Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Jack Conger is Making the Most of Every Opportunity
While the rest of the world shut down and went into waiting mode last spring, Jack Conger never stopped preparing.
He was lucky enough to have access to a facility during the early days of the pandemic when most pools were closed to still train, lift and do dryland exercises.
“I did not miss a beat of training,” said Conger, who is so committed to his sport that he kept swimming and training after his father, Stephen, passed away in September 2019. “I was lucky and did not take any time off.
“This year has been unique to the entire world regarding COVID-19. The one advantage I used was to work on my mental strength – talking to a sports psychologist on a weekly basis, practicing routines, etc. There is nothing that can break my motivation. My approach will always be the same – to outwork everyone in and out of the water and to try and get my hand on the wall first.”
In addition to intense training over the past several months, Conger said he has made it a point to simulate racing at practice, in mock meets and suiting up at practice, working with his coach, Todd DeSorbo, to make sure there are no holes in his game.
Like everyone, the pandemic did impact his training to some extent, causing him to eventually change locations where he swims and lifts, but that is all.
“I took the extra time to make better sleep habits, working with a new nutritionist and working on the little details that ultimately can have a huge impact in my career,” he said. “The only unnatural feeling was not racing for so many months. I put myself in a position that I will always stay ready, so I never have to get ready.”
Coupled with the lack of competition due to the postponement of the U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming, and it’s definitely been an unusual year.
In his view, every practice, every weight training and every day offers an opportunity to improve.
“It was unfortunate that the [Olympic] Games are postponed a year, but I took it as an opportunity to get better,” he said. “This allows me another year to get bigger, faster, stronger and train harder.
“Every day is a day to get better; you will not go best times in practice, and sometimes you might not always feel perfect, but you can always give 100 percent.”
For the first time since the TYP Pro Swim Series in Des Moines, Iowa, in early March – the week before everything shut down – Conger competed at the U.S. Open two weekends ago in Richmond, Va.
Despite the long competition layoff, Conger said he felt fine although his times and results weren’t what he thought he might put up.
However, he knows this isn't June, July, or August, and he still has a lot to work to do and the time in which to do it before the big event next summer in Omaha.
At 2016 Trials, Conger finished third in the 200-meter freestyle to qualify for the Rio team and came up just short in the 200 (3rd) and 100 (4th) butterfly events.
“I have put a lot of work this past year, and I will be ready to showcase my hard work at the big dance,” he said.
Speaking of the big dance, Conger’s been there before and he knows what it not only takes to get there but also what it takes to win.
For him, making the Olympic team was always a lifelong childhood dream.
When he looks back on his Olympic experience in 2016 – where he won a gold medal as a member of the 800 freestyle relay team – he said he remembers every moment of that meet if he closes his eyes.
Every day, he trains to give himself the best opportunity to make the team and perform at his best in Tokyo 2021.
“My favorite memories of 2016 were the Olympic training camps (prior to the start of the Olympics but after you make the team),” said Conger, who loves going on walks with his girlfriend Lexy, and dog Mox, when he’s not training or playing golf.
“Getting to know my teammates and people such as Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte – swimmers I grew up looking at as role models and now they are my teammates. Forming those relationships and bonds will last a lifetime.”
Conger chose to bypass the opportunity to compete in season two of the International Swimming League (ISL) this year (he was a member of the LA Current in 2019) – choosing not to be out of country for two months and in quarantine upon his return.
Instead, he and his coach decided to stay home and get a great training block to give himself the best opportunity for success in 2021 – which, as we all know, is shaping up to be a much more important year than it was nine months ago.
“I really enjoyed being a part of the first professional swimming team (ISL), and the format they set up was great,” he said. “I thought I swam well, you can always work on something and go faster. There is no such thing as a perfect race. Overall, I was happy with my performance.”
Moving forward into a pivotal 2021, Conger said he continues to focus on his swimming and isn’t looking too far beyond his professional career.
Once swimming is over for him – whenever that may be – he plans to go to grad school for his Masters in Sports Management.
He said it’s an opportunity to further develop his skills and knowledge connected to his degree in corporate communications he earned at the University of Texas.
As of right now I would like to pursue crisis management, and public relations, as it has a connection to my degree in Corporate Communications at The University of Texas.
Still, as long as his body and mind allow it, his desire for more personal and team accomplishments in the pool continue to drive him as he looks to 2021 and beyond.
“It is all about goal setting,” he said. “You set short-term goals. For example, hitting race pace during practice or a time at a midseason meet. Then you have long-term goals about making a second Olympic team, and performing at my best at Tokyo 2021.
“Goal setting is important when you are tired, or maybe feel burned out, but I always remind myself that the longest practice can last at most 3 hours. You can do anything for 3 hours if you set your mind to it. Motivation outside of the pool is about making sure I am the best version of Jack Conger I can be both in and out of the water.”