Mental Skills Training Introduction:

As swimmers you put in the grueling hours in the pool day in and day out always striving to get in that extra edge. With that in mind, we wanted to help add to your competitive edge by including a page on Mental Skills Training. Why are mental skills important? If you want to accomplish your goals then you have to think of success as a process, a habit of mind, a strategy for life. You must train the way you approach races mentally. The next few weeks on this skills corner is designed to help you achieve your goals. Each week we will be presenting topics like self-awareness, self-confidence, goal setting and more.  For further question you may email: [email protected]   

Helpful Books:

  1. Mind Gym
  2. The Champion's Mind ( How Great Athletes Think, Train and Thrive)- Dr. Jim Acrow                                                                                   

Topic 1: Self - Awareness                                     

Self Awareness  Each day spent in the water during practice is a chance to work on our self-awareness. We must learn how to identify not only the things that we are good at, but our current flaws and weaknesses that we are hoping to improve. The more accurately we can identify our strengths and weaknesses in the pool, the better we can become.

On the most basic level, self-awareness includes (but is not limited to) some of the following examples:

Level 1: Basics: 

  • Knowing you are legal or illegal in a stroke

Level 2: Intermediate:

  • Knowing that you have a weakest stroke

Level 3: Advanced:

  • Focusing on improvement in your weakest stroke to improve yourself overall
  • Proprioception: Understanding your body’s movement through the water and how to move more dynamically


1.  Freestyle

  • Level 1 – I am moving my arms
  • Level 2 – I am feeling power from my catch and my finish
  • Level 3.- I am working to extend my propulsion through my stroke

2.  Breaststroke

  • Level 1 – I am kicking my legs
  • Level 2 – I feel the acceleration through the end of my kick, and I shoot forward
  • Level 3 – I can feel the water with my entire leg (through my feet and toes)

3. Streamline: 

  • Level 1 – I am streamlining when I leave the wall
  • Level 2 – My streamline is tight from my fingers meeting through my arm squeeze and my pointed toes
  • Level 3 – I can feel the difference in my buoyancy by adjusting my body position in my streamline


Ways To Improve Your Self- Awareness:

  • Selectively listening to and hearing constructive feedback from coaches
  • Observing yourself occasionally through the eyes of the coach
  • Putting in 100% effort everyday
  • Confronting yourself honestly and regularly in terms of your abilities, your commitment and your progress. 

Self- Awareness Article:

The Coolest Thing That Happens When Swimmers Work on Their Mental Training

Self- Awareness Worksheet

Self- Awareness Activity


Topic 2: Goal Setting:

What is a Goal? A goal is something you aspire to do or wish to achieve. A goal must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely).

What is goalsetting and why is Goalsetting important?  Goalsetting is a valuable tool that helps you stay focused, determined and can guide you to be the successful swimmer you want to be. It can help you stay motivated in addition to holding yourself accountable. To enhance goalsetting effectiveness it is important for you to consrtantly monitor and evaluate your progress and to refine your goals as necessary.

Are there different types of goals? Yes. There are many different types of goals that you can set to help you become a better swimmer. Below are just a few:

  1. Long Term Goals- (Dream Big)- These goals require that you look deep inside yourself and ask the question "what do I think is possible as a competitive swimmer if I commit 100% effort into every practice and every detail of my swimming?"
  2. Short Term Goals (Daily Goals)- These goals will answer the question "What do I have to do today as a swimmer to meet my long term goals?" These sub goals will help to keep your long term goals in perspective. They can be important training goals and practical plans that help ahtletes move toward their long range goals. 
  3. Training Goals- Set daily conditioning goals that integrate both the mental and the physical aspects of training. These goals will help keep yourself firmly on track. Goals reflect your beliefs and predispose you to behaving in accord with your beliefs.
  4. Attitude Goals- These goals involve developing the right mental habit to training and competition and are inclusive of following up with the appropriate action. They involve the mental skills.
  5. Skill Goals- These goals involve technical aspects of your performance such as your technique and mechanics as they relate to the strokes, starts and turns etc. Examples of skill goals include things like body alignment, stroke timeing, path of pull, start, turns, etc. 

Short Term Goals:

When it comes to events and meets, we swim we like to use Short and Long Term Goals to help us evaluate our progress. We broke down Short Term Goal setting into 3 levels so that you may understand how it applies to your swimmer at the level of competitive swimming they are in.

The 3 Levels of Goal Setting:

Level 1(Swimmers ages 9-10)

  • Basic: An introduction to goal setting. Swimmers at this level may be learning about goals and why they are important
  • Events: Swimmers at this level should be able to set a goal that is not necessarily time oriented (ex. I want to get better at breastroke).

