Under Pressure: 3 Things to Keep in Mind

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Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / Mia Rossiya Segodnaya

By Lillian Nelson, Swimming World Intern

Now that we are less than a year out from the 2016 Olympics in Rio, athletes around the U.S. and the rest of the world are feeling the pressure to perform more than ever. As a swimmer, you can either let this be a good thing, or a bad thing.

The days leading up to an Olympics can turn the pool deck at any given meet into an emotional battlefield. Athletes are going for the fastest cuts in the country in order to even give themselves the opportunity to make their Olympic dreams come true.

Any swimmer knows that our sport is 90 percent mental. The added pressure and desire to perform at such a high level can intensify that percentage, and, if we let it, it can get the best of us and/or the people around us.

You may be going for Trials cuts this year, and you may not be. Regardless, the extra high intensity that is produced on deck at this time of the four-year Olympic cycle can have an effect on you. It can add a little extra spice to performing at meets.

On one hand, the excitement of watching a fellow swimmer make an Olympic Trials cut is infectious as well as inspiring. On the other hand, the backlash of someone who has worked so hard and misses or keeps missing his or her intended cut can be poisonous.

Between now and the U.S. Olympic Trials, which occur from June 26- July 3, 2016, there are a few things that are extra important to remember…

1. Good Sportsmanship

This is something that should always be practiced. Especially when the emotional factor of racing is at an all time high, good sportsmanship is something everyone—swimmers, coaches, and parents—needs to emphasize. No matter what the outcome of your race is, good sportsmanship is always the right decision.

Have a bad race? Take a deep breath, and learn to leave it in the pool. Have a great race? Be adrenalized, but be gracious. This genuine behavior pays off in spades, and most definitely carries over into the rest of a swimmer’s life.

2. It’s normal to be nervous, but you know what you’re doing.

If you are at the level of swimming where you are attempting trials cuts or are in the presence of other swimmers attempting trials cuts, you most likely have been swimming for a while. Do not discredit this.

Sometimes we simply need to be reminded that though we may be trying to go a certain time standard in our 100 breast today, that shouldn’t fundamentally make it any different from the countless 100 breasts we have swum before this. The race is still two 50-meter laps, we are still going to touch with two simultaneous hands at each wall, and we know how to swim this. All we need to do now is light the fire in our belly, and get it done.

3. Swimming has a short-term memory.

This is one of the most important things a swimmer can learn. When I was a club swimmer, it was engraved it into our thought process on a daily basis, and I still carry this outlook with me every day to practice.

It is absolutely acceptable and expected to be excited or disappointed after your race. But what is neither acceptable nor beneficial is dwelling on a single race or a single meet for an extended period of time.

Whether you just made your first Olympic Trials cut, or just failed to make it for the 17th time in a row, the only thing that matters now is the training at hand and the next race on the horizon. That is the beauty of our sport. There is always something to look forward to.

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7 years ago

I always adore everything like this

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7 years ago