Swimmer Motivation

Swimming is one of the sports with the highest dropout rate. Swimmers require a more applied motivation process.

Relaxation is the capacity that has a special personality. Beyond the physical biotype, the mental part is very important. You have to have a special personality to spend hours underwater, in an environment that is not natural to humans. As a swimmer told me: “I swim butterfly because I have always wanted to fly and when I take my body out in the strokes I feel as if I were flying.” Definitely not all human beings have the same motives and neither do swimmers. In this sentence we see the original motivation of the athlete, very valid because it helps us understand it.

The swimmer needs great motivation to get up very early, before dawn, get into the water cold and sleepy, then go to school and / or university (situation of the bulk of our swimmers), train again in the afternoons, being stuck for many hours and swimming many kilometers in the water, finding himself isolated, only with his thoughts, feelings, frustrations, worries and others. Get out of the water and get some directions, keep swimming the pool over and over again. To this should be added that they must go to bed early to manage those schedules, compete on weekends, stop going out with friends and / or partners, lose almost full days in competitions on weekends, enduring a lot of stress in the long wait .

If we add to the demands and pressures of this sport a demanding, intolerant and castrating coach; the situation is much more complicated. If, in addition, the family is demanding and also demanding, this gets worse (remember that behind every great athlete there is, in general, a committed or meddling family). This is not easy at all, which means that the athlete has to have a special motivation to make so many sacrifices in pursuit of their swimming goals.

All these elements already give us clear indications of why swimming is one of the sports with the highest dropout rate. The Burnout is the biggest enemy swimmers as it has one of the highest dropout rates. Within this sport, the highest number of dropouts occurs between 15-16 years, while in sports in general it is at 18 years.

Motivations of the swimmer in formative stages:

  • Sense of competence: The person feels capable and skilled. He is recognized by others, he likes how he feels and how others make him feel, valuing himself and being valued by others. You get personal and social recognition. Sport gives you a high status.
  • Fun: Enjoy the activity on its own. It’s fun to just do it. The person likes it and enjoys it.
  • Affiliation Need: Natural human need to socialize and establish interpersonal relationships of a social nature. It relates to others, establishes social and emotional ties, shares and trains in groups, with peers, with friends. There are joint goals, meet new people and establish new relationships, and this provides social support.

Motivation in relation to the stages that the athlete goes through:

  •  Need (4 – 8 years old approx.): In our environment it is a necessity to know how to swim. We have an immense sea coast, as well as an extensive river system. We have a culture that is closer to contact with water, which makes learning to swim a necessity. So, initially it is more a demand, concern and / or motivation of the parents. But from then on it will be the coach’s job to motivate the beginner so that he can persevere in swimming to higher levels. It is also not strange to see that parents encourage their children to practice this sport for health, asthma, bronchial respiratory problems, among others).
  •  Fun (8 – 11 approx.): In general, in sports, most boys decide to practice a sport because they find it interesting and fun, being in a different state, as if there were no gravity, the body sensation is different, as is the resistance of the element. The important thing is that the child, once he has learned the basics of swimming, feels comfortable, has a good time and has fun, asking himself to practice this sport. Meeting new people and being with friends is motivating. The child seeks:

I Self improvement: Increased motivation goes hand in hand with learning. If he

little one does not learn new things, he is bored, he does not have fun, and therefore he leaves it.

I Social approval: Obtain a benefit through sports, care and

recognition from relatives, peers, friends, coaches, teachers, etc.

