The Swimmer’s Struggle 5 Reasons This Setback is Just What You Needed

The Swimmer’s Struggle: 5 Reasons This Setback is Just What You Needed

It’s easy to think the worst of ourselves when things don’t go the way we planned. But if you’re really serious about achieving excellence in the water, this setback may turn out to be exactly what you needed.

It’s the worst. The I’m-never-going-to-be-any-good, stomach-wrenching, I’m-a-dummy feeling that knots up your guts and makes you rethink and doubt everything you thought about yourself as a swimmer and athlete.

But how you react precisely in those moments are one of the determining factors in whether or not you will be successful in the long run (more on that later).

Here are five reasons that the occasional, dizzying failure can be just the thing you need to set you on the right path to your goals in the pool:

1. Clarifies what you need to do.

Setbacks have a way of shining a light on the things that we haven’t been doing. Or reminds us of what does work.

Commonly young athletes will carry on in a state of denial, training half-heartedly but still expecting full-time results, and then act shocked and chagrined when they stink up at the pool at the big meet.

Setbacks and failures are the things that shake these expectations loose and remind you of what actually needs to be done. And to stop doing the things that aren’t helping.

2. Your ability to be resilient tells the world how successful you will become.

Swimmers of all abilities and all levels of speed have experienced serious setbacks. To think that you should be exempt from the challenges that we all face, or that failures and challenges mean that you are destined to not improve or be the best swimmer you can be is simply wishful thinking.

Resilience, in this interesting study that surveyed a group of high performing athletes, was found to be a determining factor in how successful an athlete became.

The athletes who were willing to face challenges, face down their failures, and be proactive about improving in the face of adversity was one of the starkest differences between athletes who reached the pinnacle of their sport and those that were an “almost.”

The Swimmer’s Struggle 5 Reasons This Setback is Just What You Needed

3. Failure is a lesson in humility.

Being a confident swimmer is a good thing, but arrogance and bravado are not. Believing that you are somehow exempt from the trials and tribulations that come with a decision to be excellent is fanciful thinking, and inflates your expectations to the point where they are going to be shattered.

Failure in the pool, whether it’s adding time to your PB, placing DFL, or having an awful workout, reminds us to be gracious when we do succeed and not take the sport for granted.

This humility will only insure that you will be more willing and grateful for the opportunity to work harder the next time around.

4. Launching point for exceptional improvement.

For many young swimmers it’s precisely those moments of hardship that provide the opening chapter of the rest of their journey. The bookmark that signifies where things really started to take off for them.

In the same study mentioned previously the top performers could all point to really difficult moments of struggle as being catalysts for hyper-development.

Whether it was an injury, and the resulting flood of determination to come back stronger than ever, or a defeat, and not wanting to experience that dreadful feeling ever again, the elite have a way of using setbacks as a launching pad for change and improvement.

5. Clears the fair-weather friends from your circle.

You notice how some people have a way of shrinking away from your life when things aren’t going well? That while they are the first to cheer your successes they are nowhere to be seen the moment you get your chlorinated butt DQ’d?

On the other hand, there are those who stick by your side even during the most challenging stretches of your swim career. The rocks and champions in your life who see you beyond your swimming.

Failures, especially the exceptionally bad ones, have a way of clearing your circle of fair-weather friends.

The Takeaway

When we are neck-deep in despair and frustration it’s tempting to succumb to the worst things we think of ourselves. That we aren’t deserving. That we’ll never be great. That success is something reserved for everyone but us.

But it’s precisely those moments that will dictate your future, and how far you will eventually take your swimming.

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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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