Don't swim with a bear on your back

I'm one of the coaches on my children's swim team. As I write, we're in the middle of the championship season. During our training sessions, I carefully review not only the swimmers' techniques, but how they are thinking about the big races ahead of them. We talk about having an "I can" attitude instead of an "I can't" one.

I explain that "I can't" allows fear and doubt to sneak in. This often hampers the kids' natural ability. Carrying "I can'ts" around is a bit like carrying a bear on your back—or even worse, trying to swim with one. The kids invariably laugh at this. In the middle of a hard set, I might ask a swimmer who's lagging behind to "Please put your bear on the bench while you swim." They get the message. And without treating it as a mantra, they know the only two words I want in their thought are "I can."

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