Level 2: (Swimmers ages 10-12)

  • Basic: Swimmers at this level should be able to set a more "qualifying time" focused goal. 
  • Events/Meets: Swimmers at this level should have an idea of what swim meets they want to qualify for or what they want to get an "A" time in.
  • Challenge: The goal may be "safe" in terms of challenges and expectations.

Level 3: ( Swimmers ages 12 and up):

  • Basic: Knowing current times and setting goal times based on projected improvement
  • Meets: Having a goal for qualifying for meets you may not have qualified for
  • Events: Having a goal for all events, and a higher-level goal for best events
  • Challenge: Swimmers at this level should make goals a little "scary". Challenge themselves to succeed. 


Goalsetting articles:

5 Step Plan For Making Better Swimmers

Goal Setting For Confident Swimmers

1 Thing in Goal Setting That Separates the Best From the Rest

Goal Sheets:

Identifying Barriers That You Need In Order To Reach Your Goals

Goal Sheet for Competitive Swimmers



Topic 3: Relaxation

Being relaxed is very important when it comes to swimming. The mind, especially when it is over-anxious can affect your body before your race and you don’t even realize it. You may start to experience things like increased heart rate, muscle tension, loss of focus and to over think your race.

Types of Anxiety:

Cognitive anxietyy: when you are experiencing feelings of apprehension, concern, guilt, self-doubt, or fear in the face of training and competition demands. 

Somative anxiety: experiencing feelings of uneasieness, muscle tightness and queasiness. 

Competitive anxiety: cannot be avoided but must be managed to your advantage. You can learn to cope by being aware of and recognizing your own personal stress levels and by:

  • focusing on specific problems once you are aware of them
  • building up emotional resilience and using mental skills like positive self-talk 

The good thing is, there are ways to prevent these things from happening.

  • Focus on doing your best and not the things that you cannot control. Instead focus on:
    • What you can control
    • What you need to do
    • What you can do
    • What you are good at doing
  • Techniques:
    • Controlled breathing exercises
    • Progressive relaxation techniques
    • Locate tension in your body and stretch those muscles
    • Engage in positive self talk

Relaxation Articles



Topic 4: Personal Responsibility

Personal Responsibility: Responsibility is important when it comes to growth in life. Your improvement in times are important, but, your growth in your personal responsibility is as well. Personal Responsibility means you're able to hold yourself accountable and being in charge of yourself. 

The 3 Levels of Personal Responsibility:

Level 1: (Swimmers just starting out. Swimmers 8 and under). At this level swimmers should be able to:

  • Basic: It is important for swimmers at this level to be attentive and aware of what is going on at practice and make sure that they are listening to their coach.
  • Be on Time: Being on time at this level is important as it carries on throughout your swimmer's career.  
  • Have your Equipment: It is important for swimmers at this level to have their cap/goggles and water bottle when arriving to practice. 

Level 2: ( Swimmers who have been swimming for a few years. Swimmers ages 9-13). At this level swimmers should be able to:

  • Basic - Swimmers at this level are still expected to be attentive and aware of what is happening at practice, such as listening to their coach and paying attention to their workout, however, they are also encouraged to take initiative.
  • In the Pool. Swimmers at this level are expected to take initiative. A way for a swimmer to take initiative at this level would be asking for help on a stroke, what they may do to get better in an event or when can they can make up a missed practice.
  • Outside the Pool: Swimmers at this level should be able to carry/ be responsible for their own equipment. Swimmers at this level should have their caps and goggles ready for practice and be to practice on time. 
  • Solutions to Problems: At this level swimmers should begin to have the ability to solve problems on their own. They should be able to recognize a problem before it arises, such a missing a practice and know how to make it up. 

Level 3 ( Advanced swimmers. Swimmers up to age 18): At this level swimmers should be able to:

  • Basic - the swimmer should be attentive, aware, take initiative, self- sufficient and be proactive. At this level swimmers should be able to do things on their own such as being responsible for and packing their own bag and setting their own alarm.
  • Outside the Pool- swimmers should be able to read the group page, accept/decline within deadline for team events and know where they need to be and be there on time.  
  • In the Pool-  swimmers should be able to have knowledge of their own strokes, know their pace, understand intervals and when to leave the wall on-time. In addition swimmers should be able to find places to swim if they will be away.
  • During and after Competition- at this level it is important for swimmers to be able to learn and grow from discouraging swims. Instead, talk to your coach and try and come up with a solution to the problem.
  • As a teammate, you should be aware that your actions affect more than just you.   


Personal Responsibility Articles:

Helpful Documents: See how you're doing with your Personal Responsibility using the checklist below!




 Topic 5: Group Responsibility   

Group Responsibility: When one's actions/thoughts/words affect more than just themselves.


Level 1(Swimmers just starting out.). At this level swimmers should be able to:

  • Basic: Know their lanes.
  • Equipment: Gathering equipment for the lane (kickboards)
  • Behavior: Locker room Educate - We aren't the only renters at various pools.
  • Circle Swimming: Swimming on the right side of the lane. Going 5 seconds apart.

