By Christian Hanselmann
Swimming is a unique sport. It has very few similarities with other sports. Swimmers train for hours every day, smell like chlorine all day long, and sacrifice social activities for sleep. And, all of this to improve a time by tenths and even hundredths of seconds.
How do swimmers maintain motivation?
First of all, it is not solely the job of the swimmer or the coach to be the motivator. It is a joint effort. There needs to be a direct line of communication between the coach and swimmer that is open at all times. It is the responsibility of both the swimmer, and the coach to keep that line of communication open and free. Maintaining this communication is the single most effective tactic to motivate the swimmer. That said, let’s look at some steps to becoming more motivated.
Swimming, and any sort of training, boils down to whether you want it or not. Desire is the foundation of anything, but especially for something that requires as much commitment as swimming. If you really want to be fast, you will be willing to do anything to get there. The reasons for wanting to swim may vary, but the best swimmers will always have that desire and find a reason to swim.
In order to be motivated and endure the boredom and pain that will undoubtedly come, the swimmer has to have goals. There need to be goals for the season, for the week, for the practice, or the set. But having a goal is not enough if the swimmer does not understand the purposes of each goal. Having a connection between both short-term and long-term goals, will help the swimmer see the end point. The coach can help a swimmer understand how each practice will help to achieve the long-term goals.
No swimmer should ever swim without a focus. Strokes are hardly ever perfect. If the swimmer has the desire and the goals, they need to focus on what it will take of them to fulfill those goals. The only boring practice is the one where the swimmer does not understand the purpose of the practice. It is also not solely the responsibility of the coach to give the swimmers a direction; really elite athletes will be able to think for themselves and focus on their own.
4. Find Someone to Race
Imagine the hardest set you have ever done. Now imagine doing it alone. Working with a friend or a teammate makes the practices go by easier, and racing that friend can improve your training. If there is no one to race, visualize racing your rival. Through visualization, racing your rival can be as real as if they were swimming in the next lane.
5. Have Fun
Yes, this is cliche, but this is very important. Each swimmer should enjoy what they are doing. Obviously each swimmer will enjoy different things, and many swimmers will not enjoy some of the sets required of them. But enjoyment can come from a positive attitude from teammates, from the coach, and from themselves. In the end, a happy swimmer is a faster swimmer.
Athletes must have a motivation. From my own personal experience, I know that these five steps will increase motivation, and help the swimmer get faster and have a better overall experience. When all of these five steps click, swimming will be enjoyable for the swimmer. And not only will they help the swimmer be more motivated, they will make the coach’s job much more enjoyable as well.
Christian Hanselmann swam for three years with the Brigham Young Cougars, and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Sports Psychology.