Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Training to Race, Racing to Win

The last week of training and racing have been the highest level performance days I’ve seen since my move to Naples earlier this month. Racing well is certainly the most sought-after skill of any competitive swimmer -- a skill which is backed by a solid training background, and specific race preparation. You’ve got to have both to be successful: an ability to race well, and the motivation and mindset to train yourself to get there.

When we “see ourselves” in competition we must view ourselves as potentially successful in order to achieve success. This mental picture is of primary importance to a fit and well trained athlete. We must have first-hand knowledge of real, concrete components to success that we have developed in training. We must find higher levels of success in practice, in specific race-related areas, to bring that successful view to the mind’s eye – and then through our physical body, into performance.

There is no “overachieving” or “underachieving” in high levels of sport. There is only achieving. An athlete either achieves their goal, or doesn’t. People may say and think that a certain athlete is “underachieving” when they ‘work hard’ and their results don’t match their work; likewise I’ve heard it said that an athlete is an “over-achiever” because the work they put in doesn’t seem to match the level of performance achieved in competition.

At times I think we fail to consider the notion that certain levels of performance are achieved based off the sum of many different components of preparation. We tend to look at things in narrow categories, and give an athlete too much credit for putting in a lot of time with their craft – even if the time spent is only spent training one or two aspects of their potential performance.

Here are few of the categories I see athletes grouped into by coaches, parents, media, and of course by ourselves. The Athlete is:

1. A Hard Worker
2. Mentally and Emotionally Tough
3. Technically Proficient
4. A Great Racer/Gamer
5. Able to Handle Pressure Well
6. Able to Control Life Well Outside of Training (Hidden Training)

Each of these categories is positive in some way. But to possess only one of these qualities does not mean that an athlete is ready to achieve at a higher level of performance. Two won’t do it either. Three might get your better. Four takes you further. Five or Six out of Six…it is here where athletes begin to separate themselves from others.
If you are a member of T2 Aquatics, you will address each of these concepts of high-level performance, and meet them head-on at practice – virtually every day.

You will work hard and develop the habits of a hard worker: diligence, persistence, and consistency.

You will develop mental and emotional toughness because you will perform athletic feats beyond your comfort zone, thus changing the way to think about the limits you impose upon yourself.

You will develop a mastery of technical aspects of swimming technique and racing technique, and become through time, a more efficient athlete.

You will become a better racer and performer because you will rehearse fast swimming under different types of stress on a daily basis during most of the year. The rehearsal you do in practice will allow you to teach yourself the type of neuromuscular and physical output needed to surpass your “old self” in performance.

You will handle pressure better than you ever have because you will teach yourself to achieve at a high level every day.
You will learn to prioritize your life so you can prepare for training and competition with the best in the world.

If you’ve ever competed in swimming, or been competitive in anything really – you know that to have a great experience and have a good time with your sport you must be prepared and confident. Prepared, confident athletes have fun with swimming like prepared and confident students have fun in school. The same can be said regarding prepared, confident businesspersons having fun with their jobs. Our sense of readiness, coupled with the confidence that comes with it allows us to relax and let things flow in competition, the classroom, or the workplace.

We can have a lot of fun getting faster as a team here at T2 Aquatics, we just have to look at things from the correct perspective.

After a weekend of great racing, and then an immediate carry-over to the practice environment this week – I can see that we are well on our way.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Coach, great article. I am "stealing" it to use with my senior swimmers. I gave you a great plug on my website at www.teachingtoswim.com