The Secret to being a Great Swimmer

by SwimSwam 16

March 15th, 2015 Britain, Europe, Lifestyle, Opinion

Swimming Opinion is courtesy of Gavin Cooley. Follow: @Gjcoolone

What do the best swimmers in the world do unlike anyone else? Actually, let’s change that. What do the best athletes in general do to be so amazing? What makes them so much different from the rest of us? Sure, the hours put into training, the nutrition, the mental capacity for competition, and many other characteristics all have to do with it, but what is one quality that all the elite possess? Why are they so special?

The answer is simple.

The best athletes, regardless of sport, have mind numbing consistency to the point of complete and total failure within their training. There is no task too big, no challenge they can’t overcome, all because of consistency. No matter what, they never stop moving forward. Elite practices are monotonous. The same process is followed each day, with little variation. It is said that the Beatles practiced for a jaw-dropping ten thousand hours before they went big time… In all truth it is this simple fact that keeps most from being great. It is not lack of skill, or time. It is a lack of commitment. As my coach says, that’s just being brutally honest with you.

Why aren’t more people “great” then?

Tragically, most people just lack the willpower. The best don’t necessarily live extraordinary lives, doing crazy activities frequently. They just don’t eat that extra slice of pizza. They do that extra squat, push up, or pull up. Bedtime is 8:30, and the rooster crows bright and early, at 4:45. While waking up that early is impressive (especially if you aren’t a morning person), it’s not something thousands of people worldwide can’t do. Being great isn’t as monumental of a task as you think.

How can I become great?

Start out making small changes, big changes can actually harm you, and most people can’t complete their goals if they try to make big changes right away. Dedicate yourself to one small task to completely focus on, long term and short term. In swimming, it’s details that win races. If you can take one more dolphin kick off your wall than your competitors, or keep your head down and hold your breath for one more stroke, it could be the difference between winning and losing. To be able to do these small things well, they require sharpening. A blacksmith originally sharpens the blade while it is still hot, giving the sword the ability to cut. By practicing your small details under fatigue, when you are rested you should be able to excel in those parts of the race, and the little things add up.

Do you personally know or have you heard of someone who is great through consistency and focus in the swimming or business community? If so, comment their stories below!

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Gigi
6 years ago

Gavin, this is an excellent article. I am so proud of you!

anonymous
6 years ago

I agree about the willpower stuff but I think the author’s disparaging comments about pizza are uncalled for.

Reply to  anonymous
6 years ago

#teampizza

KP
Reply to  anonymous
6 years ago

Yes, for most of his career, Lochte was a notorious junk food eater! But perhaps he could have been even faster without it!

GoldenB
6 years ago

This article is fantastic for gifted individuals, but could be misleading to others. Take Rudy – you know the one the football movie was about. While he made the team, and inspires countless individuals in any goal they want to achieve, there is a reason he only played at the end of a single game. All that hard work did not make him “great”, like being named an all-american.

The hardest worker on the swim team desperately wants to swim for LSU. She’s young, but if she doesn’t get help in the form of a growth spurt, and muscle development, there is just no way. It breaks my heart, and every day I hope that her body grows to… Read more »

anonymous
Reply to  GoldenB
6 years ago

You are right. Hard work and dedication might not make you a great swimmer. But these character traits often carry over into all aspects of your life. So the hard working dedicated swimmer may become a successful professional, family man/woman, business person, volunteer, etc.

GoldenB
Reply to  anonymous
6 years ago

Agreed! Totally!

AussieBob
Reply to  anonymous
6 years ago

Spot on, and this is what many miss. Very very few will make it to the elite level. It is what these kids hopefully learn while attempting to get there is what will make them successful individuals in their chose career or life paths…..

Guy
6 years ago

This is fairly true to some degree, but it doesn’t do justice to the fact that there are countless swimmers out there with amazing qualities that go above and beyond, yet still fall short because they lack the key component in swimming: talent. As annoying as it is to hear that, although talent isn’t everything it is a huge portion of what it takes to be a “Great Swimmer”. I just don’t think it’s fair to all the honest hard workers out there to say that people fail to succeed because of character flaws (something they control and decide on) rather than their physiological limits (something detached from who they are and how hard they train).

Gavin
Reply to  Guy
6 years ago

Guy- While I do agree with you, there are many hard workers out there that are held back due to some physical limitation, there is also a difference between hard work and smart work. Part of focus is recognizing your body’s strengths and weaknesses, and fine tuning your training accordingly. For example, a person who is 5’4″ will never be able to catch as much water as a person who is 6’5″ with their pull, but they can make up for it through faster starts and turns. Also, if they can swim very efficiently, they will be able to hold a faster stroke tempo for a longer time, making them successful at distance events. While physiology does have an affect,… Read more »

Guy
Reply to  Gavin
6 years ago

Gavin, I agree completely; however, the article is addressing greatness, not being really really good, like making it to the D1 level or something like that. The “great” athletes have got it all from dimensions, to naturally producing less lactic acid than others, to being double jointed, etc… If I’m 5’5 and I have great turns, starts, technique, and so on I will still be slower than the 6’5 guy who happens to be double jointed and barely produces any lactate that has put the same effort (or less in many cases) into the sport (and I’m talking both smart effort and physical effort)… I find this to be the harsh reality.

dmswim
6 years ago

While I think hard work and consistency can bring out the best in someone, I don’t think all “great swimmers” do what is described above. Some athletes are very talented and don’t need to do that extra rep or push until failure. Or they are in tune with their bodies and know that extra rep will cause too much fatigue and not be beneficial. The best athletes work smarter not necessarily harder. The mentality that you have to always be the last one in the gym or pool doing extra every day to be the best can sometimes be harmful for those that take it too far. Running your body into the ground doesn’t necessarily produce results. Listening to your… Read more »

JJD
6 years ago

Gavin,
Hard work and perseverance are excellent personal virtues that many of us try to instill in our children. However, the brutal fact is that no amount of hard work and perseverance will allow a less physically gifted athlete to overcome a more gifted athlete who is also willing to put in the work.

Coach
6 years ago

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”
-William Shakespeare

From a coaching perspective, I think it is important to define what is meant by greatness. Greatness may be defined as one who is considerably above normal. I have had the opportunity to work with a great number of athletes who exemplify greatness in the way they approached their sport. Some of these athletes went on to achieve “elite” levels of success within their sport. More importantly, most of the athletes exhibiting the attributes of focus, commitment, and sacrifice mentioned in the article went on to become assets to their community serving as teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs,… Read more »

Lei
6 years ago

I couldn’t agree with this more. I wish I could go back in time and do some things differently.
I’ll share this on my Facebook Page synchronized swimming channel. It’s a great article.