Your Swimming Career is like a River

Note from Reach for the Wall Editors: Many of you are at the tail-end of your holiday training period and have met many challenges. This article focuses on the next phase in your training (to continue to challenge yourself) to maintain focus and remain locked in on your goals for the Spring. We wish you all success in 2018 and look forward to publishing your accomplishments!

Contributor Rick Paine is an expert on the college recruiting process. He is also the Director of Swimming at American College Connection (ACC). 

By: Rick Paine

Picture your swimming career as a river. It starts out as a slowing moving creek, turns into a swift stream and eventually into a fast moving majestic river.

When you are just starting your swimming career it is like a slow meandering creek. It flows gently along without a care in the world. Your swimming career starts the same way; pretty relaxed having fun and enjoying just being a kid. You may start out on a summer league team having fun competing for ribbons. You probably play other sports. You career does not have a well defined direction just like a slow moving creek that zigzags over the country side. There are a few big rocks in the creek along with quite a few pebbles supporting the big rocks and tons of sand.

As you get older and more serious about your swimming it becomes more like a swiftly flowing stream. It picks up speed and is definitely headed in a particular direction. You attend more practices, maybe you start a strength program; perhaps you change to a more serious coach and you enter more competitions and have goals such as state and Zone championships. Your career, just like a stream is moving more rapidly and picking up momentum. There are more big rocks in the stream supported by a lot of pebbles and tons of sand.

As you get into high school and college you become very serious about your swimming career and it begins to resemble a very fast moving river. You become very dedicated and make many sacrifices. You have lofty goals such as high school state or junior nationals. There are quite a few big rocks in the river supported by all of the pebbles and still tons of sand.

The big rocks represent all of the things that are important to you in your swimming career. Such as:

  • Reaching your goals
  • Quality time you spend with your family at meets and banquets
  • The bond you develop with your coaches along the way
  • The life-long friendships you develop with your teammates
  • Getting a college education with the help of your swimming
  • Swimming in college
  • Team accomplishments such as high school team success and relays at junior nationals
  • Learning life skills
  • Travel

The pebbles represent all of the things that you have control over to help you get the important things and to support the big rocks.

Such as:

  • Developing a consistent work ethic in practice
  • Focusing on stroke, start and turn technique
  • Allowing yourself to be coachable
  • Developing a solid race strategy
  • Sacrificing such as leaving a party early because you have morning practice
  • Positive self-talk and mental training
  • Proper nutrition
  • Getting proper rest
  • Staying hydrated
  • Stretching
  • Starting practice on time, not just being at practice on time
  • Recovering from illness and injury
  • Supporting your teammates

The sand represents all of the things that you have no control over. It is all of the little junk that gets in the way of your goals.

Such as:

  • Worrying about who’s in the lane next to you at a meet
  • Worrying about the weather at an outdoor event
  • Crowded warm-ups
  • Pool temperature
  • Pressure from your parents
  • Illness and Injury
  • Peer jealously
  • Winning and losing
  • Your coach yelling at you
  • Just like sand, the list is endless

Sand can build up forming sand bars that can clog up and slow down even the mightiest rivers. Focusing on all of the things that you have no control over can clog up and slow down your athletic career. A strong river has a way of flushing out the sand and allowing it to move downstream and into the ocean. You can do the same thing with all the junk that gets in your way by simply flushing it downstream and not allowing yourself to focus on all of the things that you have no control over.

“If you can’t control it, then stop wasting time and energy worrying about it”.

Always keep your eye on the big rocks, focus on the pebbles and let the sand flow into the ocean.

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