By Diana Pimer, Swimming World College Intern
All swimmers know what it’s like to have that glorious moment when you get a best time, achieve your goal time, and place where you wanted in a race. For some of us, this may not have been this season, this year, or even the last few years. But we all know what that sense of relief and joy feels like.
More often than not, we do not have these moments. Especially as swimmers grow older, best times sometimes become a foreign concept, and off swims become the norm. Nonetheless, we know how to handle these swims.
It is easy to figure out where you went wrong in an off race, sometimes it’s easiest just to laugh it off and attack the next one. It is also easy to handle the great swims. Smile, accept all the congratulatory remarks, smile, warm-down, smile, and have a great attitude going into your next race.
Unfortunately, there are also those in-between races. The ones where you hit your time or drop a little bit of time. Sometimes swimmers even drop a lot of time, but for some reason, just aren’t satisfied. And I can say from experience, it is incredibly frustrating to hear “You got a best time, why are you upset? That doesn’t make any sense.”
It is important to appreciate any drop in time, whether it is .01 or 10 full seconds. This means that you are improving, and that you are doing things right. However, even when you do, it is okay to not always have that incredible grin on your face and feeling of satisfaction.
Here are 3 reasons why it’s okay to be disappointed in a best time:
1. If something went wrong.
If you’re as big of a swim nerd as I am, you may remember the 2008 Olympics when Michael Phelps won a gold medal and broke his own world record in the 200 butterfly. What more could a swimmer ask for? Is there really any better accomplishment than this?
You may also remember his reaction. Unlike his usual post-race celebrations, he tossed his goggles out of the pool in frustration. In the race, his goggles filled up with water and he could not see.
Even though he accomplished so much, he knew he could have gone faster. An uncontrollable factor affected his race, preventing him from accomplishing his goal. This can happen to anyone. Many things can go wrong in a race at no fault of the swimmer.
You can swallow water, your suit could fill up with water, and you could miss a wall or misjudge an open turn. Even though you may be successful, sometimes you just know you could have done better.
2. If you didn’t accomplish a bigger goal.
Sometimes, you simply don’t swim as fast as you want. Think of an age group swimmer trying to break 1:00 in the 100 freestyle, the first big feat in swimming. If a swimmer goes into the race with a 1:01 and then swims a 1:00.00, there is going to be some disappointment. In college or high school swimming, you could swim your best, but still not make a cut time or place as high as you wanted to. This is okay. It is not greedy to want a little bit more. It is human nature.
If I had a dollar for every collegiate swimmer who just missed qualifying for their respective NCAA Championship, I would probably be rich. With these meets getting faster and faster, being selected becomes more and more challenging.
There are swimmers who won their conference, set a school record, made the invite time, and still, missed making the meet. This process can be traumatizing to some swimmers.
Even worse, imagine being the third place swimmer at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Best time or not, this swimmer is not going to be that happy. Swimming is a mental game, but these setbacks make us the tough athletes and people of character.
3. If you put a lot of pressure on yourself.
Swimmers put an insane amount of pressure on themselves. We dream, expect, and accomplish great things. But when we don’t, swimmers are typically very hard on themselves. When we don’t perform, we can’t blame a referee or foul-play from an opposing player.
Somewhere in the race, we did not do what we were supposed to do. This is hard for a lot of swimmers to digest. We become very disappointed in ourselves when we do not achieve what we set out to.
Whether you break a world record or break a minute, it is okay to be disappointed. Try not to show it, this can make other swimmers feel uncomfortable or upset. But when you are alone or deep in your thoughts during warm-down, know that a little sadness is okay. Disappointment is natural, and no one should make you feel like you are ungrateful.
Some moments are more detrimental than others, but accept your emotions, learn from your mistakes, and try to keep in mind all the things that went right in your race. After all, you did get a best time, right?