Grinding Through Small Distractions a Key To Success in the Pool


Grinding Through Small Distractions a Key To Success in the Pool

To anyone who has ever been an athlete, you understand when I speak about grind. Grind is not a simple word, but rather a complex word that contains many layers underneath the seemingly straightforward five letters. When you are an athlete, and even when the day comes when you play your last game, swim your last meet, or partake in your final competition, that drive, determination and work ethic will stick with you.

In swimming, just like any other sport, grind involves focus. It involves complete dedication and energy put into not only the physical battles of practices and competitions but also the mental battle of pushing forward in order to find victory. Sometimes, though, when you’re in that pool for those long hours staring at the bottom of the pool, it’s easy for your mind to wander and lose focus from the task at hand. Many times, muscle memory kicks in and allows your thoughts to move from focusing on the task at hand to other areas of your life.

Maybe that area is something fun and lighthearted, like a song stuck in your head that refuses to leave, and will make you lose count of your set. Or, maybe the area is something more serious, like relationship drama, family problems, or other life concerns. Everyone has their worries and their stressors, and if you’re anything like me, sometimes you’ll become hyper-fixated on those worries and stresses. It will consume your thoughts and leave little room for putting energy and concentration toward other mental tasks, like working on long-term goals. It’s so easy to become wrapped up in the little details that are happening in the moment and forget about the much larger picture.

The next time you find yourself panicking or losing sight of your long-term goals because of a situation that feels overwhelming, put it in context by thinking about the situation a year from now. Which event will be more important in a year? Your big-picture swimming goal, which you have been working hard on for a long while, or some temporary life situation? Chances are, it will be the long-term swim goal. Sometimes thinking about situations in a larger context will help put you back on the right track and back into a better state of mind.

Other things to consider and try are talking to coaches and parents about how you feel, or seeking out older teammates who might have experienced the same situation. Finding people who you can relate to and feel comfortable talking to about your problems can relieve some of that pent up stress and mental unease. With some of the weight unloaded and the burden no longer being carried alone, there’s more room to start getting back to the things that you love. It’s for moments like these that you have a support system in your team and in your family.

It’s important to note that not all situations are temporary with an easy fix. Sometimes, there are life circumstances that may hold more importance than your swim goals. In a moment such as this, it’s important to step back and evaluate your priorities to make sure you are where you need to be and you are surrounded by a proper support system. In extreme cases, an athlete may even need to reevaluate his/her relationship with a sport, and that is perfectly okay. So long as everyone is healthy and safe at the end of the day, that is what matters.

When you find that life is getting in the way of your goals in swimming (as long as these life situations are not mentally, emotionally, or physically harmful to you) it can be hard to push down and silence the distracting thoughts. Apply the mental tactics that you practice every day in the pool to your mind – dedication and perseverance – and eventually the ability to push through life’s crazy ups and downs will be as easy as a warmup set.

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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1 year ago

Excellent – well written!