Building Your Mental Toughness Toolbox: Surround Yourself with Faster Swimmers


By Dr. Alan Goldberg//Competitivedge.com



So just what kind of an attitude do you have about your teammates and how fast they might be? Are you threatened by faster swimmers on your club or at meets? Are you plagued in practice by feelings of jealousy and resentment, especially for those teammates who consistently seem to out-race you?

THE PROBLEM: Far too many swimmers mistakenly believe that faster teammates are a BIG problem which directly limits their own success. They see these faster athletes as the main cause of their own frustration and low self-confidence. Many would secretly prefer that these better swimmers change clubs so that they would then be able to move up and take their place in the number one spot. Don't kid yourself here. This attitude about those who are better than you is seriously self-limiting!

A 15 year old swimmer changed clubs in the early part of the short course season and within 3 weeks, it became clear to the other five girls her age that this new swimmer was much faster than them and would be replacing them on team relays and stealing their opportunity to win races. These girls then went on a nasty campaign of pettiness, blatantly ignoring their new teammate, going out of their way to be mean and excluding her from social functions. This was capped off by the five girls approaching her one day and angrily telling her, “You are the main reason that we won't get our zonal cuts this season!”

As this 15 year old related this story to me, I interrupted her incredulously and said, “They were actually angry at you for hurting their chances of getting their zonal cuts? Are you kidding me? They should be THANKING YOU for giving them a much better opportunity to get those cuts now that you're on the team!”


If you truly want to excel as a swimmer, if you have some huge, far off, scary goals that you desperately want to reach, then you need to understand that the smartest and best way to get there is by surrounding yourself with faster swimmers! These better athletes are NOT your enemy and do NOT pose serious obstacles for you in the pursuit of your dreams. On the contrary! The faster kids on your team are your training partners who can both directly and indirectly help you get better and faster!

Faster teammates...
Provide you with an incentive to work harder and stretch your limits.
They show you the way as to what is possible for you, because if one athlete on your team can do something, then SO CAN YOU!

Are a constant source of motivation that you can use to push yourself out of your comfort zone each and every day you train. You grow as an athlete and person by “getting comfortable being uncomfortable,” by regularly stepping outside your comfort zone.

Often times do things differently than you. They may work harder, have better stroke mechanics or be mentally tougher than you. In this way they are revealing their “secrets” and thus providing you with the opportunity to follow their lead, strengthen your weaknesses and grow as a swimmer.

Can do much to actually build your self-confidence and ability to handle psych-outs and intimidation at big meets. When you face off against better swimmers every day in practice, you will eventually get used to competing against tougher competition at meets without being intimidated.

Don't let your insecurities blind you to the important role that your better teammates can play in helping you turn your swimming dreams into a reality. Faster mates are your most valued training partners and secret weapon. They are NOT the enemy. If you have the right attitude towards them, then they can help you reach those HUGE, exciting goals of yours.


Dr. Alan Goldberg CDsAs a sports psychology consultant, Dr. Alan Goldberg works with swimmers at every level. A presenter at the Olympic Training Center, swim coaches clinics and clubs around the country, Dr. G specializes in helping swimmers struggling with performance problems, get unstuck and swim fast when it counts the most. He works over Skype, providing one-on-one consultation with swimmers and other athletes around the world. Dr. G has written over 35 mental toughness training programs and books. In addition, he is a regular contributor to Splash Magazine.

For more FREE mental toughness tips and swim articles, go to Dr. Goldberg's website, www.competitivedge.com and click on “choose your sport” and then “swimming.” You can also visit him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and sign up for his free, monthly mental toughness newsletter.

Want to get a head start on your mental toughness training? Dr. Goldberg's
BRAND NEW 7 CD Swim Program with track-by-track Training Guide now available! All products in his store at a 10% discount for USASwimming.org. readers. Coupon Code at check-out: USASwimming. FREE SHIPPING NOW AVAILABLE.

Questions? I hope you'll feel free to contact Dr. Goldberg at
Goldberg@competitivedge.com or call directly (413) 549-1085.