By Dylan Becker
It’s not like I hate losing.
But I just love the feeling of winning.
I was constantly working hard, barely getting any breaks.
Staying motivated, chasing the one thing that every athlete dreams of.
Being the best.
Although, that’s not always realistic.
From the end of middle school to a sophomore in high school, I was in a slump. I couldn’t find a reason to really work hard. I would normally just go through the motions. Swimming up and down the pool repeatedly.
Looking at the clock to see how much longer practice was going to be.
I would still work hard, just not pushing the limits of my potential.
It wasn’t until I got a wake-up call from those around me.
The people I would normally beat with ease were suddenly catching me. Instead of getting top 3 in local meets, I was outside the top 10. I was still earning personal best times, yet everyone else was improving rapidly.
I was not.
My dad played a huge role in finding ways to motivate me, whether I liked it or not at the age of 15. I hated being told what I needed to do, as I thought I had it all under control.
That summer, my dad critiqued everything I did, whether it was something I told him about during practice or something I chose to eat at home.
As the summer ended, I was in great shape.
Finally, back to where I needed to be.
At my meets, I improved on all my times significantly. Beating the people I was supposed to beat, and even some that I didn’t think I could beat.
It was at this meet when I realized why I love competing and why I love this sport. I loved to win. That feeling of being on cloud nine is what I train all year for.
This was when I knew I was special.
I used to think sports was all about cruising. Just getting by. Until I realized the power of competition and being pushed beyond the limits I drew for myself.
The only difference between me now and in the past is now I believe I am limitless.
I went on to be selected to go to the National Select Camp in the winter of 2018, where I was among 48 of the top upcoming swimmers in the country. In the spring of 2019, I competed at Open Water Nationals and Junior Nationals. I placed well in the National 10k and 5k and won the Junior National 5k, which was my first national medal. That summer, I competed at NCSA Summer Championships in Indianapolis, in which I won the 800- and 1500-meter freestyle. These times qualified me for the Olympic Trials and eventually, a role on the National Junior Team.
Yet, this doesn’t just come overnight.
I didn’t just wake up one day and say hey I can’t be stopped.
There has to be consistency in training and everyday life.
Waking up in the morning before school, putting in work. After school, putting in more work. Even when you don’t feel good, or are tired from the day before. Pushing yourself to the limit every day. But everyone knows that.
The difference between those who make it in my field vs. not is those who can hold out the longest.
There’s a quote I love from the Bible. Galatians 6:9 says “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest if we do not give up.”
As thrilled as I am to have accomplished so much, I know that this is only the beginning.
Every time I jump in that pool, I feel like I’m destined to do something great. I can’t explain it.
Although, I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my family and my friends, as they support me through everything and I couldn’t be more grateful.
I truly believe that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
For me, setting goals that were both short-term and long-term helped me stay on that path toward success without losing motivation.
And most importantly, a little patience.
You can’t expect to reach the final destination without knowing what the journey ahead looks like. Setting these checkpoints makes your final goal seem a little less daunting.
Swimming is a very analytical and individualistic sport.
Whether you are someone who focuses on a race that finishes in less than 20 seconds, or close to 15 minutes, you are picking out the smallest details to help yourself get better. Reaction time, stroke counts, breathing patterns, hand and arm position, kick tempo.
There is a never-ending list of things that you can look at and try to master.
Yet at the same time, you have to figure out what works best for you.
Everyone is built differently and what works for them, might not work for you. That brings about the individual aspect of swimming and style in all things.
If you perform badly at a meet, it’s on you.
There’s no one to blame, only yourself. It’s from this moment where you have to look back, realize what you did wrong, work on it, and keep moving forward.
I know sometimes you can’t control everything that goes on in life. And it can get frustrating when things don’t go your way.
I think one of the biggest takeaways from my sport, and what took me a long time to realize, is that you have to focus on things you can control.
When I race, I am only racing against myself.
Especially since you can’t decide how someone else acts or how they will perform.
If you focus on yourself and what makes you happy and stop worrying so much about what everyone else is doing, you will be successful.
The magic here is I just do me.
Everyone else is taken.
