John�s Update Dealing Doubt

 From   Olivier Leroy

When we watch the swimming greats we always imagine that their performances are…
Well, I don’t wanna say easy….
But they tend to make it look easy, don’t they?
Years of practice and mastery have led them to a point where they are the best, and so it can be tempting to think that success for them came as smoothly as their finely tuned strokes.
But they struggle.
They have doubts.
And they have awful morning swims and want to give up, too.
Kieren Perkins and the Outside Smoke Win of ‘96
In 1994, Australian Kieren Perkins had the summer of his life.
First, at the Commonwealth Games, he dummied the world records in the 800m and 1500m freestyles…
In the same race.
His coach, John Carew, told him to take it out with some speed to around 800m, test the WR in that mark, and then let off the gas to save his best performance for Worlds a couple months later.
(Feeling really good in the water, Perkins did not let off the gas, and swam his way to a new world mark in the 1500m…oops?)
In Rome, later that summer, he added the 400m freestyle world record to his little bookshelf of awesomeness.
So when the 1996 Atlanta Olympics came around a couple years later, Perkins was the favorite to rock the house in the distance freestyles.
But he’d had a rough year leading up to the ATL Games…
He struggled at Australian Trials.
He had been besieged by illness.
And his swimming, where once he was totally unstoppable, was shaky at best.
During the preliminaries of his main event, the 1500, Perkins was neck-deep in the struggles.
His stroke was off and his stomach was cramping, making each flip-turn feel like he was getting karate slapped in the stomach.
Physically, it was awful.
“By the time I got midway through that heat I had decided I wasn’t good enough, if I couldn’t win the heat I wasn’t going to win the final, and if I couldn’t win the final then better not to be there,” Perkins said later.
He would place 8th in prelims, and with a full day to sit on his hands, he boarded the roller coaster of doubt.
Was he too old?
Was he washed up?
Had he trained enough over the past year to warrant winning?
Perkins was no longer than the favorite—teammate Daniel Kowalski was favored to take up the mantel of distance king.
Kowalski had also cruised to the top seed that morning in Atlanta.
The next day, Perkins would walk out onto the pool deck for the final of the men’s 1500m freestyle.
Not being favored anymore, and having a day to experience the full yo-yo of doubt, Perkins felt oddly better.
Like he almost had nothing to lose.
“I realized what I had to do was just go out there and swim the best that I could, and if I do, that everything would be okay. It wouldn’t matter where I came, I would have given my personal on the day and I could live with that,” Perkins said.
Perkins dove in the water and took the lead from the beginning with his characteristic strategy of hitting the gas from stroke one and never backing off.
The time wasn’t awesome—a dozen seconds slower than his personal best and WR—but it was enough to muscle through for Olympic gold.
The reality is this…
Doubt is part of the deal with greatness.
Everyone experiences it.
No one is immune to it.
No matter how steely and focused someone may appear on the outside, there is a current of doubt and uncertainty that flows in all of us.
The difference lies in how we decide to manage it.
How we choose to react when doubt seizes upon us and makes us think the worst of the worsts.
You can choose to heed the panicked words and thoughts of doubt…
Or you can put it aside for a moment and give your best today.
See you in the water,
P.S. Managing doubt is a big part of being able to train and compete at your best.
If we are consumed by it, we are consistently pulling up short, pulling our punches. Excess bravado, on the other hand, means we are living in denial of what it takes to be successful.
Confidence—authentic confidence—is something you can develop and improve.
Conquer the Pool features a specialized section specifically for helping you to build confidence, especially in moments of crisis.
A bad practice. A bad race. Tummy troubles when you are flip-turning. You know, the usual.
Conquer the Pool is the first book of its kind: a mental training workbook that is written for swimmers, by swimmers, using concepts backed by research. With a sprinkling of stories and anecdotes from Olympians past and present for good measure.
Ready for some of that syrupy, sweet confidence?
Let’s get after it…