How Swimmers Can Build Real Self-Confidence

How Swimmers Can Build (Real) Confidence This Year

Every swimmer knows that self-confidence is hard to build, impossible to fake, and can be fragile.

After all, we’ve all had that swim meet where the months prior saw you swimming out of your mind at practice, the taper went perfect, and you stepped up on the blocks feeling like a total rock star…

Only to add three seconds to your PB on the opening race of the swim meet.

Confidence go bye-bye.

But the swimmer with a high-performance mindset knows that self-confidence can be curated and built and will be better positioned to bounce back when things go off the rails.

And most importantly, our enterprising swimmer knows that self-confidence must be internalized in order to be effective.

Don’t Let Success (and Self-Confidence) Swim You By

One of the main issues I see with young swimmers is that when they do something really well, they brush it aside in an act of humility:

  • “Oh, it was just one good workout.”
  • “Usually I don’t swim that fast.”
  • “Must have just been my lucky day.”

Maybe they don’t feel comfortable accepting praise for a job well done.

Or because it’s so much easier to focus on the things they did wrong compared to the things they did right.

But letting those wins go means real opportunities for developing genuine self-confidence are floating off into the gutter.

By not internalizing your wins, you are never allowing self-confidence the opportunity to flourish.

Self-confidence that could:

  • Help you tackle tougher challenges (ahem, intervals, race pace targets, breathing patterns, etc) at swim practice, forsaking even more chances for improvement
  • Swim your best on race day knowing that you’ve done the work and have the track record of competence to perform well
  • Help you bounce back from a bad practice or a disappointing race
  • Steel you on race day, keeping you focused on your race plan no matter what is happening around you

How to Build (Real) Self-Confidence at the Pool

It’s not enough to do big things at the pool each day.

You gotta internalize those moments and add them to your shield of armor (aka confidence).

Here are three of my favorite and time-tested strategies for building authentic self-confidence and keeping it in the pool:


This is a hugely powerful tool that can be used in a ton of ways.

One is to visualize yourself overcoming adversity in training and practice, so that when adversity does happen, you already have the “programming” in place to respond positively.

Because visualization so closely simulates the real thing, you can stockpile experiences of grinding through tough situations.

Keep a journal

Don’t let your successes go unrecognized! Use a swimmer’s logbook to record (and celebrate!) your legitimate wins over the course of a season.

Flip through those pages when you feel the doubts bubbling up during hard stretches of training and before competition.

Swimmers spend a TON of time in the water. It can be easy to lose sight of all the times you crushed it at practice over the long scope of a season.

A logbook acts as a record-keeper of the journey of your season.

Chase competency goals

The big goal at the end of the season gets all the attention, but it’s the little goals along the way that are the rocket fuel for race day.

Consistently set goals that build competency, which in turn builds confidence. (“Today I am going to not breathe between the flags for the whole swim practice.”)

Competency breeds confidence, and the cool thing is that these goals don’t even have to be earth-shattering in scope.

Stack competency goals to create more chances to internalize confidence, which creates an upward cycle of newer, harder goals and more confidence.

To recap in a handy little 1-2-3 format:

  1. Visualize – rehearse moments where you can internalize confidence
  2. Journal – take stock of the moments and internalize real-time confidence
  3. Set competency goals – create more opportunities to internalize more confidence

At the end of the day, remember that self-confidence is something you can work on!

It is built on a ladder of your achievements and mindset, so make sure that when you hit the water today, you are doing so with an eye toward building legitimate self-confidence.

Mental Training for Swimmers (FINALLY) Made Simple

Whether you are tired of choking on race day, want to finally conquer your mindset so that you can give your PB’s the beating they deserve, or want to develop a killer game plan for your mindset, Conquer the Pool is your ticket to faster swimming.

“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.

Learn More

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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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