By Dana Vollmer//Correspondent
The U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Swimming are here! No more early mornings, no more pumping the weights, or fitting in the cardio. Now we have to be confident that we are prepared and ready to perform. We all try to go into the championship with no regrets and no doubts, but a key ingredient to being an elite level athlete is that we are never satisfied, always searching for more to give, ways to push harder, finding any flaw we can improve. Now, as I prepare to leave for the 2012 Olympic Trials, I have to have faith that I have done everything possible to be in the best position I could have put myself in to swim faster than I might have dreamed.
Do I still get nervious? Of course! But I have learned to change my perception of those nerves. A good friend of mine told me that "the nerves are what keep me in the sport. The nerves represent the excitement, the anticipation and the thrill. If I didn't get nervious the sport would lose its excitement." It's realizing and understanding that the feeling nervous doesn't have to be a negative thing. We are the ones that turn them into a ngative when we allow them to psych us out, tell ourselves we aren't prepared, or allow negative thoughts to creep into our performance. Now when I get nervous I tell myself, "Oh good, that means my body is ready and excited to do something incredible!"
I have trained to be prepared to handle odd circumstances. Teri McKeever always tells me to prepare for things to go wrong and work to be able to handle them, so if everything goes right it's even better! The U.S. Olympic Team Trials are chaotic. There are 1,831 athletes on the pool deck trying to warm-up, preparing to compete at an incredibly high level. It creates an energizing atmosphere that can be exhilarating or exhausting. Through my training with Teri McKeever and ocean training that I do, I get to work on dealing with all types of emotions and learning to continue to perform.
It's all about how we approach situations. Take charge of your nerves. View them as excitement and anticipation and learn to use them to help you perform instead of hindering you. I know that my races aren't going to be flawless, but I'm learning to be adaptive and make any situation work for me. I write this as I await my final swim in the 100 butterfly, and believe me my nerves are in high gear. I do not have control over the other competitors, or how they perform. I can only control my attitude, preparations and mental state going into this race.
So, here we go!
Update: Since writing this blog post, Dana Vollmer qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. She mastered her nerves, winning the 100m butterfly in a time of 56.50. Her prelims time of 56.42 was a new American record. We wish Dana good luck in London!