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Pysch side of Swimming
21 January 2017

Swimming WA: Performance Psychology Workshop

21 January 2017, DSR
Story by Maia Simmonds, World Championship and World Cup Australian Rowing Team representative


When I began my path in elite sport my immediate focus was on developing my physical capacity. I certainly placed significantly more emphasis on this side of my sport than I did on exploring and practicing the psychological aspects. As I gained more experience racing and training at the elite level I came to realise how much value and benefit there was to gain from psychology and that I needed to view it as another skill that I should practice and develop the same way that I might a technical part of the rowing stroke. What I love about the Developing Champions workshops is that they allow younger athletes to gain exposure to ideas and tools that will benefit their journey in both sport and life at an earlier stage than they may have otherwise.

The Swimming athletes that Heather and I had the pleasure of working with on Saturday were impressive in their openness and understanding of the psychological side of sport. Swimming involves so much commitment and dedication as an individual at a young age and it shows in the maturity of the approach these young athletes take.


By starting out in getting an understand of how the adolescent brain operates and develops we were able to examine what kind of stimulation, drive and rewards are the best ways to engage our mind in producing the best execution in both training and under the stress of competition.

We also looked at personality types and how our innate preferences might influence how we operate in the training, travelling and competing space of sport. It was fascinating to see that 12 out of the 13 athletes drew their energy from external rather than internal sources. The better we understand this motivators lets us understand how behaviours like chatting in between sets or spending time together on trips away are actually stimulating for performance for extroverts. It also lets us understand that teammates who need more time to themselves are actually doing this to fuel their own performance.

We finished up with some progressive muscle relaxation as a group. It is always handy to have a toolbox of tricks like this up your sleeve at events for when things don’t go to plan and you need to focus in, when you are struggling to sleep or trying to relax. Hopefully some of the tools we discussed in the workshop help these young swimmers going forwards on what I have no doubt is a continuing path of enjoyment and success in their sport.

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