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11 Things That Separate the Good Swimmer from the Great Swimmer

natalie-coughlin-santa-clara-2015 (3) - swimmer
Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

11 Things That Separate the Good Swimmer from the Great Swimmer

By Brittany Oxley (Archive)

“This is the difference between being good and being great.”

That quote has been engrained in my head since I started swimming at 6 years old. I believe every coach I have ever swum for has said those words.

But what really is the difference between good and great as a swimmer? Is there a simple black and white answer? I think the answer varies, but I do believe much of greatness is defined by the mental toughness of the individual and how they tackle adversity. What does it take to become great? It takes your mentality, pushed to its limits.

Here are 11 characteristics of great swimmers…

1. Great swimmers know their goals.

They remind themselves of why they are there each day, despite the challenges. Keeping goals in the forefront of your mind keeps you motivated each day and reminds you of the purpose of practice.

2. Great swimmers know there will be bad practices. They are willing to focus through the pain.

This is what makes great swimmers stronger. Making improvements and focusing on the small details while broken down will make so-called “bad practices” more meaningful.

kicking

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Baughman

3. Great swimmers know it takes more than effort to have a good practice. It takes being uncomfortable.

Pushing yourself past the point of comfort will mimic races. The last 50 of a 200 free will be uncomfortable. Training with this discomfort will make the last part of your race seem easier, or at least familiar.

4. Great swimmers know pain is inevitable, but they turn pain into something so minute that it does not affect them.

Pushing through pain and blocking it out will allow swimmers to stay mentally tough. Tell yourself you can get through it and block out the negative thoughts in your head.

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

5. Great swimmers know there are going to be practices that do not make sense, but they trust their training.

I’m sure we have all had sets where we wondered “why am I doing this?” but this is when you must trust your coach. There is a plan as to why you are doing that. Trust it.

6. Great swimmers put in additional time each day to ensure they’re at their best when it counts.

To be great, you must put in extra work. Do abs, do pull ups, eat right, drink water, get sleep. All of these will affect you at the end of your season. So maximize on the opportunities to separate yourself from the masses.

Kalisz, Chase-24

Photo Courtesy: David Farr

7. Great swimmers learn from their mistakes.

Did you not stick to your race strategy? Did you not take enough dolphin kicks underwater? Then be conscious and make changes to help better yourself.

8. Great swimmers keep their emotions cool and stay focused on the big picture.

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

9. Great swimmers do not let others’ attitudes affect their own.

Staying positive and inside your own head will allow you to focus on yourself, not others. Do not buy in to others being negative during practice, or being negative at meets. Stay confident in yourself.

10. Great swimmers focus on what they CAN control.

Do not think that someone is taller than you, or stronger than you. Know that you put in all the effort you could and trust in that.

11. Great swimmers do not wait. They take advantage of every opportunity and do not plan for “someday.”

Carpe Diem!

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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48 Comments
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Jocelyne Humbert O'Kane

Why swimmers are such awesome people because they take all of this with them.

Rasha Tarek
8 years ago

Omar Bahaa

Jasmine El Mohamadi
8 years ago

Wessam Yehia

Martina Chione
8 years ago

My coach told me that the difference between a good swimmer and a great swimmer is high elbow in freestyle

Martina Chione
8 years ago

My coach told me that the difference between a good swimmer and a great swimmer is high elbow in freestyle

Meagan C
Meagan C
8 years ago
Reply to  Martina Chione

hahah this is so true

Melanie Zee
8 years ago

Well said.

Sergio González
8 years ago

El bisabuelo

Priscilla Weston
8 years ago

Great Article!

Anonymous
Anonymous
8 years ago

Michelle Stansberry

Heba Mohamed Elseidy
8 years ago

I believe u r a great swimmer Sara Hossam Hosny

Tricia Hart Duerig
8 years ago

Aidan Elyse

Lara Heida
8 years ago

Offfff?? Farah Shaban

Marcos Antonio Severo
8 years ago

Joana Severo

Jose Neumann
8 years ago

Christian Mayer Miguel Castillo

Miguel Castillo
8 years ago
Reply to  Jose Neumann

Buenaso pollo! ??????

