Fortunately, today’s athletes recognize the need for mental preparation in order achieve their highest goals. Skills that allow athletes to handle pressure, adversity, concentrate and develop a winning, confident attitude are not only available but essential.
So what do top athletes do to prepare for demanding championship meets? The answer is by developing mental championship race plans instead of leaving things to chance. They accept that outside events (“uncontrollables”) do not CAUSE mental traps and tension. They also learn to make personal plans to deal with those types of issues proactively. Some of those things include types of starting blocks, the expectation of others, timing/equipment, false starts, lane assignments, coaching dynamics, social influence and how they identify with the competition.
Many elite athletes have been working on these mental championship plans over the course of their entire careers. Some of them have kept swim logs consistently. This is an extremely important tool in terms of obtaining personal awareness and in order to determine which mental strategies need the most adjustment or improvement. Use of positive affirmations (rehearsing positive statements with imagery), pre-sleep techniques, self-hypnosis audios (including race-specific plans), and guided hypnosis are extremely useful and necessary skills to create a mentally tough athlete.
Consistently successful swimmers are well-prepared and mentally tough. They have taken information from their experiences at meets and used that information to document, prepare for and rehearse their mental races. They have a strong ability to focus on their own lanes and swim the most challenging races. This is key in terms of handling pre-race anxiety and not draining energy by focusing on what they cannot control.
Developing a strong mental toughness resume and toolbox will produce better results for swimmers and build confidence with respect to knowing how they will handle both familiar and unfamiliar or unexpected situations which occur at competitive swim meets. It also reinforces all of the hard work and effort they have contributed to their physical and technical training.