By Dr. Alan Goldberg//Competitivedge.com | Monday, December 16, 2019
Suppose you just finished your mid-season taper meet, and you’re unhappy with how you performed. You were really hoping for a much better meet, but your times just weren't there. It's left you feeling discouraged and has taken the motivational wind out of your sails. You're now looking at the toughest part of the season coming at you, the winter grind, and your confidence and determination after this disappointment is at an all-time low.
What makes matters worse is that you can't stop beating on yourself for such a poor showing. Whether this is a product of you comparing yourself to teammates who had a better meet, or to how you used to swim in the past doesn't matter. The end result is still the same. You feel like a total and complete failure.
So what can you do to bounce back positively from this setback?
Understand this: You always have two choices after a disappointing meet: First, you can get furious. That is, you can get really angry and frustrated with yourself and beat yourself up. In the process, you can use your poor showing as concrete evidence that you're a failure. When you choose this first option, you'll feel even worse about yourself and completely lose your motivation. The resultant negative emotions that always pop up when you choose the furious option will prevent you from discovering what you might have done wrong before or during your races. This will leave you directionless and feeling hopeless.
The second, and far more constructive option after a bad meet is that you can get curious. That is, you can objectively ask yourself, “what did I do that didn't work, and what do I need to do differently next time?” When you respond to your failures with this curious attitude, you will eventually discover the mistakes you might have made and from these, you can develop strategies (perhaps with the aid of your coach) to help you correct those mistakes.
Responding to any of your failures and disappointments with this kind of curiosity will give you a specific, positive direction to follow when you resume training. It will give you a sense of purpose and keep both your confidence and motivation at a high level. This is how you build your successes as a swimmer and person – on the foundation of your failures!
Keep in mind that there is no place for your perfectionism after a bad meet. There is absolutely nothing constructive that will ever come out of you putting yourself down. As difficult as it might be, you want to get in the habit of objectively looking for the reasons your swims were so disappointing. Along these lines, one of the first places you should be looking after a dismal showing in a taper meet is at your “mental strategies.” That is, were you too nervous before your races? Were you overrun by last minute negative thinking and doubts? Were you overly focused on your competition? Were you too focused on your times before and during your events?
Usually when a swimmer does poorly at a taper meet, the mistakes that cost them their good swims were more mental than physical.
So if you want to learn to bounce back quickly from your disappointing meets, you have to train yourself to develop this curious stance and patiently look for where you could've gone wrong, both before and during your races.