You Can Do It: The Power of Positive Thinking (Coaches’ Corner, June 24)

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By Coach Mackenzie G, MV1.

When Michael Phelps stood behind the blocks before his Olympic races, he was not saying to himself, “I can’t do this” or “This is too hard, I should give up.” Because, how would telling himself that have helped him become the greatest swimmer of all time? Three words: it wouldn’t have.

A positive attitude in both training and racing is the key to a successful, enjoyable swimming career. Sports psychologists continuously say that the mental side of sports is just as important as, if not more important than, the physical side. The Olympics only come along every four years. How can the fastest swimmers in the world decide that they will feel great on the specific day of their best event? What if they wake up with a cold, not feeling their best? What if they have a bad sleep the night before because they’re nervous? These are things that swimmers themselves have no control over. But at the most important swim meet of their lives, they cannot let it affect their race. 

So how do they deal with these stressors? Answer: Through mental preparation and a positive attitude. 

They believe in themselves and all the hard work they have put in to their practices. When a successful swimmer is behind the blocks, they aren’t telling themselves that the race is too hard; instead, they are telling themselves they CAN do it and that this 100 free is way easier than the 20×100 free best average set they did in practice last week. They are telling themselves that, no matter what, they are going to feel pain, so they might as well go a best time while in that pain. They repeat to themselves that pain is temporary, but their best time, or Olympic medal (or what have you), will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Standing behind the blocks, they repeat “I can do it” over and over again. And then…they do it. 

The power of a positive attitude is not only for your races but can also be used in practice as a powerful tool. When you’re having a bad day and it’s a really difficult practice, trying to keep your mindset positive can be the difference between succeeding and being miserable for the entire hour. A positive attitude and encouraging the people around you to be positive and embrace the challenge will work wonders on your swimming. Not only will you find that you start to have more fun while swimming, you will also give your body the mental push it needs to go faster than it ever has before. 

To sum it up, having a positive attitude, not only at the pool but in everyday life, will change everything for the best. So remember, YOU CAN DO IT!