By Will Jonathan//Contributor | Monday, December 17, 2018
I have one very important question I’d like to ask you: Do you have fun with swimming?
It seems like such a silly question. But unfortunately, it’s not. As a swimming mental coach who works with swimmers at the highest level, I find too often that the simple concept of having fun and enjoying the sport tends to get lost and sacrificed at the expense of the “business side” of the sport – the goals, targets, aims, and achievements that need to be reached.
While achieving external and material success is important – and while you certainly should be committed, dedicated, and devoted to taking the sport seriously – it’s absolutely essential that you are able to hold onto your ability to have fun and enjoy the sport you love. If you lose sight of that, then you’re never going to be able to be the best version of yourself or sustain success over a consistent period of time.
To help you have fun, enjoy the competitive swimming grind, and hold onto your intrinsic love for the sport, here are several things you can do to help you do just that.
1) See obstacles and setbacks as fun challenges to overcome, not as problems to stress over.
When you agreed to swim competitively, whether you realized it or not, you agreed to the unsigned condition that you would experience many obstacles, setbacks, failures and difficult moments. You simply cannot avoid experiencing these things, no matter how much you wish you didn’t have to. However, it’s never the obstacles, setbacks, failures, or difficult moments themselves that are the problem. The problem lies in how you perceive them.
Studies have shown that if an athlete has a positive attitude or perception towards a painful experience, they are far more likely to push forward past that painful experience and overcome it. If they have a negative attitude or perception towards a painful experience, then they are far more likely to back themselves off and throw in the towel even though they are perfectly capable of overcoming it.
The key is to shift the attitude and perception you have towards obstacles, setbacks, failures and difficult moments. Instead of seeing them as insurmountable steel walls you can never get through and stressing over them, see them as fun challenges and enjoy the process of figuring out how you can overcome them. By changing your attitude and perception in this way, difficult situations become far easier to cope with and defeat.
2) Don’t let your results determine how much you enjoy swimming.
This is a huge mistake that too many swimmers make. They let their results, outcomes and times serve as the determining factor as to whether or not they have fun and enjoy swimming. As long as they’re winning races, dropping time, and racking up medals, swimming is the greatest thing ever, they really enjoy it, and they can’t wait to do it each day. However, as soon as they start losing, stop dropping time, and the medal count dries up, swimming stinks, they don’t enjoy it anymore, and they dread the thought of having to go the pool.
Of course, it goes without saying that swimming is more fun when you’re winning and things are going your way, and it’s less fun when you’re losing and everything seems to be going against you. However, you should never allow things like results or times be THE determining factor as to whether or not you have fun and enjoy swimming. If you do, then your ability to have fun and enjoy swimming will be based purely on a temporary condition, and that’s never good. Your ability to have fun and enjoy swimming should come from the intrinsic love you have for the sport, the satisfaction you get from trying to overcome its challenges, and the fulfillment created by working hard and improving yourself as you grow.
3) Never lose sight of why you swim in the first place.
When you first started swimming, what was all that really mattered to you? I’m willing to bet it was just going down to the pool, hanging out with your friends, and doing your best at this amazing new sport you discovered. It wasn’t about medals, trophies, records, or cuts. It was about experiencing a sport that gave you a feeling that nothing else had before. You couldn’t wait to get to the pool each day and you genuinely looked forward to it.
However, as time progressed, what started to happen? As you got better at the sport and it became more competitive, swimming became less about hanging out with your friends, having fun, and just doing your best and became more about how many medals you could win, cuts you could make, and records you could break. It started to feel like JOB you were forcing yourself to do rather than a game you happily played.
Never forget why you swim in the first place. Medals, trophies, cuts, and records don’t mean anything if they can’t be achieved through the fun, enjoyment, and love you have for the sport. Never forget that, no matter how high of a level you reach, it will still always be the same game of swimming that you discovered all those years ago. It will never be anything different or more than that. If you lose sight of that, burnout will quickly kick in and your desire to continue swimming will fade out just as quickly.
I talk about how to have fun and more in my book The Swimmer’s Mind – Mastering the Mental Side Of Swimming. It’s loaded with over 300 pages of the same lessons and methodologies that I personally use when working with NCAA D1 & International-level swimmers such as Tayla Lovemore, Rebecca Moynihan, Ida Hulkko, Will Pisani, and many more. If you’re interested learning more about the mental side of the sport and gaining a valuable edge over your competition, you can grab yourself a copy in Paperback, PDF, Kindle, or Nook versions at my website, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week!
About the Author:
Will Jonathan is the owner of Green Rhythm Swimming, a professional mental coaching service for competitive swimmers and swim programs. His past and present clients include age-group national champions, Junior & Senior-level International swimmers, NCAA D1 Nationally Ranked Swim Programs, and Olympians. For more information, head to www.greenrhythmswimming.com.