Level 2: ( Swimmers who have been swimming for a few years.). At this level swimmers should be able to:

  • Lane Choice: Swimmer chooses lane based on their knowledge of their own speed.
  • Lane Organization:. Swimmers know how to organize themselves in the lane based on speed of other swimmers.
  • Dryland Equipment/Team Equipment: Swimmers take responsibility to lay out/put away equipment; working together to ensure equipment is protected and used properly.

Level 3 ( Advanced swimmers.): At this level swimmers should be able to:

  • Positive Peer Pressure: Swimmers speak up to other members of the group.
  • Interval: Swimmers choose their intervals on certain swimming sets. 

Oxford Scholarship Online

Groups in which a substantial number of the members are collectively committed to the group (to its ethos and to each other concerning ethos promotion), are normatively responsible—in a control-based sense of responsibility—for their actions and for what their members, also violators and dissidents, do. 

Penn State Online Tutorials

As a team, students are responsible for:

  • Solving problems.
  • Consulting other groups, if necessary, to clear up confusion.
  • Helping group members and members of other groups (if asked).
  • Working together to achieve tasks and goals.


Link to Articles



Topic 6: Self- Talk        

Self- Talk is your internal dialogue. It is the talk or thoughts directed at yourself throughout the day. Understanding self-talk is important because the messages we say to ourselves (whether they are positive or negative) tend to be believed after a certain amount of time. Self- Talk can be both positive or negative. Self-talk is very critical when it comes to performance as many times athletes compete the way they think and feel. 

Positive self-talk: will help you improve your self-esteem. You will need to use your self- talk to help motivate yourself through workouts and competition. Positive self-talk will also be useful during school when it comes to tests and other challenging moments. 

Negative Self- Talk-  any thoughts or inner dialogue that you may have with yourself that may hinder your belief in yourself. Your negative self-talk will only increase your self-doubt. Self-doubt is something we all want to avoid. If we doubt what we can accomplish, it will be hard to achieve our goals.

Helpful Tips for the Athlete:

  1. Be totally aware of your self-talk. 
  2. Be aware of kind of thinking if helpful and harmful
  3. Think and re-think, re and re-read positive self statements until they become a part of you.
  4. You cannot hope to be perfect, or get best times in everything you do. Avoid beating yourself up when things go wrong.
  5. Instead of focusing on best times, focus on 100%  effort each time. 
  6. Make sure that your self- talk is positive and upbeat.


The 3 Levels of Self-Talk: As you get better with your Self-Talk, you will progress through these three levels:

Level 1: Basics

  • At this level, you are starting to understand that self-talk is not only internal, but can also be external, demonstrated by talk itself, or even body language.
  • You are also becoming aware that self-talk can affect you in a BIG way.
  • And you start to realize when self-talk, either negative or positive, is happening

Level 2: Intermediate

  • This is the level in which you start to take responsibility for your own thoughts, words, and body language. 
  •  You will familiarize yourself with stopping mechanisms to address negative self-talk when it occurs.
  • Ultimately, you will be able to replace the negative self-talk with positive self-talk.

Level 3: Advanced

  • You have learned ways to keep your self-talk positive.
  • You are able to recognize negative self-talk at the very fist sign and have the ability to put a stop to it. 


Helpful Documents:

Self Talk Worksheet   

Self-Talk Articles:

Positive Self-Talk: How Talking To Yourself is a Good Thing

3 Proven Ways Self-Talk Can Help You Swim Faster

How To Use Self-Talk For Better Swim Practices



Topic 7: Mental Imagery/ Visualization:

Mental Imagery- is a skill athletes use to accomplish their goals. It can be used to achieve goals through mental preparation for success. Imagery can also be used to help adjust pre-competitive and competitive mood and energy levels (for example, if you are too nervous, you can help yourself relax through the process of mental imagery.) Mental Imagery can be found in most levels of where your competitive swimmer is at in their career. 

There are 3 different types of Mental Imagery:

Positive- Imagery that sets yourself up for success. One that requires a swimmer to learn new skills and strategies.

Negative – Imagery that leads to an undesirable performance. Goes hand-in-hand with Self-Talk

Motivational: Imagery that is exciting you to your performance possibilities and keeping you focused on the task. This type of imagery enhances your self-confidence and controls your competitive anxiety levels.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Always begin with a brief relaxation exercise (controlled breathing)
  2. Sit comfortably
  3. Start with visualizing a simple skill (a turn) or setting (100 freestyle) or situation (false start) and gradually add as many senses to the picture as necessary.
  4. Develop your imagery techniques by linking them to the gradual accomplishment of your goals.
  5. Use submodalities to give more reality to your imagery – size, color, brightness, loudness, clarity, true dimensions, etc.
  6. Believe that your imagery is effective- expect it to work for you as it does for other athletes.

