With championship season for the US National Team right around the corner, it’s hard not to think about what has made the best US athletes so successful over all these years. Having the fortunate vantage point of being integrated with the US team at competitions, here are three observations from the last three Olympic Games and four World Championships that you can use as you get ready for your own end-of-summer meet.
1. Be your own best coach. Your coach’s presence, advice, and feedback is certainly a huge plus at the most important meet of the year, but you need to be able to operate and succeed without them. At the minimum, know what to do on your own for warm-up and warm-down. But also be prepared to know how the race might play out in your heat, or what your focus cues should be for each race. The most successful Olympians can be independent and take care of themselves. A coach can support them, but may not be available either, so you need to be prepared either way.
2. Have a plan, but be adaptable. You can’t be prepared for every possible situation, but you can do your best to do so and be prepared to adapt. Go into your meet with a general plan, but don’t sweat it if you need to be flexible. What if you hit traffic on the way to the pool? Or warm-up closes early and you don’t get to do starts? Or your cap, goggles, and suit break? Or you can’t eat your favorite pre-race meal? Or you can’t find your coach? Like I said, you can’t stress about every single scenario, but you can take a deep breath and figure it out so you can still perform your very best.
3. Be lazy away from the pool. Travel meets with your friends are always exciting and you have so much energy from taper. But use that energy wisely when you’re away from the pool. That doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in your room and stay in bed all day. Stay positive and entertained, but take the elevator instead of the stairs, or watch a movie instead of going to the beach or the mall. The Worlds and Olympic team members enjoy each other and the new countries, but also know when to take care of themselves in order to take care of business.