How many times have you had a swimmer who, constantly prevents themselves from succeeding, self sabotage. How do you quieten the voices in their head, the ones that tell them ‘You can’t do that’, ‘I’m to scared to try’. I know we are not psychologists, but you can make a difference. What is required is lots of reassurance, skills and strokes broken into easy repeatable steps, that will require the swimmer to perform, refine, repeat, until such time as they can perform the skill without needing to think of the steps- Unconscious Competence.
Further reading look at Maslow’s stages of learning.
Once the swimmer has gained some confidence and has started to make some progress they often enter what we call the Comfort zone, it is possible to flounder in the stage for some time. Usually because the swimmer is happier that they have made progress and confidence has increased but they struggle to push beyond, further progress requires being brave and pushing the boundaries extending the comfort zone. There will often be tears at this stage, as a teacher this is where strength of character is required, don’t give in, your swimmer needs your strength, don’t dismiss the tears, be reassuring but firm, trust me the outcome will be worth it. The key to expanding the comfort zone is knowing when to introduce new skills, when to provide the next piece of information. The stretch zone is where new learning takes place, practicing new skills, this is where the most learning occurs.
During this stage a swimmer can become quite vocal they are trying to encourage themselves to complete the task, make the move, this is called self talk. As along as the self talk stays positive in nature all is good once it changes to a negative, ‘stop being stupid’ or similar, then change the task, even change the stroke take the focus away totally from what they where doing refocus the mind.
The panic zone, where your swimmer has a melt down, freezes (could be a simple skill such as jumping in, entering cold, murky water outdoors). The key is knowing when to push a learner, when to pull back. Not giving all the information in one go, drip feeding it to the learner when the learner is ready for the next piece of the puzzle. Is your swimmer constantly in survival mode, then try dialing it back. Expanding a person’s comfort zone requires them to push the boundaries of the comfort zone entering the panic zone but not staying there. As a coach how do you encourage that level of commitment, that willingness to put yourself out there. For myself the answer is putting myself out there, being empathetic towards my students, remembering what it is like to be in their position.
Mantra for those in this position - ACTION CONQUERS FEAR - quote by Peter Nivio Zarlenga.