Imagery training involves several steps:

1. Awareness of Imagery Patterns and Skills- Not everyone can imagine in complete detail or with complete control. It may take alot of practice. Make sure you are in the right frame of mind and in a relaxed area when you begin. 

2. Learning and Practicing Imagery Exercises- For Imagery to be as powerful as it can be, it must be practiced. It is not something that can come naturally. You should test your strength and weaknesses and areas that you need to improve on. There are exercise documents below that can help you along the way. 

3. Design your own Individualized Imagery Program-  Once you are hooked on an imagery, create your own pictures, scenarios and feelings that fit into that imagery. 

  • Evoke feelings
  • Use a single image
  • Use creative imagery in routines, strategies and interventions
  • Include you in the image
  • Be literal
  • Use personal images that have meaning to you to physically act our your image. Create a meaningful motivational collage. 

Mental Imagery/Visualization in Your Competitive Swimmer:

Level 1: Knowing what the race will be like/feel like/look like. This is a very advanced level. At this level swimmers should begin to imagine ways in which they can accomplish their goals. A good place to start is to ask yourself  "can I describe my ideal race?"  Afterwards practice your mental imagery and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Was I able to see myself swimming at the ideal tempo?
  • Was I able to see myself having a fast start/turn/breakout?
  • Was I able to see myself executing my race strategy correctly?
  • What do you expect of yourself during your race?

This may take several tries, however mental Imagery takes a lot practice to master. Try not to get discouraged, mental imagery can be a powerful tool if it is something you are really interested in using. 

Helpful Exercises:

Mental Imagery Exercise #1 

Mental Imagery Exercise #2  

Mental Imagery Exercise #3  

Helpful Articles:

How To Use Visualization to Swim Like a Boss

How To Use Visualization to Improve Your Swimming


Topic 7a: Breathing Exercises For Relaxation and Focus: 

When you are nervous before a race or any activity where you are under pressure, you tend to breathe more rapidly. When this happens your heart rate goes up, which in turn, may hinder your performance. Breathing correctly and in a calm/controlled manner will have a dramatic effecto on the outcome of your race. The regular practice of proper breathing exercises over time will improve your overal ballance, coordination, and ability to distribute power. 

Exercises you may practice:

Diaphragmatic Breathing: Changing our patterns of breathing from chest breathing to breathing to and from your abdominal cavity

Rythimic Breathing: Coordinations of inhalations and exhalations ( 4 seconds in, hold, 4 secons out). Aim to be totaly aware of what is happening to you for the full inhalation, hold and exhalation of each breath and whether this acually produces a sense of relaxation. 

Ratio Breathing:


In your effort to relax, your breathing should be deeper and slower and quicker than normal. 



Topic 8: Punctuality

Punctuality is the characteristic of being able to complete a required task or fulfill an obligation before or at a previously designated time. "Punctual" is often used synonymously with "on time".

Punctuality is a life lesson that is extremely important in swimming for many reasons.  Being punctual strengthens and reveals your integrity.  Committing to being at practice at a specific time is the same a making a promise. Showing up on time, exemplifies that you are a dependable teammate.  Being punctual builds self-confidence.  Swimmers who arrive at practice or meets early, tend to be more prepared and ready to swim.  Being punctual shows respect for others.  Being late is a selfish act as it put's one's needs above others. When you make others wait, you take away time that they won't get back. Being late also disturbs the experiences of other people.  Tardiness not only steals other people's time; it can diminish the overall experience for others. For example, arriving late to swim meet warm up can disrupt the warm up and cause distractions.

Level 1:  Swimmers (ages 6 - 8) arriving on time for practices, meets and other events.

Level 2:  Swimmers (ages 9 - 11) showing up early for practices, meets and other events.

Level 3: Swimmers (ages 13 and up) arriving early to prepare for practice, meets and other events.

Being part of a swim team requires a commitment to be at practice or meets at a scheduled time.  Punctuality is a valuable lesson for swimmers to learn as it can be applied to other endeavors such as school work, completing chores, or social activities.


Topic 9 : Communication Skills:

Communication is an important part of the swimmer/coach relationship. The better the communication between the two sides, the more understanding and learning can happen (for both parties!). Communication consists of verbal and written words, body language, and visual language. Most of our communication is verbal as coaches and swimmers talk every day; and this is often the most effective for our circumstances. 

The 3 Levels of Communication Skills: 

Level 1:  Or first level of communication is telling a coach when there is a problem. Whether you need to go to the bathroom, or there is difficulty understanding instructions, coaches need to know there is an issue. Listening is very important and half of all communication. When instructions are given, listening to what the purpose of your swim is supposed to accomplish and how it should be done are critical to getting the most out of practice. And talking to a coach after a race is also a great way see how it played out in the debriefing. These basics of communication are expected from all of our swimmers.


