5 Tips for Overcoming A Poor Performance

Felicia Lee
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

5 Tips for Overcoming A Poor Performance

You trained, you cleared your head, you pushed yourself, and then you fell flat in the pool. Your confidence is shaken and you can’t stop yourself from replaying the swim over and over in your head.

Give yourself a break. A bad swim isn’t the end of your career. Regroup and use this experience to make it better next time. All successful swimmers have experienced disappointment, but what sets them apart from the rest is their ability to use failure as a lesson learned.

Here are five ways you can overcome a bad swim performance:

1. Stop the talk.

Photo Courtesy: Glen Johnson

Photo Courtesy: Glen Johnson

By this, I mean: Quit talking down to yourself about the failure. I get it. You are consumed by all the emotions that accompany a bad swim. You experience guilt, anger, frustration, disappointment, and more. Why wouldn’t you? These are easy emotions. What isn’t easy is stopping them.

You have to consciously redirect from negative responses to self-reflexive ones. Instead of dwelling on the result, focus on the performance. You have to ask yourself what happened and why it happened. Investigate your own performance. With a clear mind, you will have the space to consider that you have to change for the next swim.

2. Have a plan for the unexpected.

Michael Phelps is one of the most successful and decorated swimmers ever. Michael Phelps has 28 Olympic medals, but they aren’t because he never experienced failure. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps earned eight gold medals. While the victory is what most remember, Phelps experienced a setback at the Games.

During the 200-meter butterfly, Phelps’ goggles filled with water. The water blinded him and he could not remove the goggles, but he did not stop.  Phelps – a well-trained and disciplined swimmer – had a plan. He did not panic about the water. Instead, he relied only on his stroke count to complete the event. It is important for you to have a backup plan for recovery in the pool.

3. Get feedback.

Olympic Trials-finals-6apr2016. Photo Scott Grant

Photo Courtesy: Scott Grant/Swimming Canada

When you have a disappointing swim or poor performance, you don’t need comforting and coddling. You need honest feedback, and a good coach knows that. Excuses and comforting won’t teach you anything. Talk to your coach about what happened, and be willing to listen; regardless of how upset you are or how bad it stings. Tell your coach what happened, what you observed, how you felt, and what you could have done differently. The coach’s feedback combined with your own reflections about your performance will teach you how to overcome and prepare for setbacks in your next event.

4. It’s not personal.

You can’t stop thinking about yourself after your swim. What are people thinking? What is your coach thinking? Are you disappointing the ones you love? Yes, it was your performance, but don’t take it personally. You are not the only to ever face challenges and experience setbacks in the pool, and you won’t be the last.

You trained hard and had every right to expect the performance you envisioned, but there are things you cannot control. Those moments do not make you a failure. Every swimmer has made it to the wall and experienced some sort of misery about their swim. Look around you at any given event. You will see tears, anger, arguing, or frustration. It happens; don’t take it personally. Success may not have followed this event, but it does not mean you won’t ever be successful again. It was a bad swim. You are not a bad swimmer.

5. Look at the big picture.


Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

It was only one poor performance in the grand scheme of things. What happened today will not be what happens tomorrow or at future competitions. Bad races happen, and when you get out of the pool, something else in your personal or professional life will challenge you as well. You are not immune to challenges and setbacks. No one is. What you do with mistakes and challenges is what predicts your future successes and resilience. Look at the big picture and ask yourself what role this setback plays in your future success and performance in the pool. If you cannot answer that just yet, you need to revert back to the beginning of this list and try again.

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2 years ago

Let’s dwell on the negative!