What is it that makes you a nightmare to compete against? What is it about your swimming skill set that makes the biggest difference in your performance? What would it look and feel like if you strategized ways in which you could identify and utilize your unique super-strength in your upcoming championship meets? Imagine the ways in which this would give you a competitive advantage!

Known in the sport psychology and performance coaching field as a “super-strength” (Ludlam, 2016) this individualized and unique approach to competition has been shown to increase one’s overall confidence, drive, focus, and athletic performance (Linley, 2009; Biswas-Deiner, 2011; and Ludlam, 2017).  As an added plus, this awareness also makes your perceived weaknesses feel far less important. How does focusing on what’s wrong help anyway?

So, how do we go about identifying, building, and applying our “super-strength? Well, as always, I believe that your answers are already inside of you! Let’s discuss ways to shine some light on them.

Make a list!

  1. Consider your physical skill set: technique, DPS, stroking-rate, turning speed, underwater speed, swimming IQ, start, entry, etc…
  2. Consider your mental approach: attitude, competitive instinct, mindset, mental toughness, value as a teammate, etc…
  3. Consider taking the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator. Are you an introvert or extravert? A thinker or feeler? How does this help you understand how to prepare for a race? What can you do more, or less, of?
  4. Think about taking the CliftonStrengths Finder and applying your signature strengths to your swimming. It works! (Thompson, 2016).
  5. Think about who knows you best and ask them; coaches, parents, and teammates, for example.

Get the Facts!

  1. Evaluate your turning speed (which part of your turn excels the most?)
  2. Measure your SR/SL combinations,
  3. Measure your reaction time off the blocks
  4. Examine your speed off walls and inertia off the arm swing
  5. Know your splits. Are you a momentum swimmer or a closer?

Develop Your Strategy

  1. Remember, a super-strength is what gives you your competitive edge. How will you apply it? How will you make it even better!?
  2. Intentionally call up your strength during practice, in your “mind’s eye,” during visualizations, as well as throughout your day.
  3. Focus on how good it feels to be strong, engaged, powerful, confident, empowered, and self-aware.

Own It!

  1. This is no time to be shy or self-deprecating!
  2. Apply a growth mindset. Strive for excellence (not perfection).
  3. Carry yourself, and your super-strength, with pride.
  4. Bring it with you everywhere you go.

Good luck and please let me know how it goes!


Dr. Peter Thompson was an elite level swimming coach for over 30 years. He currently maintains a private High Performance and Personal Development coaching practice in Rochester, NY, teaches, and consults with a local collegiate athletic department. Dr. Pete is available for one-on-one, small group, and team workshops via phone, skype, and in person. www.ThompsonCoachingGroup.com; DrPete@ThompsonCoachingGroup.com