Level 2:  Our second level of communication is for advanced swimmers, such as our Advanced Age Group and Terrific FISH. At this point in your swimming career, you should be able to talk with your coach about recurring minor issues, concerns, and scheduling conflicts. Any time you have to leave early or will knowingly arrive late, you should let your coach know. At meets, you should be speaking with your coach before the race to remind yourself of what you worked on at practice and then talking about what you think was good and bad when you debrief.


Level 3:  Our third level of communication is for highly competitive and very mature swimmers. With all of the things going on in your life, having a good line of communication with your coach is extremely important. It builds trust and bonds us together. Speaking to your coach about everything that may affect your swimming is the final step and makes your relationship with your coach strong and allows for better performance.

Communication Skills Article:

4 Ways to Best Communicate With Your Coach


Topic 10: Respect For Others

Respect for others:  Being kind to one another whether that be your teammate/competitor or coaches/officials

Level 1(Swimmers just starting out.). At this level swimmers should be able to:

  • Keep your hands to yourself
  • Have good sportsmanship and not be mean – shake hand with competitor after the race and say “good job”

Level 2: ( Swimmers who have been swimming for a few years.). At this level swimmers should be able to:

  • Being aware that gossiping about someone else is wrong
  • Making comments and/or other actions can hurt someone else’s feelings

Level 3 ( Advanced swimmers.): At this level swimmers should be able to:

  • Make sure everyone is being included in group activities
  • Pick up a teammate when they seem down
  • Look out for your teammates and take steps to help the situation.

Respect For Others Articles:

Respect as a Foundational Trait of Swimming

It All Boils Down To One Thing: Respect


Topic 11: Perseverance

Perseverance – One of the most commonly used terms when describing the life skills that swimming can help you to develop is perseverance. It is defined as “persistence in doing something despite difficultly or delay in achieving success.” There are aspects of our sport that give us the opportunity to work on this skill daily, but it becomes especially important at meets and competitions.

Level 1: Basics

  • Being able to take correction and constructive feedback
  • Overcoming fear of new tasks

Level 2: Intermediate

  • Handling disappointment and being able to not let it derail a meet or season
  • Overcoming emotion and maintaining confidence

Level 3: Advanced

  • Comprehending the “big picture” and the long term road of your career
  • Being able to push through a slump or recover from an injury
  • Overcoming negative self-talk


One of the Best Races Showing Perseverance – (video) One of our very own FISH Swimmers!

Perseverance & Grit Survey – (article) What is your “Grit” Score? Angela Duckworth’s Grit Survey

Wanna Swim Faster? Start By Unleashing Inner Grit –(article) Angela Duckworth and why Perseverance is important

Fish Maze – (activity) (Beginners) – Show your perseverance by getting through this Fish Maze!

Hectogon Maze –( activity) (Advanced) – Can you handle this Hectogon Maze?

Sudoku – (activity) This puzzle is for Math Masters! Be patient. We are sure you will persevere!


Topic 12: Time Management

Time Management - Swimming can be a great way to advance your time management skills! In the macro sense; In order to train properly it is important that all of your schoolwork gets done, your chores at home are finished, you are able to get enough sleep each night, and you are making time for social activities.  In the micro-sense; awareness of your own punctuality, arriving to practice early to get your stretching in beforehand, and even changing equipment between sets are all important skills to have!

Level 1 – For our youngest athletes whose time is being managed mostly by their parents or caretakers, there are still important ways you can work on your time management. Being aware of your own punctuality/lateness is a great first step! If you do happen to arrive late to practice, make sure you give your parents/guardians a heads up – they can help you arrive a bit earlier the next time.  While you’re at practice be sure to follow the coaches’ instructions promptly, and manage those bathroom breaks by only going when you need to go – not when you want to sit out!

Level 2 – This is where the athlete begins to take more initiative to manage their own time.  This can be done by setting your own alarm clock, managing your academic commitments so you can still make it to that practice or to that meet, or even something small like improving your equipment transitions or making that bathroom break even shorter!

Level 3 – Our most advanced athletes should be learning to balance their academic, athletic, and social lives so that they do not have to sacrifice one for another. Some examples include planning ahead with schoolwork when there is a travel meet coming up, making sure you stay on top of your studies so that it does not affect your practice schedule, or scheduling time with friends for a non-meet weekend. The mature, experienced athlete is also great at managing their time.

Time Management Articles:

7 Time Management Tips For Student Athletes

Time Management Secrets of 13 Olympic Athletes


Topic 13: Working With Others:

Swimming can enhance teamwork skills.  When you are a member of a team, you learn how to work with others.  You learn this from your coach.  Ultimately, you will help others to learn the same values.  You learn to work together to meet individual and group goals.  These skills carry to all aspects of your life.