Putting trust in yourself comes down to your own self-confidence and your own desire to improve
By Michael Pisani
The typical goal for every competitive swimmer is to swim fast.
Most swimmers want to simply beat the last time they raced, that is, obtain a new personal record or PR.
Achieving the goal of swimming fast for me, like many athletes, can be boiled down to my mental game. Along with having the discipline and working hard, having the right mental state can play a big part in swimming fast.
There are no shortcuts in swimming.
There is no secret to getting fast.
The formula to speed has probably existed since the start of the sport. That formula being, practicing consistently, going hard on the hard parts, and easy on the easy parts.
Swimming takes trust in yourself and your coach.
Trust in yourself to push yourself to your coach’s expectations in practice and trust in your coach that he’s or she’s coaching is working.
Putting trust in yourself comes down to your own self-confidence and your own desire to improve.
I think I can speak for every swimmer when I say trusting in yourself is the hardest part of swimming. The reality of it is that you will never always go fast.
Swimmers will have those bad meets or practices where they are just not performing to their own and coach’s liking.
Their own self-confidence will then begin to diminish and those swimmers will probably think degrading, useless thoughts about themselves.
As in a lot of sports, that way of thinking is often indirectly embraced.
Comparing yourself to others and other’s experiences… it is really easy to lose confidence. I find, and the best swimmers do, that taking the nerves and degrading thoughts and turning them into motivation to do better is the right plan.
This type of plan allows you to set more goals and put targets on the competition to make new PR’s.
Now for when things don’t go well, I think the key to improving after a bad meet or race is to do something about it!
What you decide to do as a swimmer after your underperformance is what defines you as what type of swimmer you are.
Do you want to be the swimmer that pouts and gives up?
That guy or gal that lets doubt control their present and future…?
Or, take the positive approach, and become the swimmer that decides to do something about it and learn.
For me at least, it is easy to conclude that I’m just a bad swimmer and pout when things go wrong.
But, what separates the truly good from the bad swimmers is their attitude to their failure.
It’s tough to learn from your mistakes.
It is miles easier to give up and move on. But what many fail to realize is their distorted and negative perspective of failure hides the fact that failure is our greatest teacher!
When I look at a bad race and try to find where things went wrong, I simply learn from my mistakes.
If I go into the next practice wanting to improve from a mistake in a race, I make that bad race no longer a failure but use it as a mold for future race successes.
Wanting to improve upon your mistakes is how you ultimately overcome goal times and take over others in the sport and in life.
But finding where you went wrong in a race can be difficult sometimes.
A race is made up of lots of parts from the technique of the stroke to the reaction of the dive.
For me though, if I have a bad race, I try to find where I lost it.
I look at the splits, film, and micro times of each lap. We live in a very analytical world, able to dissect almost every moment.
It’s important to do just that when we fail.
I continue then to recap the pace I was doing and try to think about how much faster I could have gone.
I compare my bad race to a good race. I try to find the differences. I try to find my mistakes.
Finding your mistakes is one part of wanting to improve though.
The second part of wanting to improve is the action taken.
Just identifying what you did wrong in a meet or practice is the first step towards improvement. The second step, and more importantly, is acting upon your mistakes and physically practicing to improve upon them.
For me, I find my main problem with practices or races is my stamina.
I can sprint just as fast as everyone else, but I have identified my weaknesses as not being able to hold my speed. My physical action towards improvement in building my stamina is to try and do more activities outside of practice to build that extra stamina and muscle I need to compete well.
I already trust in my coach’s design of practices and don’t think that my problem of lack of stamina comes from those so I hyperfocus on dry land work.
I, like every other swimmer, want to swim fast.
It is up to me and my mindset to find my mistakes and take confidence in myself and training so that I can improve on physical strength and ultimately swim fast.
For anyone who wants to swim fast or do whatever tasks burden them, I leave you with this.
At least from what I have learned from swimming if you know yourself and your struggles you need not worry about the results of the race.
At the end of the day all the dissecting and starring in the mirror I do to become a better swimmer creates hope in myself that I can do better. I certainly can’t be fast with the anchor of doubt on my back.