Why Phelps Losing is Good

Since 2000, coaches have been telling swimmers, “Well Michael Phelps has great underwaters, so you need to have great underwaters.” Michael Phelps this and Michael Phelps that statements were introduced to swimmers to help them understand what they needed to do to succeed and be better.  Invariably, the response by swimmers would be, “Well Michael Phelps is a genetic freak and if I had his body and talent, I would be the best in the world too.”  To often swimmers overlooked the practice habits and dedication of Phelps in favor or his genetic traits and natural swimming gifts.  Then in 2012, Phelps got 4th in the 400 IM.  And to the delight of many coaches, it can serve as a powerful lesson for swimmers everywhere: Talent is great, but talent is everywhere.  Talent alone will never win titles, talent + hard work will win titles.  Phelps took a break from training after 2008 to mentally and physically recover from his Olympic performance and hard work in the water.  Meanwhile, Ryan Lochte realized that talent alone will only go so far, and totally took his training level to another level with the singular focus of being THE MAN at the London Olympics.  What we discovered from 2008 to 2012, and especially at the 400 IM final in London is that talent thrives because of dedication to be better, not because talent exists.  Ryan Lochte, Thiago Periera, and Kosuke Hagino, spend 4 years training for the 4 IM.  Phelps admittedly spent about 18 to 24 months training for the event.  That two year training gap was the difference in that race.  No matter what level of swimming you are at: country club, summer league, high school, college, or international, talent will only take you so far.  Once you get to that point, it’s the extra time you take to develop and refine your talent that gives you the extra edge.  It’s the extra day of doubles you do, when others are taking the day off.  It’s working on getting 10 underwater kicks off your walls, when normally you take 7.  It’s constantly challenging yourself to do what you have never accomplished before that will enhance your talent and make it stronger.  It’s challenging yourself to fail everyday, so you can succeed when it matters most.  So the 400 IM in London was a great time to acknowledge all the hard work that Lochte put into training for the past four years.  And for those who always want to say that talent beats hard work, the race should be an eye opener to you.  The race should show that you give too much credit to talent and not enough to work ethic.  So as you prepare for the upcoming year in the pool, don’t think about why someone is better or faster than you, and don’t believe it’s just because that person is more talented.  Rather look at the effort you put forth everyday, and ask yourself what you are doing every day to get better.  Because rest assured that someone else is out there asking those questions in order to prepare to succeed at the highest level.

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