3 Tips for How Swimmers Can Build Self-Confidence at Swim Practice

3 Tips for How to Build Self-Confidence at Swim Practice

Confidence is the magic sauce to our swimming.

The fins to our paddles.

The paddles to our pull buoy.

When we feel confident, we roll out onto the pool deck like a hurricane, ready to tackle the coach’s Machiavellian main sets. Competitors don’t scare us. Adversity is easier to handle.

But when we feel unconfident, workouts are harder, self-doubt piles up, we overreact to setbacks, and it gets harder and harder to move forward with our swimming.

And while we all envy the swimmer who is naturally full of authentic confidence, far too many of us treat confidence like something that “just is.”

The truth is that confidence is a skill.

A skill you need to work at.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to go about filling the tank.

Recognize your moments of excellence.

Swimmers with high expectations and big goals tend to only reward themselves with praise when they go a personal best time.

But confidence can’t be reliant on one or two swims per year.

The foundation of confidence, the authentic, genuine stuff, comes from the Little Wins in practice.

Each day chase meaningful training goals and recognize them.

In your swimmer’s logbook. In a text file. In a Confidence Jar. Wherever.

Just make sure you are taking note of them.

If you don’t, they just disappear into your vast training history, along with the confidence you rightly earned from them.

Chase Stretch Goals in practice.

Confidence comes from stretching yourself in the water.

Telling yourself to be confident is one thing.

But doing daily things that generate that hot buzz of real confidence is another.

Get into the habit of tackling new and scary stuff in practice.

Moving up to a faster lane. Trying an interval you’ve never done. Doing an extra round of the main set.

Two things will happen.

You will fail at the Stretch Goal and realize “failing” wasn’t as painful or demoralizing as you thought. Or you will succeed and realize that your fears were unfounded.

Either way, you are learning what you are truly capable and picking up valuable chunks of real confidence along the way.

(Give yourself a Daily Stretch Score… something as simple as grading yourself 1-5 on stretchiness each day when you get out of the water.)

Use comparison-making as a motivator.

Swimming is a competitive, socially evaluative environment.

We are ranked by times from fastest to slowest.

Cold, hard numbers on a scoreboard.

The reality is that there will always be a faster swimmer out there.

This means that if we base our confidence solely on how we rank against other swimmers, we are always going to feel “less than” with our confidence.

(Plus it leaves our confidence up to the whims and results of others.)

Use them as inspiration (“If they can do it, so can I”). Use them to get a better effort from yourself.

Comparison-making is a natural part of being human—every time we walk into a room or a pool we are ranking ourselves according to the other people in the water—so make sure you use this natural instinct for your benefit.

Each day when you walk out onto the pool deck, you are not only working on your technique and building fitness, but your confidence is being shaped.

Choose to work it like a skill.

Start doing these three things each day at the pool.

Build authentic, genuine confidence.

And swim like the rock star that you are.


Mental Training for Swimmers (FINALLY) Made Simple

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“This is the best book I’ve ever seen concerning mental training.” — Ray Benecki, Head Coach, the FISH Swim Team

Used and trusted by some of the top clubs and swimmers on the planet and written with the feedback of 200+ head coaches, Olympians, former world record holders, and NCAA champions.

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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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