Feature by Chelsea Howard
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania, January 4. IN swimming there's always going to be two ways to look at the positive and negatives of the sport. You can take the negatives and learn from them, changing them into positives. Or, you can take the negatives, dwell on them, and let them get in your own way during practice and competitions.
Either way you look at it, you can only trust one voice. And that voice isn't your coach, it isn't your teammates, and it isn't your parents. That voice is yours.
Of course, you have to be able to respect and trust in your coaches, knowing that whatever set they throw at you, they believe you can handle it as well as know what's best for your training. You have to have faith in your teammates to push you and know what works for you. But ultimately, they are your support group guiding you. They are not the only answers to your success.
Second-guessing and doubting yourself goes hand in hand with failure. Sure, it's common to be afraid of failure, but if you let the negatives define who you are, it'll be hard to get past them and what you are actually doing correctly.
You have to be able to take the negatives as they are and learn what you can do to improve on them. And then move on to the positives. Taking the positives, believing in them, and growing from them in the end will change a swimmer in both the physical and mental sides of the sports.
You'll never fully understand the power of the positives if you don't take the time to get rid of the negatives. Exploring the positives of your swimming may seem simple, but it also becomes powerful when it is applied to hope and belief in yourself.
I've never really considered the power of hope. I've thought about it in the classroom when I hope for an "A" or hope I studied enough. I've always said it, but never really understood what it actually means or how it can apply to swimming. There's a much deeper meaning most people never think about.
According to a Human Interest website called Exposing the Truth, they define hope as "your choice over fear. A declaration to believe in the dream and silence the doomsayers and a battle for the possible."
So many swimmers "hope" they'll reach their goals, but what they don't know is that being hopeful of their goals is an extremely important first step to success from the mental side of the sport. Having hope leads to having belief within oneself, which ultimately leads to an increase in self-confidence.
It's easy to go through practice, do what is written on the board, and feel mentally accomplished. At that point you believe in your coach and teammates to push you along and you may never actually realize that you doubt yourself – until it's time to compete.
It's completely different standing behind the blocks with competitors on both sides of you, knowing they've trained in a different way and still being able to believe in yourself.
It takes elements of hope, belief, faith, and self-confidence to silence the negative thoughts and know you've done the best you can at that point and there's no time to change anything else.
As a swimmer, when you truly can silence "the demons" within, something special happens and the countless hours of practice and hard work will finally pay off in a self-victory.
One of my coaches always says "attention to details" before we begin a set. I've never realized how true and important this saying can be if you actually stop to think about it.
During practice you have to focus on the small details that make up your stroke and the race plan so on race day, you can actually focus on the big picture. Being able to focus on the actual race and know that the details are already set makes competing more enjoyable and much easier, building your confidence.
Gail Devers sums it all up in his quote, "Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe."