Racing goals: one bite at a time

  |   Coaching, General, Psychology, Racing

Whether you’re an athlete, or whether you’re a coach, other coaches are always a great source of ideas, information and inspiration. Glenn Mills, one of the well known names of American swimming and coaching, has a saying he uses regularly which I borrowed recently to help explain the idea of training toward a goal to some of our athletes which worked quite well so I thought I’d share it.

The saying goes “you know how to eat an elephant don’t you? One bite at a time”. It might seem a little odd, even irrelevant at first, but it’s simplicity is its genius. Obviously a task like devouring an elephant is a daunting prospect, so you’d have to break it down into bite size chunks to get through it. The same idea goes for your big athletic goals. Try and achieve them in one step and it probably won’t work, but make some smaller goals along the way which lead to the big goal, and it’ll seem much more manageable.

The simple message as a coach is this – achieving your goals and ambitions, whether that’s participation, competition or achieving Greatness, doesn’t come from one practice. It comes from dozens, hundreds, even thousands of practices. You will get out what you put in.

Each and every quest to achieve a goal starts with one little step, but don’t underestimate that step however, as it’s the most important step you’ll take. Without it you won’t even start your journey. That step will of course take a different form for different athletes. For those new to a sport it may be as simple as heading along to your first training session. For those fully immersed in sport already it may be about taking an honest look at your performance and evaluating what needs to change. Either way it can be a small but significant step, but one that’s so easy to take, so go ahead and take it!

There’s an old story about John Naber (one of America’s most successful Olympic champions), setting his goal to break the World Record in the 100m Backstroke. To help him in his training and break down such an almighty task, John gave himself credit for every 1/100th of a second he reduced his swim times every time he did something great at practice. In the year leading up to the Montreal Olympics he accumulated just enough 100ths of a second to break the World Record, which he went on to do at that years Olympic games (along with bagging a few other Golds!). We may not all have such lofty goals but the example is perfect. Show up to training, do the work, credit yourself for doing good things, then come the big day you’ll be in the best position possible to achieve those goals.



With all the information available today on different sports sciences, training methods, injury prevention, nutrition, conditioning and performance measurements it can be easy to get lost in the flood and over think things. Sometimes however sport is beautifully simple, sometimes it really is as simple as showing up and doing the work.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite sayings to think over – “Work, and you’ll succeed. Don’t work, and don’t worry… you won’t succeed”.

Stay Positive.

Coach K