PEAK just completed a successful Mental Edge Clinic in Westchester, NY. Among many topics, we discussed overcoming worry. Teaching the mental skills needed to succeed in swimming can be a daunting task. If one were to identify the most important skill, overcoming worry in competition would be at the top of the list. At our recent PEAK clinic, I asked swimmers to raise their hand if they felt that worry interfered with their performance, and all but one swimmer did. With a response like that, it is easy to understand why worry can put a stranglehold on performance. Swimmers who allow worry to get the better of them are subject to one poor performance after the next. It doesn’t matter how physically fit they are, once worry takes over, the body tightens up like a knot. Well-meaning parents and coaches often tell swimmers not to worry. Typically, this tactic backfires as worry levels increase even more. In my experience, one of the most effective ways to deal with worry is through the use of distraction. Whenever I go to a movie, my worries are suspended. The same thing occurs when I walk my dogs, listen to music, or dine out with good friends. Distraction is one of the greatest cures for a worried mind. Swimmers, who are overcome by worry, should have a diversion plan in place that either eliminates or reduces the amount of worry experienced in competition. Examples include: texting family and friends, reading, striking up a conversation with a teammate, playing video games, meditating, or stretching. It does not matter what swimmers choose provided it fulfills the mission.
You can learn learn more about overcoming worry and other relevant mental skills topics in my latest book, Are You Worth It?, available here.