There are two types of situations in swimming: moments when you’re a WAVE and times when you are a ROCK.
Waves are when you feel the rise and fall of the emotional moments of swimming.
Rocks are the situations where you are strong, steadfast, and stable and the “waves” – the ups and downs of the sport just wash over you while you remain resilient, unaffected, and immovable.
You can learn to survive and even thrive in both situations – but it’s important to understand when, where, and how to be a WAVE or a ROCK – and why it makes a difference.
Let’s look at an example.
Imagine you’re a swimmer at a Meet, and it’s time to race. At that moment, as a competitor, you’re a WAVE.
If you swim fast and record a personal best time, you ride UP on the wave and feel fantastic.
If you don’t swim as fast as you’d like to, you feel flat and you ride the wave DOWN.
This is all a normal part of swimming! Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down and an important part of your swimming journey is learning how to ride the waves and navigate through the highs and lows of training and racing.
Now….for a moment – imagine you’re a coach or a parent or a team-mate of this competitor.
It’s your job to be their rock.Whether they come back to the team area after they’ve produced a great swim, i.e. they’re riding high on the emotional wave OR if they’ve just swum poorly and recorded a time several seconds slower than their entry time….this is important…..your response should be exactly the same!
The person DOING – the competitor – is the one likely to be experiencing the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the joy and the sadness that is the emotional wave of competitive sport.
But..for all the people NOT doing – coaches, parents and team members sitting in the stands watching and supporting, it is critical that what you do and what you say is exactly the same regardless of how great or how poor the performance of the competitor may be.
Being a Great Rock: Help them ride the wave to the next wave!
One of the most difficult things to do as a coach, a parent or a team-mate is finding a way to support a disappointed swimmer who has performed below their expectations.
They come back to the team area looking sad, down, frustrated and even a little angry and naturally you want to find the words to help ease their pain.
In these moments, coaches, parents and team members will try their best to make the swimmer feel better by saying things like “It’s ok. You did your best” – and repeating similar statements which although are well intentioned don’t actually improve the situation – and could even make things worse.
The key is to give the disappointed swimmer something real and meaningful to focus on – something which gives them direction, clarity and purpose – something more than just telling them “It doesn’t matter. You tried hard”.
Here’s three powerful questions to ask a swimmer who is at the bottom of their “wave” to help them move forward:
“What are you doing NOW?”
“Where are you going NEXT?”
“What are you going to HERE?”
Why are these questions important and powerful when trying to help and support a disappointed swimmer to move forward and leave their past performance behind them?
It gets them out of their “past” and gives them clear forward direction and purpose;
It brings them from what’s happened to what needs to be done now;
It gets them “out of their own heads” by giving them some clear actions and behaviors to do in this moment rather than continuing to endlessly review their past performance.
And here’s the great thing. Win or lose, succeed or fail, fast or slow – the same three questions have the same impact!
If the swimmer swims fast, the key to having a great Meet is to get them focused on the actions they need to do next and….
If the swimmer swims slowly, the key to having a great Meet is to get them focused on the actions they need to do next.
Waves and Rocks – an important swimming concept!