Ed Note: Over the past couple weeks I have been collecting tips for faster swimming from coaches for an article, appropriately titled, “50 Swimming Tips from 50 Coaches.” I’ve been reaching out to coaches from coast to coast, asking them for their favorite tip. Jeff Grace, assistant age group coach at the Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver, went above and beyond and submitted the tips for faster swimming below. I asked him if I could publish them on their own, and he graciously acquiesced. While the rest of the 50 come streaming in, here are six great tips for swimmers to get you started–
1. Allow Disappointment to Fuel Your Motivation
Eddie Reese has always said that the best hate to lose more than they love to win. I had a chance to speak to Brendan Hansen about this and he told me that what fueled him to get up every morning for practice was not to break a world record or win Olympic gold, but that he remembered how it felt to miss the Olympic team in 2000 and that he never wanted to feel that way again.
You can approach disappointment in two ways, you can feel sorry for yourself, question your ability and allow it to rob you of your motivation or you can have resolve and use it as motivation.
This may seem simple, but it isn’t always. For an athlete to live up to their full potential they need to trust in their coach and trust themselves. Listen to your coach, ask questions and be open to what they are saying. It may not always be what you want to hear, but quite often what we don’t want to hear is exactly what we need to hear.
Also learn to listen to your own body and head. Understand how you work and be aware of how your body moves and mind reacts. You need awareness to make positive changes and to improve you need to make positive changes.
3. The Clock Can Be Your Best Friend.
How do you know if you are on track and if you are doing sets in the way they are intended? Most often sets are designed around goal times and splits and the best way for you to achieve the goals of the sets is for you to to use the clock.
Swimmers will often profess that long sets and swims are boring, my belief is that is because they lose focus. In longer sets pay attention to your splits while you are swimming, make goals for each 100, this can be done at max effort or at 70% effort. Precision is a skill, a skill that can be the difference between winning or losing or improving or plateauing.
Use the clock as motivation and never depend on anyone but yourself to get your times.
Every opportunity you get put yourself in a position to race. There will be sets where this may not be appropriate, such as recovery sets, but every opportunity you get in practice race. Remember you are practicing to stand up and race seven other athletes and the more you practice racing and being able to train your mind and body to be successful at that skill, the better your chances of success.
5. Develop Independence
When you step on the blocks at a competition there is only one person in your lane, one person who is responsible for your success and that is the same person that stares back at you in the mirror everyday. The only way that you can truly take on the responsibility for your own success is to develop your independence everyday in and out of practice.
Wake yourself up for morning practice, don’t depend on your parents to do it. Get your own times in practice, don’t expect your coach to do it. Give a 100% in practice to achieve the goals of each set, don’t depend on your coach to remind you or motivate you.
6. Never take yourself too seriously
Always remember swimming is just that, swimming. As much as our goals are important to us, as much as we work our butts off and as much as we should be committed and dedicated to the process, in the end it is just swimming.
Take the endeavor seriously, but never take yourself too seriously. Relax, enjoy, laugh, have fun and never forget the difference between person and performance. You are not how you perform, that is a moment in time, you are much more then your performance, never let a performance define you, let your actions define you.
In the words of the greatest coach of all time, John Wooden, “What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.”
Our sport is a wonderful pursuit, don’t sacrifice your enjoyment of it because you have taken too much time taking yourself too seriously.
About the Author: Jeff Grace has coached for over 20 years at all levels, and was most recently the assistant age group coach at the Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver, a NCCP Level IV coach, and has over 100 published articles on the sport of swimming.