3 Helpful Ways To Overcome a Missed Cut Time


3 Helpful Ways To Overcome a Missed Cut Time

By Reagan Reetz, Swimming World College Intern

Many swimmers set goals with a particular meet in mind. Whether it’s Olympic Trials or a state age group championship, the deciding factor for attending those meets can be a single hundredth of a second. 

There’s nothing worse than looking up at that scoreboard and seeing that a cut time has been missed by a minuscule amount of time. For swimmers who achieve their cut times, it can be a reward for all the hard work they have put in during the season. For swimmers who barely miss these times, it can make them feel as though the work they put in was not worth it. 

Here’s how to deal with a missed cut time.

Take Some Time…Then Let It Go

The disappointment can be immeasurable when a cut time is missed. While it may be tempting to shove the upsetting swim behind you immediately, it is necessary to feel those emotions and fully grieve the swim. 

This can be done by using warm-down as an opportunity to get angry or upset and swim until it feels better. Swimmers are part of a team, and negativity can spread fast. The warm-down pool is a solitary place. Be wary of spending too much time doing so, however. There are likely other swims and sessions left, and a negative funk can be hard to break. Use this time to see things more clearly. 

A clear mind that has processed and let itself feel the emotions around an upsetting swim is one that is ready to swim fast. This form of mindfulness can ensure that discouraging thoughts do not recur.

Above all else, think about what you’ve accomplished – cut times are arbitrary, and being a hundredth or a couple of tenths off of a time is minimal. If an achieved time is within a fraction of a second of a personal goal, it is typically still counted as a feat. The same should apply to missing cut-time-motivated goals.

Recall all of the work it took to get that close. Even if it wasn’t a personal best, work was done to get that swim where it landed. 


No swim is ever perfect. There may have been a missed turn or a poor breathing pattern. Maybe something smaller, like one too few dolphin kicks. In the end, there is always something a swimmer can improve upon. That may seem grim, but if the technique was already perfect, achieving that missed cut time would be much more difficult. 

Even if there were no glaring mistakes, there are some questions you can ask yourself. Were there any practices where you didn’t work as hard as you could’ve? Were there days when you let your good habits slip?

After acknowledging the answers to these questions, there will likely be individual days where the answer is yes. However, it’s about purposefully limiting that occurrence in the next season. The evaluation of a swim isn’t to negate a sense of achievement but rather to help achieve goals the next time. 

Be wary of obsessing over a time, however. It can lead to digging yourself into a hole and creating a mental block.

Use It As Motivation

In practices where you may be starting to ease up on your effort or not working your technique as well as you should, think about how it felt to see that time on the scoreboard. That letdown occurring once again would be devastating. 

Then, think about how amazing it would feel to swim at that meet where that cut time is applicable, to know that you got there and that it was due to your hard work. Hardships like this can set you back, but they can also propel you further than you ever thought you could go.

Missing a cut time can be devastating, but it does not define you as an athlete.