arm wrestleWant to know the Number 1 Reason Why Most Swimmers and Coaches Fail at Swim Meets?

The Number 1 Reason Why Most Swimmers and Coaches Fail at Swim Meets is…………that they prepare to win the Event: they don’t prepare to win the Competition.

What’s the difference between the Event and the Competition?

The Event is the stroke and distance that the swimmer will be swimming. That is, the 100 freestyle, the 200 backstroke, the 50 breaststroke, the 400 Individual Medley and so on.

The Competition is the total environment the swimmer will face when trying to race the Event against other swimmers at a swim meet, swimming carnivals, championships, galas etc.

So what’s the difference between preparing for the Event and preparing for the Competition?

Preparing for the Event is easy. Learn some basic training physiology, some fundamental bio-mechanics, inspire the swimmer to train consistently and voila……instant 100 butterflyer (just add water).

Preparing to swim the Event fast is just a matter of getting the stroke mechanics and the exercise physiology right.

Preparing for the Competition…now that’s another matter entirely.

Preparing for the Competition means getting the stroke mechanics and physiology right first and foremost – that’s a given – but it also means mastering all other the important aspects of the competition environment.

And that’s the reason why so many swimmers and coaches fail at swim meets: they become too focused on “mechanics and muscles” and not enough on “mind and management”.

Preparing for a 100 free – the difference between preparing for the Event and preparing for the Competition:

Let’s take a look at the 100 freestyle for example.

To prepare for the Event-i.e. to swim one single repeat of 100 metres of freestyle fast, means planning and delivering a training program with right mix of speed, speed endurance, strength, power, endurance, flexibility and core-stability and ensuring the swimmer’s technique, breathing, timing, kicking etc are fundamentally correct and biomechanically effective.

The Event itself – let’s say in this example is 100 metres freestyle in one minute.

If all the swimmer had to do was to arrive at the pool and swim one 100 metre freestyle Event fast, alone in a lane and with no competition, then the task is relatively easy. Swimming the Event is not the real challenge. Swimming fast is not the real problem here.

Now take a look at the Competition.

The Competition is arriving at the pool, then having to manage the pressure, the noise, the crowded warm up lanes, the lack of swim down facilities, mix ups with officials, losing your way trying to find the marshaling area, slipping on the blocks at the start and still racing fast. And it’s not a matter of doing it just once….it’s:

  • Racing at or near PB speed to qualify for the Semi Finals;
  • Racing in the Semi Finals at or near PB speed to qualify for the Final;
  • Then, when pressure and fatigue are at their greatest – swim at or near PB speed again for a chance to win a medal!

Add relays into the mix and the heats, semi finals and finals of other events and it is clear that the name of the game is not preparing a swimmer to swim one event fast: it is preparing them to excel in Competition conditions.

So, how can you prepare swimmers for success in Competition? Five Tips on How to Prepare for Success in Swimming Competition Conditions:

  1. Understand the physical, mental, technical and tactical demands of the Competition and prepare to perform well in those conditions;
  2. Make training more challenging and more demanding than the Competition environment you are targeting. To do less means relying on luck and luck is not a strategy for winning;
  3. Practice the Competition format in training. For example, if you are preparing for a swim meet with Heats, Semi Finals and Finals all on the one day, then organise some triple practice sessions in the weeks before the Competition and practice racing fast three times in 8 hours;
  4. Practice developing the mental skills required to swim fast in Competition every session: remember its “mechanics, muscles, mind and management”;
  5. Be as professional and diligent in preparation out of the water as you are in it! Pay as much attention to detail on the non-swimming aspects of the Competition, e.g. nutrition, stretching, rest, recovery, sleep, personal management and relaxation as you do to dives, starts, turns and finishes.

The old saying, “failing to plan is planning to fail” – applies very much to this situation.

Preparing a swimmer to swim the Event fast without also preparing them to thrive in the Competition environment is a recipe for disaster and the number one reason most swimmers and coaches fail at swim meets.

Don’t be one of them!

Wayne Goldsmith