A little swimmer/swim coach talk seems in order to describe how my thoughts are coming together about going back to Seoul.
Before a race, swimmers can experience any number of emotions or feelings. As a swimmer and as a coach, I used to remind me/them to be goal-driven not mood-driven.
It doesn’t matter what you feel before the race, it’s what you want from the race. I’ve seen great swimmers let their emotions “win” before they even get in the water. You can see it on their faces, in the tension in how they stand behind the block. They are headed for a loss.
Conversely, I have seen–and it is not that common–the perfect amount of nervous energy doing it’s magic on the mind and body of swimmer about to embark on the greatest race of their life. They know, beyond any doubt, that this is going to be the big one. They have absolute confidence in their training, in their coach and in their self. You can see it on their face in their stance. Absolute power at peace.
I recall one my swimmers at James Madison University, Sarah Jane Bova from Roanoke. Sarah worked hard in practice, always performed well in meets. Yet, I wondered when the breakthrough would come and she’d rise up to the next level. She was capable of more, but she didn’t seem to know it.
At the end of the season, we were at the Colonial Athletic Conference Championship at George Washington University. I saw Sarah Jane stretching on the deck with that rare and perfect expression of tension and relaxation. She looked up at me and said, “Something amazing is about to happen.”
A knowing instead of a feeling.
Sarah Jane swam the 200 backstroke event in a way I had never seen her swim before. High on the water, sans fatigue, for the entire race. At the end, she had enough left to rise up even more and hit the wall at maximum acceleration. I didn’t have to look at the clock to know that Sarah Jane had just blown her best time away. If I recall correctly she dropped 3-4 seconds off her best time and placed in the finals.
Why am I telling you this?
Because as I prepare to go to South Korea, one week from today, I am like Sarah Jane at the CAA champs.
I know something amazing is going to happen. Instead of a tension of opposites in me, the tensions seem balanced by each other. At peace with the absolute power of my own capabilities.
I’m ready to go.