Polly Butler
8 years ago

Jacob Butler

Samah Abdel-Moneim Eid

Youssef Islam

Danell Nellie
8 years ago

Shelly Ross, Jennifer Anderson Seeley,

Rajani Karki
8 years ago

Really good. Tips

Deborah Bunce
8 years ago

Read this Gema Fandila Bunce

Farah Shaban
8 years ago

Lara Heida

Mike Stempkovski
8 years ago

Hannah

Danell Nellie
8 years ago

Kim Bauman

Han Sen
8 years ago

Ne Le

Gema Fandila Bunce
8 years ago

?? Deborah Bunce

Lindsay Dawson
8 years ago

Catherine Woods

Kate Jennett Wells
8 years ago

Jed Wells

Jed Wells
8 years ago

thanks James

Nick van Nijburg
8 years ago

Nyls Korstanje Niels Post

Yvonne Steiner
8 years ago

Applies to all athletes

Jon Thorne
3 years ago

These are good, but I feel a need to draw attention to the dilemma. It is about adapting to what is happening while training as planned. If a swimmer only trains as planned they tend not to perform when things don’t don’t go to plan. Which is often when it matters the most. But not following a training plan can lower performance. Adapt to find balance 🙂

Katie Mollenhoff
3 years ago

Braylee Moore Alexa Mollenhoff

Darlen Della Jones
3 years ago

Christie Jones Raines—good read for Camryn

Debbie Gallagher
3 years ago

Alysha Gallagher

Frank McCutchan
3 years ago

Good article. One unfortunate reality is talent. There are swimmers who do all these things but simply are less talented

Sarah Robertson Grimshaw

Charlotte Grimshaw xx

Becky Williams Slominski

To me some of the most amazing swimmers are the ones who do all of these things but will never be the top of their age group or ever qualify to come back to finals but yet they keep swimming-for the love it, the love of being on a team, the understanding of exercise being good for you. The bulk of the kids going to practice everyday are those kids.

Doreen de Waal
3 years ago

Olivia De Waal

Paul Maher
3 years ago

Troy Chandler

Jennifer Frost Bower
3 years ago

Paige Bower

Izak Hattingh
3 years ago

Izak Hattingh Jnr

Leigh Collins
3 years ago

Suffering. You have to be able to suffer and actually like it. I don’t even need to open this article.

L.C.F.Y.D. MANUEL SANCHEZ
L.C.F.Y.D. MANUEL SANCHEZ
2 years ago

IT MIGHT APLY FOR SOME, MAYBE THE MAJORITY, BUT NOT ALL THE SWIMMERS, THERE ARE MORE DEFFINITIONNS FOR SURE!!

Dr. Pete Andersen
Dr. Pete Andersen
1 year ago

Totally agree with all those points. But perhaps only great ones see those. There is a reason why top performers outperform their competition. It’s a combination of Spirit, Mind, and Body. Yes it starts with physical attributes, but then Spirit and Mentality take on greater roles. As a former IU All-American under Doc Counsilman and learning a work-ethic to go on to earn a Ph.D. with emphasis in behavioral, educational, and personality psychology I began to study top performers. In 2021 published my Amazon bestseller The 3 Secret Skills of Top Performers – Powerful Lessons in Transformational Leadership. It is The Triad Performance Improvement System. I still compete and hold Masters World and National Records in my age group. I record every workout since my freshman year at IU. Those repeat times provide the goal bench marks to improve with each new practice. I would add that great swimmers usually keep workout swim logs for that very reason. It’s motivational and purposeful to increase a level of awareness to feel rewarded and want to repeat. OK, those 3 secret skills are Increase Awareness, Enhance Self-Evaluation, and Connect Reward with Reinforcement. Good luck. Keep Swimming.

Reed Pendleton
Reed Pendleton
1 month ago

Keeping logs of performance is important, as the older I get the faster I was. 🙂

Raymond Woods
Raymond Woods
11 months ago

Great Swimmers simply have a better feel for the water than most swimmers.

Peter
Peter
3 months ago

Im looking at whats in print in front of me and I get a rush of blood. The problem that i have is trying to instill the same into my 2 daughters. They currently swim at state level 11 & 13, I find it frustrating that one minute they have it the next minute they struggle with the confidence to succeed at a higher level. I understand it takes time but i dont want them to lose there enthusiasim .

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