Wednesday, October 17

UCLA swim and dive focuses on mental preparedness, high morale


UCLA swimming does a 3-minute meditation at the start of practices to help the swimmers get into a mindset that is entirely focused on swimming, rather than other stressful things in their lives. (Stella Huang

UCLA swimming does a 3-minute meditation at the start of practices to help the swimmers get into a mindset that is entirely focused on swimming, rather than other stressful things in their lives. (Stella Huang


Despite recent losses, the Bruins continue to engage in mental exercises to manage the demands of competing as student-athletes.

UCLA swimming and diving (5-5, 2-4 Pac-12) was defeated by No. 3 Stanford (7-0, 6-0) by a score of 182-110 and No. 5 California (9-0, 6-0) by a score of 183-111 at Spieker Aquatics Center on Friday and Saturday.

With just one more meet before the postseason, swimming coach Cyndi Gallagher said that some of the swimmers can improve by working on their mentality, but also said that she is seeing a general trend of increased confidence and competitiveness.

The swim team incorporates mental work during practice to help the swimmers get in a headspace that allows them to focus and tackle their goals.

“(The swim team does) a 3-minute meditation, so (the swimmers) either have a mantra or they count their breaths just so that they are able to go from (classes) to swimming and then have everything be just swimming,” Gallagher said. “Because when you’re at the pool, it’s just swimming. I don’t want them thinking about their test or what’s coming up next.”

Other than breathing exercises, the swim team is also encouraged to practice gratitude by looking for three things to be grateful for throughout their day. Moreover, they are encouraged to support one another at practice to keep the morale high.

“During practice, we also focus on other people and how we can help them,” said senior swimmer Maddy Burnham. “Because if you say, ‘good job,’ (or) ‘only one more left,’ you’re talking to yourself too, and it helps bring up everyone around you as well.”

Gallagher said that these skills are life skills that will help them as student-athletes as well as throughout the rest of their lives.

The diving team doesn’t practice meditation as personal management because of time constraints, but the divers are encouraged to do what they can outside of practice, according to diving coach Tom Stebbins.

“I think that for us, it’s about challenging … ourselves to be the best that we can be any given day or at any given time,” Stebbins said. “When you do all those things really well and you’re at your best, then the results take care of themselves.”

The swimming and diving teams will slowly start to decrease the intensity of their practices, according to Stebbins and Burnham, to let their athletes recover from the hard training they’ve been doing this season and to prepare them for quality marks at upcoming meets.

The Bruins will face the No. 13 Trojans (6-2, 3-2) on Feb. 9 and 10 before beginning the postseason at the Pac-12 championships near the end of the month.

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