Level 1: Basics

  • At this level, you are starting to realize the value of cheering for your teammates, because it feels really special when they cheer for you.  This may only be limited to your friends, at first, but it is a beginning.
  • You will start to become aware of how important it is to swim in the proper lane, and the proper order, to help each other with the proper intervals, and to finish off each length. 
  • Along the lines of communication skills, you are now in a situation where you start to communicate with other adults, besides your coaches - timers, officials, and other coaches.

Level 2: Intermediate

  • This is the level in which you learn how to better work with each other during practice.     You have already learned to finish off each length, now you start to realize how important it is to move out of the way to let others finish.
  • You have already learned how important it is to swim in the proper lanes, and to swim in the proper order.  Now you are also starting to learn how to pass others, and how to adjust your order in between repeats, or with different strokes.

Level 3: Advanced

  • You are a real ‘team player’ at this level. 
  • You have learned how important it is to cheer for EVERY teammate.
  • You know that you need to, AND you can put aside personal relationships/issues to get the work done.
  • You also know what is best for the group, AND you can make those choices.
  • Even more importantly, you can encourage your teammates in a positive fashion to help them.



Topic 14: Creating The Ideal Platform: 

In order to create your "Ideal Platform" you need to figure out your Ideal Performance State. Being in Ideal Performance State means that you are totally prepared to race mentally, physically, tactically and technically. It is very important for you to prepare for controlled and consistently successful performances in each of your events. You should try and be very aware of what your IPS is. When someone is in an Ideal Performance State usually they show the following qualities:

Ideal Performance State Qualities

  • Physically and mentally relaxed
  • energized/activated
  • optimistic
  • mentally focused
  • consistent efforts
  • self-confident
  • mind-body connection
  • persistent
  • balanced/stable


  • Formed by routines which are very valuable to our mental skills (shown below)
  • Pre-performance - getting to your IPS
  • During Performance -executing your race strategy
  • Post Performance- reviewing your race to learn what still can be done
  • Problem Solving- Dealing with the unexpected


  • You are in control of your performance
  • You control or do not choose to think, feel or do- just as equally when things go wrong as well they go right. 


  • Trust the process
  • Believe in yourself

The Importance of Routines:

  • They help you concentrate on the performance more effectively
  • They help you focus on what you need to do to avoid distractions
  • They help you boost your feelings of self-confidence
  • They may improve positive self-talk
  • Well practiced routines may condition the body and mind into feeling ready for each new race in the future


Topic 15: Concentration and Focus: 

Concentration and Focus- in practice and competition are imperative for an athlete to reach their full potential.  Concentration is defined as focusing on what you are doing and ignoring distractions.  All athletes must deal with both external and internal distractions.  External distractions examples include: disrespectful opponents, negative talk from teammates, hot or cold water.  Internal can include negative thoughts, dwelling on something you can’t control or over thinking your race.

Developing good concentration skills takes practice and time. 

Level 1 Swimmers include: listening when the coach is speaking, doing the correct drills, strokes and distances.  These swimmers have a focus window of about 1 hour. 

Level 2 Swimmers:  learn how to “swim with intent”.  They don’t just go through the motions; they are applying what they are working on in practice to the task at hand and building new skills.  These swimmers can focus for almost two hours. 

Level 3 Swimmers: can set their own focus without being told.  They understand the intent of sets and practices without explanation and will execute it correctly.  These swimmers have a focus of two hours or more.

 There are several ways that athletes can learn to focus and concentrate:

  • Practice. Athletes and coaches should identify the areas where an athlete can get distracted and develop strategies for overcoming them.  For example, if an athlete is worried about an upcoming test, they should plan ahead and designate a separate “study time”. 
  • Use pre-performance routines.  Routines help increase concentration and focus because they help block out both internal and external distractions. Routines also help an athlete to relax.  Stressed swimmers cannot control their thoughts which diminishes their focus.  The consistency a routine provides also helps the athlete perform consistently.
  • Use visualization and imagery. Athletes who use visualization and imagery feel more in control of their situations, and are therefore able to concentrate and focus. Imagine that you are in a distracting situation, then visualize yourself acting in a way that leads to a positive outcome. When faced with the situation it will feel familiar and you will be more confident that you can deal with it. This will help the athlete focus on the task at hand instead of being distracted by possible bad outcomes.
  • Use cues.  Cues are words that are task-related and help the athlete focus on exactly what they are doing and keep them in the present. For example, the cue, “breathe” can be used behind the blocks before a race to help the swimmer relax.

“Concentration is why some athletes are better than others.  You develop that concentration in training, then you can concentrate in a meet.”                                                                          -Edwin Moses, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist



Topic 16: Self- Motivation: 

Self-motivation -  is the drive to do things. Whether it is something you want to do, or something someone else asks you to do, Self-motivation is the internal force that puts our thoughts into action. It turns us from good swimmers into great swimmers, and great swimmers into champions. Self-motivation usually starts with external influence. With swimming, self-motivation often starts with being capable of swimming and the fear of drowning. 

