What Not to Say During a Hard Practice

What Not to Say During a Hard Practice

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In a swimmer’s calendar year, October is one of the more difficult months to endure. Not only does the weather get colder, but swim practices get harder. The yardage kicks up a notch, swim meets begin, and expectations transition from “Let’s just get back into shape” to “Let’s have the best practice we’ve ever had.”

I’ve often said that best times aren’t made in February or March, but in October. This is the month when swimmers get themselves in the best shape for the upcoming holiday training circuits, and when it may be the hardest to stay motivated (since that championship meet is so far away…)

How does a swimmer stay motivated during this crucial month?

Much has been documented about what to say — how to cheer, how to lead, how to stay motivated. The right words can often inspire a teammate, a lane, or an entire training group. But the wrong words can also bring down a teammate, a lane or an entire training group.

This October, don’t be the swimmer saying the wrong things during a hard practice. And, just to clarify, stay away from saying these specific things:


1. “I’m tired.”

Everyone is tired. Swimming is tiring. That’s sort of the point of practice — to get tired, and to train yourself how not to be tired. So stating that you are tired is not only unnecessary, but it also spoils the mood. We get it. No need to say it.


2. “I don’t feel like practicing today.”

It’s just the worst buzz kill: When a teammate walks into the locker room and complains, before practice has even started. It’s like muttering before someone makes you dinner, “I’m not hungry.” For the sake of everyone else — pretend!


3. “I can’t wait for this to be over.”

Enjoy the process. If you’re always just waiting, waiting, waiting for practice to be over, you’re not going to have a good season. Nor will you have a good practice. Learn to enjoy the moment. Learn to enjoy the hard work. Learn to enjoy the process. Looking back now, my favorite moments during the swim season weren’t the races nor the best times; my favorite moments were the moments when I was exhausted to the point of breaking, and kept going. My favorite moments were those difficult practices when, instead of complaining, or instead of waiting for a practice to be over, I put my head down and pushed through — and learned to have fun in doing so.


4. “Can we get out early?”

Not only does this translate to, “I don’t want to be here,” if you say this to your coach, you will 100% not get out early. Just saying.


5. “You’re trying too hard.”

I’ve actually heard this before — a teammate told another teammate he was trying too hard. What?! If you judge another teammate for trying too much or swimming too fast or trying too hard, you’re just not a good teammate. Look: We all know that one swimmer who sprints warm-ups. I’m not talking about that swimmer. I’m just talking about that random Tuesday when so-and-so decides to really, truly work hard. Encourage that person. Don’t bring him down.


6. “This pool is freezing.”

Swim harder. It’ll heat up.


7. “I don’t want to do butterfly!”

Saying this to your coach will mean you will definitely swim more butterfly.


8. “Do we have to?”



9. “I wish it was taper.”

Taper is only good if you put in good Octobers. If you get to taper and realize you spent your entire season wishing to get to taper, you likely won’t have a good taper. (If that makes sense.)


10. “I can’t do this.”

Then you’ve already failed. 


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