Friday, November 1, 2013

Handling Failures and Disappointments

By Dr. Alan Goldberg//

One of the more important mental skills that you will need in your mental toughness toolbox if you want to go far as possible in this sport is a most unlikely one.

The secret to your ultimate success in the pool lies in how you manage your failures and disappointments.

Setbacks and failures will always be an expected part of your journey as a competitive swimmer. You can't go from “bad” to “great” without a lot of them.


 Each time you experience a bitter disappointment, fall far short of your goals in that all important taper meet or you lose again to your arch rival, whether you know it or not, you're at a critical mental crossroads in your swimming. Which road you choose after a failure will determine how much you improve as a swimmer and whether you reach your BIG dreams!

You can do what far too many swimmers do and get angry at yourself, use the failure as evidence of your shortcomings and then emotionally beat yourself up. Or, you can get curious about the meet and your races, carefully exploring what went wrong and therefore what you need to do differently next time.


You know the drill. After the meet you hear your “inner coach” tell you, “You suck! Your season was a total waste! You'll never get that cut! You don't have it anymore! You should just quit!” Unfortunately when you take this emotional road after failing, you'll completely miss the valuable information that always accompanies failure. In each and every failure we have, we are presented with an opportunity to learn what we did that didn't work, and therefore, exactly what we need to do differently next time in order to have a successful result. In this way, you will always find the seeds of future victories within your defeats and disappointments. However when you take this getting down on yourself road, getting furious with yourself for failing, then you'll be left directionless and discouraged, with little confidence and no motivation to keep on keeping on.


When you take the other road, when you temporarily set the anger and other strong emotions that accompany failure aside and get curious about what went wrong, then you put yourself into a completely different headset. Your confidence will remain high and your motivation to improve and get better will actually increase. Your curiosity as to what didn't work and what you could've done differently will send you in a constructive direction. This headset will insure that you quickly bounce back from your failures, continuously improve and stay on track towards your swimming goals.


I've never met a serious athlete who didn't hate losing with a passion. However, the very best have figured out that what will hurt you in your swimming career is not the losses, disappointments or setbacks. These are to be expected and are quite necessary to reaching an elite level in anything that you do, in or out of the pool. The real problem here, and what will hurt you and seriously derail your swimming career is how you respond to these failures.


It has absolutely no constructive value. It won't motivate or inspire you to greater heights. It won't make you feel better about yourself, and it will do absolutely nothing to help you correct any mistakes you might have made that were responsible for your poor swims. Instead, learn to approach your disappointments and failures with curiosity. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “What did I do pre-race or during race that didn't work?” and “What do I need to do differently next time?” If you're not sure what you did wrong, then go ask your coach and he/she can help you learn exactly what you did wrong so you can constructively use your setbacks as building blocks to your ultimate success.


The Magic of an Opportunity

The Magic of an Opportunity

BY Mike Gustafson//Correspondent

Imagine Doc Brown from Back to the Future came up to you and said, "Today you're going to set a world record. The only thing you have to do is race."

You'd swim that day, right? You'd be the first person in the pool, warming-up, excited and ready to swim?

World records aren't broken every day. The opportunity is rare. You'd take advantage of it.

Unfortunately, time travel and Doc Brown do not (yet) exist. Swimmers don't know what the future holds. Sometimes, we don't feel like swimming.

Instead of swimming that looming, ominous 1500m this afternoon, we'd rather go to the beach. Or go shopping. Or take a nap. There will be another day, another race, right?

But you never know. Sometimes the difference between breaking a world record or not is simply showing up to swim.

Take Kate Ziegler.  At the Indianapolis Grand Prix, Ziegler told me that on the day she broke Janet Evans' hallowed 1500m world record, she didn't want to swim that evening. She wanted to go to the beach. She wasn’t really feeling it. Fortunately, her coach convinced her to swim that afternoon. The rest, as they say, is history.

But what if she had gone to the beach? What if she never swam that day? For whatever reason, the nuts and bolts were zooming in perfect harmony that day. Would they realign? Could she repeat that same performance the next day? Next week?

What if she didn't swim that day?

I was once told from the creator of "Friends" that the hardest thing to do in the entertainment industry isn't getting your foot in the door; it's being prepared when you're already in.

People always get their foot in the door, but they rarely take advantage of it.

It’s that old “elevator pitch” theory. You should always be prepared when you live in Hollywood, because you never know who could be stuck in an elevator with. Some of my friends went from assistants to executive producers in 24 hours because they were stuck in an elevator with someone like Rosie O’Donnell, pitched her an idea they had rehearsed, and made the most of their opportunity. No joke.

Swimming is similar. Any given lane at any given time is an opportunity. "Give me a lane, anywhere, anytime," one famous swimmer used to say, "and I'll aim for perfection."

Sometimes, swimming is viewed in a linear path. You’d think, “Times will get faster. Races will get easier. I’ll eventually get here, do this, swim that, and by this year I’ll be where I want to be.” Swimmers sometimes circle on the calendar, "This is when I'll swim my fastest. This is the plan."

But swimming is rarely predictable. It’s not this linear, easily-planned calendar of time progression. It's more a chaotic fun house. It’s opposite than what you’d expect. You swim fast when you expect to swim slow. You swim slow when you expect to swim fast. One day, you could be planning a trip to the beach, while your body secretly knows, “I could be breaking a world record right now, this very second.”

You never know when the swim of your life will happen.

You can’t plot out the future. And unless Doc Brown swings by your house and points out the highs and lows of your future swimming career, it’s best to say to yourself, “Give me a lane, anywhere, anytime – and it could be magic.”