Today someone will make the decision to be great. Will it be you?
Over the couple of years that I have been writing for SwimSwam, USA Swimming and here on my own website I have received a significant amount of email from readers of my articles. Many of them seek advice, while others reach out to share stories about their own swimming journey.
In this heap of correspondence I have read stories of hope, of frustration, of success and of failure, but there is perhaps nothing that drives me to react more viscerally than a variation of the following:
I have goal to win a medal at nationals but my teammates and parents don’t think I can do it.”
Look, I fully appreciate and understand the need to be moderately realistic with the goals you set. (When I was a kid I wanted to be a Transformer. That didn’t quite pan out.) But what I don’t understand is people telling someone that they can’t do something.
Tell them what it will take, sure, explain to them in gruesome detail all the work it will take to accomplish this goal, the superhuman commitment and dedication required to achieve superhuman feats in the pool, but to flat-out tell a swimmer they cannot do something they dream about makes my blood boil.
In replying to these emails I generally ask the swimmer a simple question: “Why not you?”
Today a swimmer will dare to dream a little bit bigger. Why not you?
The dedication and steps that are necessary to drop 3 seconds from your best time are the same that are required to drop 5 seconds. With high aspirations comes more effort, so why not stretch what you want to accomplish a little further?
Big dreams require more work. They require fearlessness to overcome the small thinking of those around you (and all too often yourself). And they require you to adjust what you think is possible.
In the words of Tom Hardy’s character Eames in the film Inception…
You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”
Today a swimmer will decide that they will make the full commitment necessary to achieve their goals. Why not you?
It can be frightening to go whole-heartedly after something you crave dearly. All sorts of doubts and fears plague you not only at the outset, but at every junction and step along the way. Setbacks and errors will be overly scrutinized, somehow symbolic of a greater conspiracy for you to not achieve big things.
Similarly, many swimmers hold themselves back because they don’t feel completely ready to charge forward, waiting for the moment that they are 100% prepared.
Opportunity and life does not wait for you.
If you sit around waiting for that fictionalized moment where the stars align, where things are just right, than you will not only be waiting a painfully long time, but the opportunities that are before you now will float by.
Today a swimmer will do it a little bit better than they did yesterday. Why not you?
Success in the pool, and any endeavor in life, is a result of making small gains, barely perceptible gains, those 1% improvements, consistently over the long haul.
When we watch others succeed in a grand, sudden moment of epicness we come to believe that this is how change is applied with our training as well; big, sweeping, dramatic moments of uprooting change.
In reality it’s not like that at all. It’s the constant application of making yourself a little bit better every time you jump into the pool. Bit by bit, inch by inch.
Today a swimmer will decide to have better habits in the pool. Why not you?
Our habits are the foundation of our swimming.
From whether or not we get up for early morning practice, to exercising good nutritional consumption, to maintaining technique when fatigued, the myriad of habits we have in the pool forms the swimmer that gets up on the blocks come meet time.
Our training habits can become such second-nature to the point that we don’t even think about them anymore.
Deciding to use this power of automaticity for the betterment of your swimming is the closest you will get to putting success on auto-pilot. When doing the tough thing, the hard thing, the right thing, becomes second nature those big scary goals will begin to crumble before you.
Today a swimmer will help others succeed. Why not you?
It’s understandable that as a high flying athlete you get caught up in your own swimming. You have a lot of things on your plate, after all.
Between the endless swim practices, cramming in work and school, and achieving the amount of sleep you need to perform your best and the bottomless eating to make this all possible, it is easy to lose sight of the passion you have for the sport.
An easy way to get back in touch with why you love the sport is by giving back.
- Spend a few minutes working with one of the youngsters on your team. (They look up to you more than you know.)
- Encourage a teammate that is having a tough workout.
- Be the one who steps up and makes the training environment one that is more enjoyable for everyone.
These things may seem trivial, but they can go a long way in not only deepening the passion you have for the sport, but also in developing a place for you and your teammates that fosters success.
You were built to do some great stuff. Whether you do it or not is up to you. Not your swim coach, not your parents, not your friends.
Instead of looking at the swimmers around you doing big things with their swimming look in the mirror and ask, “Why not me?”
The Ultimate List of Workouts for Competitive Swimmers. Our ever-growing list of practices and sets for swimmers. Includes sets and workouts from Olympic gold medalists and some of the top coaches on the planet.
Practice is Everything. Seriously want to crush your goals in the pool this season? Start by giving your practices the attention they deserve.