I was exhausted but happy – 57.79 secs of extreme effort had resulted in me smashing finally that 1 minute barrier for 100 metres freestyle swim.  My start was sharp, my turns were fast and furious,  I was beating my arch rival in the next lane and I swam in hard.  I knew I had done it – and my disappointment of missing out by getting 1:00:06 earlier this year was a dim and distant memory now.  What joy!

This was indeed a great performance and really had been won before the race because the mind preparation was good.

OK – I have to come clean – it was really my seventeen year old son Tom swimming – but if you are a  parent you will understand what I am saying.  As I watched Tom swim I was swimming every stroke mentally and living the action.  One of the real joys of parenthood is seeing your kids succeed in whatever they do but you also have to live with their disappointments.  Tom had really worked for this.  That sub one minute target can be very elusive and he had been so close for over a year.  He really wanted to smash through that barrier.

It wasn’t just me swimming the event in my mind though – to a large extent Tom was also mentally swimming out what he had so firmly visualised earlier.

Let me explain. 

Tom is doing A levels and one of his subjects is PE (Physical Education).  I spent some time yesterday afternoon chatting with him about one of his modules on Sports Psychology.  It was actually great stuff.  Take Weiner 1974 who recognised that successful performers are more likely to attribute success to internal and stable factors – such as ability and difficulty of the task.  In this way they gain satisfaction from the feeling that the success is due to themselves and that it is likely to happen again in the future as your ability is stable.

On the other hand Weiner suggests that for any less successful outcomes that the failures should be attributed to external and unstable factors – luck and effort as this allows the blame to be placed away from the individual and allows for the situation to change next time.

As we chatted about Tom’s own situation using this process we were able to deflect some of the previous disappointing swims to bad luck – poor preparation because disrupted training and a badly timed cold.

We also went through Self-Efficacy theory as described by Bandura 1977 – defined as “level of confidence in the likelihood of achieving a goal. Bandura identified four key factors in the development of self-efficacy and expectations of future success.  One of those factors – vicarious experiences was particularly relevant to Tom’s forthcoming evening swim.  This refers to observing others perform.  If we see someone else succeed as well (especially if the other person is of a similar standard to ourselves). 

Now one of Tom’s competitive rivals managed to break that 1 minute barrier earlier this year and he is of a very similar ability but has a distinct advantage in that he is very tall.  So we discussed the tallness as being an external factor that did make Tom’s task harder (external factor) but that his ability was no different – so according to Weiner it would be down to how much effort (internal but unstable factor)  was put in that would determine outcome.

We were able to use Tom’s forthcoming swim as a focus for all of our discussions about the psychology of sport module. 

The really interesting thing is that it was wonderful preparation for the evening swim – for both of us. 

By the time that Tom was on the blocks – we were both perfectly prepared and in the groove.  I was totally ready for my mental PB (personal best) swim.

Hey this swimming is very tiring at my age – I am exhausted.