you an informed opinion about why things went down the way they did. They’ve bore witness to your training, both the good and the ugly, and will be able to give you a better indication of whether your goals matched up to the work you’ve been investing in the pool.

Instead of stalking off and warming down under a dark cloud of anger and frustration, sit down with your coach and ask why there was a gap between expectation and result.

(If you already know why, then you’ve got your lesson. But if it is a mystery, if you are at a loss to explain what happened, than “stuff happens” isn’t a suitable excuse for a disappointing performance if you have expectations of improving upon it moving forward.)

Make adjustments to your process.

Hyped up expectations are a common cause of disappointing meet performances.

We expect a certain result, even though we haven’t necessarily done the prep necessary to accomplish it. The skewing of expectations may be as a result of overestimating the work done in the lead-up to the meet, or you hoped to be able to get by on talent.

Look back at your training. At the day-to-day work in and out of the pool.

Does your process reflect the results? If you were expecting to swim a gold medal winning time, was the performance you were unleashing in practice over the course of the year reflect it?

And now, most importantly, what are you going to change to insure the next time a big meet comes around that you aren’t sitting on the outside looking in on your goals?

Hit up your support system.

While what each athlete needs in order to swallow the disappointment of a big meet is unique, in my experience it has always been helpful to have people around you that are able to lend perspective.

That can help you crack a smile afterwards, bring some levity to what is otherwise a bush-league situation.

While they understand how much the outcome of the meet was for you, they are also able to encourage and challenge you in a manner which pushes you forward in a positive direction.

Having the right support system in place can make the whole process much easier—supportive teammates, coach and family will go a long way to helping you bounce back stronger and willing to continue chasing your dreams in the pool.

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About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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