By Meaghan Raab, Swimming World College Intern.
Have you ever been disappointed in a race or a practice? Have you ever felt that you weren’t good enough based on your performance in the pool? You are not alone in these feelings. Disappointment happens to every single person and there are ways to take the experience and make it beneficial for you in the long run.
No one wants to be disappointed, but it’s the way that you respond to the failure that determines what type of athlete and person you are going to be. Part of being successful in any aspect of life is to learn from mistakes and allow the disappointment to motivate your next moves. If you start negative self-talk, along the lines of telling yourself that you are inadequate or no-good at what you are doing, you are only hurting yourself. This destroys your confidence and interferes with your performance.
The failures of life provide something that will help your athletic endeavors along with the rest of life: feedback. Failing at something shows you what not to do, and helps point you in the direction that you need to be going in order to succeed in your next attempt.
There are many ways to handle the failures and disappointments in life. Find the one or ones that work best for you, and turn your failures into a learning experience.
A good first step is to accept the failure as something that happened to you. It is now in the past and you can’t change it. You are allowed to be upset and angry in the moment, but don’t let those feelings eat you up and hurt your chances at improvement.
Second, don’t spend too long thinking about the past. Deal with what happened, feel all the emotions, and then move on. It is up to you how you approach this part. Some people pretend the situation never happened, while others write it down in a journal to express their feelings in another forum. Start thinking about what comes next for you.
Next, recognize the opportunity to improve and also be aware of what specific areas you would like to work on. If you had a bad start and it affected the rest of the race, then work on your starts every chance you get. The same goes for any other little thing in racing like turns, breathing, and stroke rate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in improving in these areas. Your coaches are more than happy to help you, and will appreciate you approaching them for help rather than waiting for them to tell you what you need to fix.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to change your perspective. If you always look at failing as something negative, and not as a chance to learn and grow, then you are missing out on time for self-improvement. Look at these moments as positively as possible.
One easy fix is to change the language you use when you talk about the situation. If you had a bad race and added a bunch of time, think of something that you did well during the race. This could be simple like your turns into streamlines off of every wall. This is also a good idea in a frustrating practice where nothing seems to be going right. Find the good moments in every day. It could make all the difference in the world.
Every person reacts differently to failures and disappointment. Mary Claire Cardwell, sophomore at UGA, uses the tools of self-reflection and looking ahead from her toolbox of overcoming the occasional disappointments of the sport.
“For disappointing swims, I usually sit down with myself and try and figure out what I could have done better, and tell myself that there are tons of opportunities in the future to get it right,” said Cardwell.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to take your failures and disappointment as they come and use them to learn, improve and grow. This is not limited to swimming. People in the real world face other types of failures and disappointments but the way to tackle them and move forward is the same. Starting to develop a resilient mindset now can help you manage these situations when bigger failures or disappointments occur in life.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.