Disappointed But Not Disheartened: 3 Ways to Move Forward After a Tough Season Finale

Matt Grevers places 3rd in the prelims of the 100 freestyle.
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Jamie Kolar, Swimming World College Intern.

The end of the swim season brings a mix of emotions – some good and some bad. On one hand, all the hard work is done and you can finally see what you have been working toward. On the other hand, you question what might happen if you come up short of your goals. This is a realistic question that every swimmer faces at then end of the season, and unfortunately there is no way to know the answer until you get your hand on the wall and look up at the clock.


Photo Courtesy: JD Lasica

Sometimes, you do come up short. Nothing can quite prepare you for that disappointing moment. Everything you have done for the past few months – all the sacrifices and hard work you have put in – seem to be for nothing. You are probably the hardest on yourself at this point, because in the end, it is your swim and therefore your responsibility. This is definitely not the outcome you foresaw when you started the season.

The question, “So now what?” echoes in your mind.

You have to be able to move on from this disappointment somehow – setbacks are bound to happen in such a difficult sport. So what do you next?

1. Redefine Failure

Jun 3, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Cal swimmer Nathan Adrian looks at the scoreboard after the A Finals of the Men's 50m Freestyle at George F. Haines International Swim Center. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Failure is an interesting term, as its definition varies from person to person. Maybe for you, a little gain in time from your best is actually better than you have done in a few years. While it is not your best time, you are at least close to it, which is more than you can say for years past.

While the swim was not a total breakthrough, it most certainly was not a failure – it was simply a step in the right direction. There is no need to beat yourself up, because in the end, it was still a good swim. That is something to be proud of.

2. Try, Try Again

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - APRIL 10: Cameron van den Burgh celebrates after qulaifying for the 100m breatstroke during the heats session on day 1 of the SA National Aquatic Championships and Olympic Trials on April 10 , 2016 at the Kings Park Aquatic Center pool in Durban, South Africa. Photo Credit / Anesh Debiky/Swim SA

Photo Courtesy: Anesh Debiky/Swimming South Africa

There is an old saying that goes like this: “When you fall off a horse, you have to get back in the saddle.” Simply put, try again.

Not every race will be perfect. When you make an error in one of your races, what is stopping you from trying again? Whether you have another opportunity to race again in finals, in a relay, or sign up for a time trial last minute, get back up on that horse. Sometimes, you just needed to get out some pre-race jitters and the second time is the charm.

3. Give it Your All


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

When you put your whole heart and soul into a race, it is hard to see how your time could not be one of your best. Even if it falls short from a personal best, you can give yourself the validation that you had nothing left to give.

Champions are not defined by how they get out of the water or how many medals they have won. It is how they have acted after a bad race and how they come back from those disappointments hungry for more.

Disappointments happen: They are part of life. But it is how you react to those setbacks that determine how far you will go in the future. Don’t let the sour taste of disappointment rule your season. Reevaluate your definitions of success and failure, focus on the process and give it your best effort. In that sense, you’ll always have a win.

Commentary: 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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