Level 1:  is the desire to win which manages our self-motivation. We want to be the champions we see, or we want to be better than we are, which helps drive our self-motivation to give our best efforts and attend practices.

Level 2:  a more refined version, where we have set goals and expectations for ourselves and our self-motivation is driven by the desire to meet those goals. It is the intrinsic knowledge that the way to reach our goals requires work and delaying our immediate wants to do the things we know will get us to the goal. Going to practice, working hard through practice, focusing on the technique and correct practice drills so we can get the most out of our work; these are the things that self-motivation drives.

Level 3-  is more self-focused. Not only are we pushing ourselves, but we are not doing for external measures. We are not seeking the celebration, fame, or spotlight (although this does help reinforce our self-motivation). We are driving forward and trying to reach our goals because they make us better as a person. Often, the harder the challenge, the larger the lesson.

Self-motivation at its highest form is doing the things we don’t want to do just because it will help us at some later point in life. There is no immediate gratification, there may not even be a set reward in sight. But self-motivation keeps us moving forward and on a path towards a goal, no matter how distant. 

Self Motivation Articles:

5 Ways to Remain Motivated in Swimming

7 Ways to Kick Start Your Motivation for Swimmers

Monday Motivation with Nathan Adrian – (Video) Nathan Adrian answers questions, talks motivation and shares advice to swimmers who can’t get in the pool during this time.

App for “Daily Run Challenge”– Map My Run (Free – Available on iOS, Android, Samsung)- you can screen shot or share your run with your friends.

One of The Most Motivational Races in History – (Video)

7 Things Swimmers Need to Know About Staying Motivated – (Article)



Topic 17: Self- Evaluation: 

Self Evaluation:To determine or fix the value of oneself one's actions, performance etc. When people self-evaluate they explore and assess their own work in order to improve it. The skill of engaging in self- evaluation is crucial to your development and success in the sport of swimming and in life. The ability to identify what you are doing wrong or ways that you can improve. 

As a swimmer there are ways you can self-evaluate.  It applies during competition and during practice. Once you understand how to self- evaluate you find the areas you need to improve, take constructive criticism and will be able to apply it during practice and race day. 

Ways you can Self- Evaluate:

  • Reflect. Identify your values, those rules for living that you consider important. Then honestly ask yourself if you live up to these.
  • Observe. Watch how friends and family interact with you. Do they trust you? ...
  • Ask. Ask those who you trust for honest feedback

As your swimming career progresses your ability to self- evaluate will progress. We have broken them into 3 levels: 

Level 1:

  • Understand that they are doing something wrong
  • Example: I don't do flip turns well.

Level 2:

  • Understand that you are doing something wrong AND knowing how/what you need to do to fix it
  • Example: My flipturns are slow and I don't get very far. To correct this/fix it, I will _______. 
Level 3: 
  • Proactively focusing on things that are weaknesses. 
  • Example: I need to expand the distance off my walls. To correct this/fix it, I will increase my dolphin kicks to _____ off of every wall every day in practice. 


5 Step Plan To Making Better Swimming Goals

4 Questions To Ask During the Off Season

3 Point Plan For Smashing the Weaknesses in Your Swim Training


Topic 18 Self- Awareness: 

Self-Awareness – Each day spent in the water during practice is a chance to work on our self-awareness. We must learn how to identify not only the things that we are good at, but our current flaws and weaknesses that we are hoping to improve. The more accurately we can identify our strengths and weaknesses in the pool, the better we can become.

On the most basic level, self-awareness includes (but is not limited to) some of the following examples:

Level 1: Basics

  • Knowing you are legal or illegal in a stroke

Level 2: Intermediate

  • Knowing that you have a weakest stroke

Level 3: Advanced

  • Focusing on improvement in your weakest stroke to improve yourself overall
  • Proprioception: Understanding your body’s movement through the water and how to move more dynamically


Ex. 1- Freestyle

  • Level 1 – I am moving my arms
  • Level 2 – I am feeling power from my catch and my finish
  • Level 3.- I am working to extend my propulsion through my stroke

Ex. 2 – Breaststroke

  • Level 1 – I am kicking my legs
  • Level 2 – I feel the acceleration through the end of my kick, and I shoot forward
  • Level 3 – I can feel the water with my entire leg (through my feet and toes)

Ex. 3 – Streamline

  • Level 1 – I am streamlining when I leave the wall
  • Level 2 – My streamline is tight from my fingers meeting through my arm squeeze and my pointed toe
  • Level 3 – I can feel the difference in my buoyancy by adjusting my body position in my streamline


Topic 19: Positive Attitude: 

Former professional baseball player Wade Boggs once said “A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.” A positive attitude is the foundation upon which success is built, from the pool to the classroom.

