The Pressure of the Races

As an athlete, there are different parts of the sport that bring a sense of freedom, while also bringing a sense of stress. In swimming, this is very true. A person is affected by their anxiety from the sport in a negative way or in a positive way or not at all. Athletes that usually have an underlying issue are most likely to have been affected by anxiety the most. One swimmer may take this anxiety and use it as fuel to help them improve in and out of the pool, where others are being crushed by the anxiety. For example, if two swimmers are about to race, one may thrive and turn the pressure into fire, where the other swimmer may let the anxiety win and get in their head. This has happened to many swimmers throughout their career. When looking at anxiety, not everyone will experience it, but at some time we have to look at the different levels of anxiety that are caused by the amount of pressure that swimmers are put under by their academic and training schedule. Some swimmers may have underlying issues that lead them to have higher anxiety than others. There are still a large amount that have a small amount of anxiety when it comes to competing.

Swimming is one of those sports where if you are not confident in yourself, then you will not succeed. Anxiety is something that can take away a swimmer’s confidence and belittle them into thinking that they are not good at swimming. This is not true for all athletes; some are not affected by anxiety and they keep their confidence high. But in most swimmers there is a balance that they have with their confidence and anxiety. When you have a bad race, that is something that can affect your confidence and cause you to question yourself. The negative that forms may slowly start to turn into anxiety for that athlete. Some swimmers can turn their negative anxiety into a positive boost to help create their confidence again. 

The study done by the Research Quarterly of Exercise and Sport looks at the relationship between competition anxiety and self-confidence. The study states, “The practical implications of this study emphasize that experiencing anxiety symptoms is not necessarily debilitating to performance. In addition, thoughts and feelings viewed as negative can, under certain conditions, have a facilitative effect on performance” (Quarterly of Exercise and Sport). Through the study, there is evidence that shows that even when a swimmer is faced with anxiety, they can either use it to help themself perform better or it can psych them out of their races. Connecting this to self-confidence, a swimmer with a higher level of self-confidence will correlate to their having better performances. Confidence is one thing that when you have it, it will help you out in the long run.  It will keep your nerves and anxiety at bay when you are racing. 

 When swimming, there are different levels of anxiety that one might experience with the sport. Some may get “before race jitters”, where they get a rush of nerves that washes all over them. A feeling like this usually only lasts a couple of minutes and once they enter the water it goes away. Some will say it literally washes off of you as you dive in. When a person is getting ready to race, their anxiety is so high that if it makes them nauseous, it is only inevitable that they throw up. Then there are some swimmers that do not experience either of these things. Every swimmer is different from one another. With race jitters that correlate to competition anxiety, an athlete is faced with a challenge that is greater than what they expected it to be. This only comes out when they are racing and once they have finished the race,  the anxiety goes away. 

According to Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, there is a relationship between competition anxiety and the outcome of a swimmer’s performances. The study shows that not all of the anxiety that some of the swimmers faced were negative. Some were able to turn the anxiety into a form of motivation to meet their goals. Grahmans Jones and Sheldon Helton states, “add to the growing body of literature which shows that competitive anxiety is not necessarily debilitative to sports performers” (Jones and Helton). For some athletes, this means that not all of the anxiety that they are faced with is going to affect their competition in a negative way. With taking the power of the anxiety off of a swimmer, they are able to turn some of it into a positive way of emotion to help benefit they’re swimming. The study itself was written to shed a new light onto anxiety to show that anxiety doesn’t always have to be looked at as a negative effect on a swimmer. 

Anxiety is something that can either have a positive or negative on a person. A person has to decide if they want to let the anxiety make their decisions and determine the outcome of their race, or if they should take control and turn the anxiety into fuel to win. At some point, swimmers are going to be faced with some type of anxiety, but it is up to them on what kind it will be. As a whole, people need to stop viewing anxiety as only a bad thing because in the end a person can not be successful if they are not put into a challenge. As a swimmer speaking from my own personal experiences, anxiety has not always affected how races turn out. Over the years, you develop different types of strategies that will help you not let anxiety get the better of you. Without my anxiety, my swimming would not be what it is today. Each swimmer is going to have to find a way to let anxiety affect their performance, but remember that anxiety can also have a positive effect.


Hanton, S., & Connaughton, D. (2020). Perceived control of anxiety and its relationship to self-confidence and performance. Retrieved 2021, from

Jones, G., & Hanton, S. (2019). Interpreation of Competitive anxiety symptoms and goal attainment Expectainies. Retrieved 2021, from

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