“Winning is 90% Mental and 10% Physical”

Posted on October 27, 2009


Growing up in a state that is one of the leaders in swimming gave me access to top coaches as well as top competition. Sometimes it was difficult to block out that fierce competition and simply focus on my own swimming. I remember my coaches telling me to focus, but it was quite some time before I truly understood what that meant.

So, if winning is 90% mental, then why don’t we spend more time training our minds? Well, we need to! Two of the most important things to know how to do in swimming are learning how to truly focus and learning how to visualize (next blog) your races. Most world class swimmers and athletes that I’ve known have all said that mental training is just as important as the physical. They weren’t at their highest levels until they learned how to focus on the task at hand and visualize themselves doing great things in the water or on the field.

I know when I was growing up, Dr Keith Bell (from my ‘Pickle Jar’ blog) taught the Blue Dolfins how to focus with the most intensity. He taught us how to clear our minds, and to think of nothing but the task at hand, starting with just10 seconds at a time. He would start with an easy, familiar task, such as simply stepping up on the block. He would ask to imagine the shape of the blocks, the feel of it under our hands and feet, the way we felt tall above the water. We would imagine this for ten seconds at a time until we truly felt comfortable focusing. This was actually training our brains to be able to extend this focus to an entire race. Soon we were envisioning the entire race, start to finish, blocking everything out but our bodies going fast.

As we got better at it, we found we could do it anywhere–at a meet with people yelling, on the loud football field, in the classroom and even during our event! What you do is focus as hard as you can on that one particular task or event…trust me you will get better. It is just like anything, you have to practice at it….often! The more you do it, the more powerful it will be for you!

Remember Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin and Ryan Lochte at the Olympics? They may be a little funny, beautiful or care-free out of the venue, but when it came time to take care of business in the pool, they were absolutely untouchable in the focus category. The building could have been on fire and they wouldn’t have known it! That is what I want you all to practice. Even the occasional athlete or business person can help their cause by learning how to focus deeply at the task at hand.

You don’t need a sports psychologist; you need a few 10-second reps of focusing a day! Try it!

…Stay tuned for the visualization, something I love to do!