“Lane 5, Step Down!” (And Tap into your Warp Drive)

Posted on August 16, 2009


Well, it was the 1980 Junior Olympics and I was in the final of the 11 & 12 200 IM at the Winter Haven Pool, which is now the Rowdy Gaines Pool.  The day was a bright sunny day built for speed and I was a little anxious to get going.  Fellow Blue Dolfiner Craig Harris was the top seeded swimmer, and I believe Charlie Rose may have been in the same heat as well. And, what’s more, Kevin Meisel was coaching one of his first meets after retiring as a swimmer.

We were all behind the blocks, talking and messing around awaiting our heat, but I knew I wasn’t feeling very well.  I was nervous!  I heard what the other swimmers were saying, but I wasn’t really comprehending.  Noises and actions were there, but they didn’t faze me.  My fellow team members knew I was getting nervous, as this was my normal M.O.

While I was waiting for my heat, I was thinking of the event so much, the start, the turns, the strokes, feeling good, feeling bad, spectators, etc., that my stomach began to go upside down and sideways!   Meanwhile the consolation final was just finishing…our heat was next.  My nervousness was at its peak…almost.

Then came the announcer’s voice, “In the Championship Final, Lane 1…, Lane 2…, Lane 3…, Lane 4 Craig Harris, Lane 5 Joe Auer,” and so on.

Right when the starting judge gave the command to get on the blocks, you guessed it, I relieved my stomach’s internals as fast as I could–ALL OVER the block! NICE! There was vomit everywhere!

“Gentleman, step down,” came the announcer’s voice again. “Lane 5, go shower off.” Fortunately, there was a shower right there next to the pool deck.  How embarrassing! All the swimmers had to wait for me!  (In hind sight, I guess I had my own little psych job on them working as well!)

Anyway, I made my way back to the blocks and swam very well.  I physically went through all the things I was thinking about behind the blocks and lowered my time a huge amount!  All the nervousness actually provided a big pay out for me. Nerves=speed for me.

Now, why am I telling you this story?

I see kids at meets getting so nervous they can’t handle it.  They lose control.  I say accept it and even welcome it into their meet preparation.  Just know its coming and use it to your advantage.  Consider that your “warp drive.”  When you feel it, know you are going to have a great one!   Work on that this season and by the time your big meet comes this fall, you’ll be ready for “warp drive.”

I always got nervous before my events and it NEVER failed.  Along came the queasy stomach, the yawns, the thought of failing, but I found I always wanted the nerves to be there.  You see, if you know nervousness is coming, let it come!  Use it to your advantage.