Ask Judy

To Swim Or Not To Swim?


Judy Goss

I have received a number of letters from swimmers who have very specific questions or individual concerns. However, sometimes the concern that each swimmer is addressing is similar. I received an email from a young swimmer in South Africa. She has had many coaching changes, injuries, and some confidence problems. Her desire to swim is there, but sometimes athletes try to find something in their sport that may or may not be there, such as, for example, confidence, success, recognition, approval, or support. One of the most important questions that I ask my athletes is: "Why do you swim?" The response to this question is very important.

The response can usually fall into one of the following categories:

1. All the right reasons-For the pure enjoyment of the sport, you like to learn new things, work hard, compete, rise to the challenge, be part of the team, be with friends, and get exercise. You are swimming because you want to swim and on most days you enjoy it.

2. Unsure-Can't really answer the question. When you started you enjoyed it but now you are really not sure. It may be starting to take too much time and energy and it is not as much fun and as rewarding as it was before. You may have found other interests.

3. Not your reasons-You are doing it because others want you to: your parents, coach, teammates, or friends. If you weren't swimming, what would you do? You would not be a part of the team. Your coach and family have invested a lot of time and money into it. You have to keep doing it. You can't let them down. There may be a possibility of a scholarship down the road. But you are not doing it because you want to do it.

4. Not the right reasons-You have to do it, it is your life, it is the only thing that you can do, you have to win, you have to do a best time, there is nothing else. Without swimming you are nothing.

Now the reasons that I listed are not the only reasons. I am sure that you can probably come up with some others. But just consider which category they fall in. I think that really understanding why you swim is important. Sometimes you can lose sight of this. The next time you set a goal, try to make sure that the goal fits in with the reason why you swim.

And if you are swimming for any reasons that are not your reasons or not the right reasons, sit back and try to remember when you were swimming for the right reasons, and see if you can go back to how it was.

Keep the letters coming. Email me at

Judy Goss, Ph.D., is a Sport Psychology Consultant with the National Sport Centre-Toronto.