How to Stop Being a Negative Nelly at the Pool

We all lapse into moments where we catch ourselves complaining about a set or comparing ourselves to others. It’s not fair, it’s too hard, so-and-so doesn’t have to do it, why do I? And so on and so forth. This type of behaviour is toxic and counter to producing a positive and productive team atmosphere.

Here are five ways to help make the environment you train in more positive, encouraging, and ultimately successful for not only yourself, but your teammates as well–

1. Stop comparing yourself to other swimmers.

This is a competitive sport, after all, so this can be profoundly difficult. We are constantly comparing ourselves to other swimmers, to time standards, to records. Don’t allow others to dictate the way you feel about your swimming. Concentrate on what you can control, and the results will come. Focus exclusively on the performance of others and you’ll find yourself psyching yourself out long before you jump into the pool for warm-up at your next competition.

2. Re-examine the people you are hanging out with.

Are the swimmers and friends you surround yourself with professional naysayers? Constantly doubting everything – whether it is the set coach just scrawled on the board, how fast a certain swimmer actually went at a certain meet, or worse, deriding your goals and ambitions in the pool and beyond? It’s time to evaluate whether you want to have that type of influence in your day-to-day like. We like to imagine that we are immune to the influence of others, but this is deluding ourselves. We absorb the negativity from people around us, so do yourself and your swimming a favor and give yourself the best chance to develop and steer clear of those Debbie Downers.

3. Re-frame the way that you talk to yourself.

How often do you catch yourself saying, “I can’t do this. I was kidding myself to think I was capable of finishing this set. I don’t have the talent to do it.” That little voice in the back of our head can really get in the way at times, and if left unchecked, can deter you from giving a full effort or pushing past your self-imposed boundaries.

4. Be part of creating a positive atmosphere.

Here’s a fun fact for ya – I’m not talking about the swimmer that cheers after each set and repeat, the faux cheeriness tends to illicit that opposite intended effect (see: rage, annoyance). Rather, support your teammates and lane-mates in the midst of challenging sets and workouts. Even a simple “Let’s do this” can be enough to help a teammate that is struggling to finish a set. Be the change and you will reap the rewards ten-fold.

5. Bounce Back like a boss.

We all have those awful swims and workouts. Where we expected better from ourselves and came up short on our expectations. Often times it’s something we have little control over; a debatable DQ, an injury, illness, family drama. In the after-math of said swim or crap practice, do what you gotta do to cool off and get back on it. Go mope in the showers for a few minutes. Scream underwater while you warm down. Do what you gotta do to vent out your frustration, reset your emotions and bounce back.

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

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