Level 1 – A positive attitude starts with our youngest swimmers being excited to go to practice because swimming is fun; and they enjoy spending time around their friends.  Having a positive attitude means arriving at the pool happy to be there, and ready to work hard and face the challenges of the day.

Level 2 – As athletes grow and mature, having a positive attitude takes on new meanings. Swimmers now might have a positive attitude and enjoy what they are doing because they see rapid improvement – the results are the reward for the positivity and hard work! Swimmers may also find that their attitude improves upon arriving at the pool, that swim practice is a chance for them to be great at something – not just that they are having fun and spending time around teammates and friends. These swimmers do not complain or back down when presented with a challenge.

Level 3 – For our oldest and most senior swimmers, they may love swimming simply because it’s become an important part of their life that they can’t live without. Athletes at this level become great at leaving their problems from the day at the door; and focus on the moment and the task at hand.  They have the ability to know when they may not have the most positive attitude, and are able to summon it almost at will.  These swimmers attempt to push themselves even harder when presented with a challenging set or any other adversity that may come their way.

Topic 20: Self - Discipline: 

Self - Discipline:  Self-discipline is the number one characteristic to successfully pursuing your dream.  Swimmers are constantly being bombarded with choices that can affect their training and pursuit of their goals.  Learning to be a self-disciplined athlete is key to their long-term success.

Level 1:  The first use of self-discipline is managing behavior. For swimmers, learning is most effective with focus on drills and technique. For young swimmers, managing behavior allows children to make better use of their time in the water. After managing behavior, keeping yourself on the path towards a long-term goal is the next use of self-discipline.

Level 2: Focusing on doing things correctly and knowing what should be done is the second part of this long road to being a champion. Accepting that there is “no easy way” and using willpower to doing what is the right thing takes constant awareness.

Level 3: Practicing like a champion and taking direction to heart and applying it to your swimming without needing to be reminded every practice. Knowing what to do, and making yourself do it are two different things. 

Self-discipline is not inherent; it is a skill.  Like all skills, one must develop this skill by continuously working on it. Once the skill is mastered, it can be applied to life outside the pool and aid in managing the path to goals in the water. 

Some guidelines for developing self-discipline:

  1. Know yourself, set reasonable goals, develop a plan for achieving the goal.
  2. Identify factors that can hinder success and find a strategy for combating these factors.
  3. Start working towards your goal today and continue to work towards it every day. Over, time, things will become more habitual.
  4. Reward yourself for achieving milestones.  Then set your next milestone as well as next reward.
  5. Forgive yourself if you come up short and move forward from it.
  6. Get support from others.  Coaches and parents are great sources for support and guidance.
  7.  When confronted with a potential conflict for achieving your goals, ask yourself, “Will doing this bring me closer to my goal?”  The answer is either “yes” or “no.”

Self- Discipline - "having the mindset and fortitude to do the things you have to, even when you simply don’t feel like it or up to it".   -Olivier Poirier- Leroy


Topic 21: Preparation: 

Preparation:  The actions of making something ready for use or getting ready for an action

Level 1:  At this level swimmers should be able to:
  • Have Awareness of what they need to do to be prepared
  • Example: What helps to psych you up but not freak out of before a race or practice?
  • Example: Knowing that you need to warm up before and warm down after your race, even though you may need guidance on what exactly you should do

Level 2: At this level swimmers should be able to:

  • Make Adjustments in the moment to make sure they are prepared
  • Have a plan for how to prepare for your races
  • Example: Knowing how and when to warm up and warm down for each race



Topic 22: Recovery: a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. In swimming we also use "Active Recovery" which means: 

Swimming can be a grueling sport with multiple-day meets and multiple-event sessions, with double practices and little time-off.  With proper recovery, these things become another tool in your box to help make you stronger on the way to becoming a high-level swimmer.

Level 1 – For our younger athletes, recovery is as simple as cooling down at meets without being told to; or making sure you are staying warm on the deck at meets.  Little things like that can help keep you from having your energy sapped while at a meet.  Of course, eating and drinking before and after races, events, sessions, or practices is always a key!

Level 2 – Our more seasoned athletes are taking it upon themselves to rest in between Prelims and Finals of meets, are tailoring their cool down to how they are feeling (adding more if they are feeling tight or sore), are working in a little extra stretching on their own time if feeling tight and stiff, and are focused on what they are doing away from the pool that might affect them at their next practice or competition.

Level 3 – Our most experienced athletes are using further tools to aid in their recovery such as foam rollers, self-massagers, cupping, etc. They are warming down fully between their races, meaning at least 5-10 minutes of continuous active recovery to help prepare them for their next race as well as possible.  They are also focused on their recovery during training, to ensure that they are feeling fresh and able to give each practice their all.