5 Things My Swim Coach Told Me That Apply to Real Life

5 Things My Swim Coach Told Me That Apply in Real Life

The sport of swimming will teach you a lot over the course of your life. From how to deck change to be able to MacGyver a set of Swedish goggles thirty seconds before you have to be up on the blocks. Here are some of the life-lasting lessons that your swim coach will remind you about over your career.

Swimming is much more than a sport.

Besides the meditative aspect of training in relative silence, of floating and gliding across the water, and investing endless miles to ingest endless calories, the sport gives us a lot.

The most important gift, however, doesn’t show up on the scoreboard and isn’t always awarded with medals and accolades…

It’s the lesson of how to be successful across the rest of our lives, whether it is in personal relationships, our career, or our fitness goals that have nothing to do with the black line.

Here are 5 things your club coach will tell you that apply to real life:

1. “Get back to basics.”

When things are feeling particularly struggley, and we are starting to experience doubt, frustration and impatience we start to look for a new and improved way to get better and get back on track.

A new tech suit, a fancy new supplement, or a secret, unknown training technique.

When things aren’t going your way forget the fancy stuff, break things down and go back to the fundamentals: Technique. Consistency of effort. Eating good food. A good night of sleep.

It’s easy to get lost in the allure of a better and easier way. The temptation of shortcuts are everywhere, and they are marketed well. But at the end of the day, it’s the fundamentals that drive performance.

2. “You’re tougher than you think.”

Our past experience can be our greatest ally or it can keep us grounded in a comfort zone from which we are hesitant to escape from.

After all, how many times have you looked at a seemingly impossible set, that endless swim practice, only until moments later when you not only started it…not only finished it…but actually crushed it?

In that moment something remarkable happens: Your idea of what is possible changes.

The gift of hard work and braving adversity isn’t just the results that eventually come with it–the satisfaction, the pride and confidence that comes from facing down those seemingly impossible sets will infect the rest of your life.


|| Adversity doesn’t break champions. It creates them.

3. “Keep your eyes in your own lane.”

There were a lot of story lines in Rio; from Lilly King’s finger wag to Yulia Effimova, Sun Yang and Mack Horton’s water splash, and of course, the rematch in the men’s 200m butterfly between Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos.

In case you missed it, while Chad Le Clos shadowboxed and tried to distract the GOAT, Phelps’ face took a turn to Grumpyville that launched a flurry of social media attention, a million memes, and a fresh hashtag in #PhelpsFace.

While Le Clos’ attempts at psyching out Phelps wasn’t really that bizarre—ready room antics have been happening ever since there was a ready room—had Le Clos swam his own race and focused on his own swimming maybe the end result would have been a little different.


Being competitive is important. Having the racing instinct and using it in practice and in competition will raise your performance. But the moment your swimming becomes about what someone else is doing you lose focus on your own preparation.

4. “Love the work.”

Somewhere along the way we were taught that hard work has to totally suck. That if it’s good for us, we need to endure the swim workout like it’s punishment. But you know, even if its only at an intuitive level, that hard work is actually enjoyable.

Sure, in the moment when our muscles are screaming for oxygen it’s tough, and requires resilience and fortitude to see it through, but there is a deep satisfaction that comes from performing hard work well.

You can’t fake the pleasure that comes from kicking a chlorinated pile of meters straight in the teeth. The surest way to be successful is to enjoy the work. And that means being passionate about what you are doing.

This means having meaningful goals for what you are trying to accomplish in the water. An escalating set of training targets that get you the progression and improvement you want. And embracing the hard work.

5. “Champions are made in practice.”

Everyone wants the result. The result is where the accolades are, where the records, medals, and attention are lavished on the champion. It’s that new PB on our swim coach’s stopwatch that drives us. Who wouldn’t want that?

But it’s the day-to-day grind, showing up for the early mornings, staying true to your team commitments, holding the breathing patterns, doing the drill work properly, completing the main set when coach isn’t looking, and all those other seemingly inconsequential moments that combine to create excellence.

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of YourSwimLog.com. He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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