  •  Need to prove your skills (11 – 13 years approx.): Once you see that your skills for this sport are growing, the interest begins to test your skills with others and compare yourself. You feel capable, you want to improve your skills. They exercise, they get in shape (there is an aesthetic and ego issue. At this stage all the concerns about the body, the shame of it and the body’s self-perception begin . Children are no longer happy with their plump bodies). This will also be a function of the level of emotional and competitive maturity, and your personality. Develop a sense of belonging within a group. The group’s climate is very important. Even if it is an individual sport, they spend a lot of time together in and out of the pool, and when there are no romances, they compete as individuals, except for the posts, but they train as a team, and generally there are also recognitions for the general score by teams. The swimmer begins to have changes in his body and in his personality. Developmental insecurities appear. It focuses on the following:
  • Comparison: It is constantly compared with others, it is being measured both inside and outside of sport and this is reflected and accentuated in competitions. It is a stage in which coaches must have a lot of tolerance and understanding. That discomfort that they may have in relation to puberty is the same that they feel, and they transmit it to them. There are annoyances, frustrations, insecurities, new sensations, etc.
  • Changes: The coach may feel that he is unfamiliar with his pupil, which is the same as the parents and the boy himself may be feeling. This stage culminates with the beginning of the development of competitiveness, that is, the structure of competitiveness is already established, but it will continue to develop for several more years. There are bodily and hormonal changes in boys, the first menarche begins in women and nocturnal pollution in men.
  • Improvement of skills (13-15 years approx.): If you persist in the sport, it means that you are willing to make sacrifices, training harder and more serious. Only here, from the age of 13, can begin to demand greater results, since the basis of competitiveness is already consolidated. The secondary gain (indirect gain resulting from sport) that they obtain from swimming practice enters to play. The physique becomes slimmer and more attractive, according to the current beauty canons (although, also, there are exceptions and not a few young people want to leave it because of the broadening of their backs) and sporting successes. As a consequence, both sexes attract greater social attention, interest and success with the opposite sex, and these are very important and mobilizing aspects for a young man who is in full adolescence with the emotional and hormonal load that this brings. It is important to emphasize that sports activity leads to greater sexual desire and remember that this is the stage of the swimming bottleneck (1). This social recognition brings with it a whole series of temptations for athletes: they will be invited to parties, sexual explorations will begin, etc.

All this series of new distractions may affect the attendance and quality of training, and may lead the young swimmer to make a cost-benefit evaluation, deciding to stop swimming.

  • Skills improvement (15 -18 onwards): The skeleton is approximately consolidated at 18 years of age. Between the ages of 15 and 18, they will finish forming and consolidating, but these changes will no longer be as radical as in adolescence. By this time the swimmer’s competitiveness should finish developing at its highest level (this will depend on the fact that stages of the athlete’s psychological development are not “burned out”, which would make them unable to reach their highest level, for greater information review Nieri R., D. (2006). The Development of Sports Competitiveness in the Educational Field). http://wwyv.psicod.com/62- el_desarrollo_de_la_compefltividad_deportiva_en_el_ambito_educativo). If you persist in the sport, your friends and colleagues will remain on the road, the greatest dangers of abandonment will have been overcome, but you will have to remain vigilant as the risk continues until the end of this stage. At this time, high motivation is needed since it requires training that is not necessarily fun or pleasant, and a series of sacrifices (food, outings, friends, in love, etc.) that the athlete is willing to carry out in pursuit of the goals you want to achieve in swimming. Your goals are in relation to obtaining an improvement. There is interest in getting things, cups, medals, records, etc.  
  • Competition thrush (18 onwards): These are the swimmers who reach the elite, the ones who are willing to do whatever they are told to improve. Highly persevering, methodical, organized, tolerant of frustration and willing to make all the sacrifices (personal, family, financial, etc.) necessary to improve. They are willing to work very hard to achieve smaller and smaller margins for improvement such as those found in swimming. Many efforts, sacrifices and training to improve little personal marks.

It is important to emphasize that in order to move to the next stage of motivation, the previous one must have been achieved, otherwise, by rushing them, it can lead to the abandonment of the swimmer from the world of swimming.

* The highest age of abandonment of swimming occurs between 15-16 years of age, so you will have to be very careful with the management of pressure that is exerted on them at this age. The coach will have to have a lot of “wrist” with the athlete to know when to make the necessary adjustments and when to give them freedom, for that it is important to draw the objectives together and establish a communication channel for dialogue. The use of sports psychologists would prevent so many cases of sports abandonment.

The different forms of retirement that a swimmer has are:

  • Due to goals achieved (for example, Ian Thorpe retired at the age of 24 because he considered that

he already did everything he had to do in swimming).

  • For unfulfilled goals (frustration and demotivation).
  • By age.
  • By injury.
  • Other reasons: University, studies, work, economic, family, etc.

Burnout (2): From best to worst

I Temporary abandonment of competitive swimming.

  • Definitive abandonment of competitive swimming.

Temporary abandonment of swimming. Definitive abandonment of swimming. Temporary abandonment of sport. Definitive abandonment of the sport.

(2) The phenomenon of burnout or psychic saturation, even with psychophysiological consequences, brings with it an absence of fun, psychic and physical exhaustion, a feeling that nothing else can be given of itself. This phenomenon produces demotivation, absence and abandonment of competitions and / or sports permanently in the most extreme situations, being nothing unusual in national swimming.

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