Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

The seconds counted down to her race. She had spent so much time training for this moment. All those long hours put in in the pool and the weight room, were they worth it? Would they matter?

Swimmers (and honestly most athletes) are plagued with doubt from time to time. Negative self-talk dominates their thoughts.

Be quiet, she told her brain. She knew she had done everything she possibly could. She had worked my butt off! She was going to do awesome in this race!!

But, what if she hadn’t done everything possible? 

Negative thoughts are almost as crippling as a physical injury. I know personally that no amount of physical training in the world will matter if an athlete does not also train her mind.

She had eaten that donut for breakfast like two weeks ago. Oh, and there was that day where she skipped practice to see a movie… But those didn’t count, right? She had eaten pretty well the rest of the time and that was the only practice she had skipped.

She glanced across the pool to her teammates and coaches. They were talking and laughing and having such a good time. Why couldn’t she just relax and have fun like them? Why couldn’t she relax and believe in herself?

Good athletes will be confident in the work they have put in throughout the season. They won’t doubt themselves or their training. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes how crippling those negative thoughts can be to their performance.

She fixed her goggles and nervously pulled her cap down farther over her ears.

Since she got to college people had been telling her she lacked confidence in the water. She was scared. She second guessed her training and herself. She was starting to believe they were right. She couldn’t get out of her own head. She needed to believe in herself and her training but it was so hard! She just got so nervous at big meets and she would put so much pressure on herself. It was so frustrating.

People, especially coaches, don’t understand that even words said in passing stick in swimmers’ minds and the slightest doubt can take over.  Many times, a person that appears confident on the outside may not feel the same on the inside.  But, the best way to start feeling confident is to act confident. The more confident a swimmer acts, the more people around them will believe it and eventually, they might begin to believe it themselves.

Overcome your self-doubt:

  1. Recognize that those thoughts are there in your head. Figure out what exactly you are doubting.
  2. Accept that those thoughts exist. The worst thing to do it deny that they are there because the more you try not to think about something the more you actually think about it!
  3. Remind yourself of everything you have done that season and of all the work you did. Be positive!
  4. Even if you don’t reach your goal, don’t despair. All that work you put in that season is a base to build on for future seasons. Every swim you have is practice for another one! Think about things you did right during your race and be proud of yourself for trying as hard as you could.
  5. TALK to someone you trust – a sports psychologist, a counselor, a close friend…

If your doubts become too much to handle on your own, you might have depression or a similar mental illness. Talk to your parents, coach, trainer, or your doctor about what to do in that situation. Additionally, speaking to a sports psychologist is a great way to help overcome your fears and train your mind! *

Written By Charlotte Anderson