5 Effective Strategies to Limit Meet Day Nerves


5 Effective Strategies to Limit Meet Day Nerves

Meet day nerves can play a significant role in any swimmer’s mental game going into a race and can be extremely challenging to deal with. Whether it is the fear of having equipment malfunctions, missing a wall, not achieving a goal, or losing the big race, it is crucial to find ways to limit these concerns. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways in which you can control your nerves and keep them from negatively affecting your performance.

1. Have Confidence In Yourself


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

If you have an incredibly hard time with pre-competition nerves and have had it affect races in the past, it can be challenging to imagine developing enough confidence to overcome this obstacle to success. However, there are numerous ways you can help yourself gain that confidence. When you are plagued with self-doubt, it helps to remind yourself of the extent of the hard work you have done to prepare for the given situation. 

With thorough practice and preparation, you have absolutely no reason to doubt yourself. Another way to find this confidence in yourself is by focusing on your successes rather than your failures. Whether you have successfully executed the race previously, have been killing it in practice for the event in recent weeks, or have conquered even tougher challenges in the past, these are all reasons you should not allow your nerves to get in the way.

2. Use Your Peers’ Encouragement as Motivation

Auburn Teammates

Photo Courtesy: Shanna Lockwood / Auburn Athletics

As time passes by in the competition and race time approaches all too quickly, it is easy to feel vulnerable and alone. When these feelings grow in intensity as the meet progresses, it can help to remember all of the people you have rooting for you. Your coaches have done everything in their power to put you in a position to succeed, while your teammates have witnessed all the work you’ve put in. Having so many people go through the grueling journey with you, and then believing in you as a result, means you too should believe in yourself. Using their support as motivation can help you get in the proper frame of mind to perform to your true potential.

3. Ignore the Noise

If you find yourself worrying about who is in the crowd watching you, or about the other competitors’ level of achievement compared with yours, remember that there is nothing you can do to control these external factors. Rather than comparing yourself to others, focus only on what is going on in your own lane. The concentration involved in swimming your own race is all encompassing, and you don’t want to let your competitors’ pace get in your head, dictating how you swim it. 

As amazing as winning is, all you can do is give it your all during preparation. If you know you’ve done all you can to prepare, you will be ready to crush it in the competition. You will be confident knowing you have nothing to be ashamed of, and can be proud of doing everything you possibly can to put yourself in a position to help your team and time.

4. Don’t Let the Moment Become too Big


Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Whenever you swim competitively, no matter how important the meet is and no matter how high the stakes are for you, do not psych yourself out by overthinking everything. Chances are the pool you’re competing in is the same length as you practice in every day. The water, blocks, and lane lines are still there as always. You are going to be swimming the same events you have done many times in the past. 

Thanks to all of your long hours of preparation, you have mastered all the key techniques: how to get off the blocks quickly, how to swim your race, how to execute a flip turn, how to underwater kick, etc. As daunting as a big meet may be, keep in mind that not much is as unfamiliar as it seems in the moment, and you have all of the skills you need to perform at your highest level.

5. Visualize

According to Dr. David Hamilton from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, your brain cannot tell the difference between something that’s real and whether you are just imagining it. Just like doing drills and other techniques repetitively can help form muscle memory, using visualization techniques consistently can adopt these techniques into brain patterns. This enables you to automatically perform as visualized when required in competition.

ella eastin, stanford, ncaa swimming championships

Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

One good visualization strategy for swimming is to imagine yourself at the event, and rather than imagining whatever it is you’re nervous about, imagine yourself swimming successfully. Not only do you want to imagine yourself accomplishing what you want to do, but you should also imagine yourself swimming with the highest degree of success possible. Imagine yourself feeling confident and purposeful, concentrating only on the small details. Going through the entire sequence of events where success is achieved can give you a feeling of accomplishment and confidence that will fuel you for your race. This technique is frequently used by athletes and has proven powerful in increasing meet time confidence. 

With the many stressors that come with any given competition, it is important to seek out ways to overcome them. Swimming is no different than any other sport as it’s common to worry about making mistakes, embarrassing ourselves, letting our teammates down, and not reaching our goals. These five strategies involve a variety of solid actions and mindsets that can help any swimmer perform up to their potential. With practice, these strategies can be mastered, dramatically decreasing or even eliminating stress entirely.





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