By Coach Mackenzie M, JR.
With the first month of the season completed and the competitive portion of our season upon us, I think a lot of swimmers are starting to get those pre-race jitters and, in particular, are not feeling confident in themselves to swim certain races.
Perhaps you have just moved up to DIV 4 and are starting to swim 100s and the 200 IM, or you’re finally in DIV 5 and it’s time for you to swim 100 fly! These are definitely daunting races, but everyone is more than capable of swimming them.
Over my years of coaching competitive swimming, I have had many swimmers approach me before and during a meet to tell me that they are not ready for certain races. When I hear those words, I think back to my swimming days when I would go up to my coaches and say the exact same thing. My coaches would always talk it out with me and assure me that the work that I had put in during practices has more than prepared me to swim this next race. That typically calmed me down, but I would also visualize and think through what each race consisted of. Since my time in the pool, I have gathered all the advice from my coaches, and my internal advice to myself, to help out the swimmers that I am coaching.
Here are my four tips for the next time you feel like you aren’t ready for a race:
- Ask yourself WHY you think you are not ready. Sometimes we are just nervous or have some anxiety about doing something new for the first time or that we aren’t quite totally comfortable with. This is totally normal and I would highly recommend talking to your coach or someone close to you because it may help to talk out how you’re feeling.
- Talk to your coach. The VIKs coaching staff is always more than happy to talk through your pre-race jitters because we have all been through it and have super great advice for you. If your coach is away or you cannot find them, tap on the shoulder of another VIK coach and we will help you out!
- Break down your race. This one is by far my favourite piece of advice! For example, you are about to swim a 200 IM and the pre-race jitters have come to visit you. Ask yourself, “What do I need to do in this race?”. “Well, I have to swim a 50 of each stroke in IM order, 1×50 Fly, 1×50 Back, 1×50 Breast, and 1×50 Free”. When you break down a race in this way, I find it makes a daunting race like the 200IM a little more manageable for someone about to swim it.
- Believe in the work you’ve put in! This is a very important lesson for swimmers to learn. If you are showing up to practice, training hard and putting in the work that is expected of you… I assure you that you are more than ready to swim any race your coach puts you in. As coaches, we are designing our programs and practices around setting swimmers up to succeed in a competitive environment. Your coach believes in you and so should you!
As we enter the regular meet schedule, please keep these pieces of advice in mind when you feel like you might not be ready for a race. Talk to your coach, work hard in practice, and believe in yourself and the work you’ve put in going into each race!