* Positive Mental Attitude – Psychology in Competitive Swimming

July 10, 2024 - Reading time: 8 minutes


...should be the first thing we say to ourselves each morning before we start our day.  Why? Because the power of the mind should not be underestimated whether your sights are set on personal, career or physical success.  Our brains have the power to directly influence the outcomes of all we try to achieve, at whatever level that might be.

Many coaches now recognise that high levels of sport success cannot be achieved through natural ability, teaching or physical strength alone – if a swimmer can use their mental strength as well, they’re much more likely to unlock their full potential and achieve incredible results.

This means taking into account your thoughts, emotions and behaviour to help develop a mindset that’s positive and allows you to grow rather than being fixed or blinkered.

Not only are swimmers with an open mindset more likely to perform better under pressure, they’re also more likely to recover more quickly from any setbacks that they might experience, seeing them as learning opportunities rather than failures.  An open mind also enables a swimmer to maintain better focus and motivation.

Swimmers who are able to keep their focus, stay calm under pressure and remain positive are more likely to perform at and above their personal best during times of both training and competition.  Numerous distractions surround you all the time, and learning to ignore or block them out can aide the ability to also manage stress and anxiety. 

There are many techniques to consider – most importantly though, they’re not all going to suit everyone, so try out a few until you find the one that you like, that suits you and most importantly, that you ENJOY doing.  There’s no use wasting time on trying to relax and remain calm doing something that’s not enjoyable – it won’t work!

Examples include listening to music or ‘white noise’ recordings, deep breathing techniques, positive talking (record your own voice saying positive things and play it back to yourself so your unconscious brain won’t argue with you as you listen to the suggestions) and of course, visualisation or yoga.  Any or all of these can end up easily being part of your pre-race routine on race days.

Visualisation takes a lot of practice, but when done successfully, you can prepare for a specific situation or event to help you perform at your best.  So go ahead and practice visualising yourself performing flawless strokes, effortless turns and gliding through the water and later, standing atop the podium with a gold medal in your hands.  Whether that’s an under 9’s club champs gold, or an Olympic gold – it’s still a gold!!  Consciously replace any negative thoughts with positive thoughts.  Focus on your strengths and set goals that are realistically, currently just out of reach, and this should help you strive towards success, resiliently.

After the event, reflect on your performance, again, with an open mind – objectively analyse your successes or setbacks in such a way that you identify areas for improvement – even if you got that gold, there’s always something to focus on improving for next time.  Make use of your support system – coaches, teachers, family members, teammates – whoever provides encouragement, understands you and how much effort you’re putting in to your sport, and offers you guidance.  Talking, sharing and receiving feedback can all help with motivation and reflection.  

Start small, learn how to master your thought processes and in time you’ll overcome challenges and achieve your goals in life that at one time, you never thought possible!  

Good Luck!