Splash - March/April 2013 - (Page 16)

MENTAL TIPS STARTING BLOCKS LAuRA soGAR WAnt to sWIM IN COLLEGE? MAKInG tHAt ALL-IMPoRtAnt JunIoR (AnD senIoR) YeAR Count By Dr. Alan Goldberg I 16 SPLASH • March/April 2013 RONALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES f you have dreams of earning a coveted NCAA Division I college scholarship or just making a college team, let me see if I can save you some aggravation. There’s one common mental mistake made by high school swimmers that could jeopardize that BIG goal of yours. It’s a mistake that has turned that all-important junior year of high school into a frustrating and confidence-eroding nightmare for a lot of athletes. If you as a swimmer are aware of that mistake ahead of time, then you can take steps to avoid it, thus increasing the chances of turning your swimming dream to compete at the next level into a reality. I see a lot of college hopeful swimmers early in their junior and senior years of high school because their performances in the pool have suddenly and inexplicably done a nosedive. The fast times they put up their freshman and sophomore years have mysteriously disappeared, and they seem to have stalled out. Worse yet, many of these swimmers who are now stronger, better conditioned and faster in practice, are actually going slower in races than they did their first two years of high school. To make matters worse, these swimmers are in a panic because they’re aware the clock is ticking on them. College coaches are watching, and if they don’t produce soon, their chances of getting on their favorite team will disappear. This awareness only seems to make matters worse. The heart of this problem has to do with the intense, self-imposed pressure the swimmers begin to put on themselves as they approach this all-important junior year. Freshman and sophomore years may have been breakout performance years because this kind of outcome pressure was strikingly absent. The swimmer was NOT thinking about what was at stake, and they felt no pressure to swim fast. Instead, they approached their meets in a relaxed and confident manner, focusing on what they were doing, one race at a time, with no worries about their times. What every serious swimmer needs to know here is that swimming fast is a paradox. That is, the more you focus on it and think about needing to go fast and a specific time you want, the less chance you’ll have of getting it. However, the less you focus on that time, and the more you focus on what you’re doing in the race – one stroke at a time – the faster you’ll go and the greater chance you’ll have of achieving that specific goal time. This is why freshman and sophomore years tend to be so stress free and happier. The swimmer doesn’t focus on the importance of outcome, and as a result, stays relaxed and has fun. Unfortunately this relaxed headset completely changes once the athlete gets close to junior year. Now the swimmer begins to think about how important it is to swim fast, how the college coaches are watching and that, “I need to go fast to prove myself.” What used to be fun, suddenly turns serious, and when the fun leaves your sport, you are in big trouble performance-wise. You have to be relaxed and excited to swim fast. Being “serious” because “now it counts” will only jack your nervousness into the “red zone,” tighten you up physically, distract your concentration from the task at hand and kill your enjoyment of the sport. Remember, fun = fast here! What we’re really talking about here is a cardinal rule across all sports: Never change a winning game. Only change a losing one. If something you’re doing is working for you, then you want to keep doing it. You swim fast by mentally focusing, not on outcome, but on the feel of your race, one stroke at a time. Swimming fast always happens when you keep your focus in the now of the swim. This is what so naturally happens for most swimmers early in their high school years, before they start pressuring themselves. When you get to that “all-important” junior year, when you know colleges are going to start looking at you, why would you want to change the mental approach that’s been working for you? So keep this mental strategy in mind as you go into your “more important” season, meets or races: “the bigger the game, the more things stay the same!” If it now “counts,” and you really want to impress the college coaches, then you need to keep doing everything you have been doing. This means you DON’T start heaping outcome pressure on yourself. It means you DO keep the meet fun and your focus on YOU in the NOW. You do NOT want to be taking the college coaches into the pool with you whenever you swim. If they’re on your mind going into a race, then you may as well physically strap them onto your back, because you’ll swim just as slowly as if they were.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Splash - March/April 2013

Splash - March/April 2013
Table of Contents
Mike Gustafson
Swim Briefs/Justin Case
Top Ten Tweets/Point-Counterpoint
Strength & Conditioning
Mental Tips
Training With
Keys to Success
Your Photo
Athletic Foodie
Book Reviews
NCAA Championships Preview
Hanging With Schmitty
The Perfect Fit
2012 Top Ten Lists - LCM
Swim Nut Zeke
Best Race Ever
Getting To Know
America’s Swim Team Athletes

Splash - March/April 2013