During his 20-year career as a competitive swimmer, Michael Phelps had exactly 1 coach, Bob Bowman.
Bowman took on the gangly, hyperactive 10-year old Michael and immediately focused just as much time on creating a world class mindset as he did about creating a world-class body.
One of Bowan’s most consistent mental exercises was ‘the tape.’
Bowman taught Phelps to “play the tape” of the perfect race in his head twice a day. With Debbie, Phelp’s mother’s help, Michael played the tape when he woke up and then just before going to sleep. In the tape Michael calmly visualized the perfect race.
The tape would have a clean start including the shock of the cool water hitting his body. His fingertips sliding into the water, the pull beginning with his wrist and going right through his body, a flawless flip turn, his trademark 6-beat kick and a strong finish.
Bowman once said, “If you were to ask Michael what’s going on in
his head before the competition, he would say he’s not really thinking about
anything. But that’s not right. It’s more like his habits had taken over. The
actual race was just another step in a pattern that started earlier that day
and was nothing but victories. Winning became a natural extension.”
In the final of the 200-meter butterfly at the Beijing Olympics,
Michael was going for his 10th gold medal, he would become the
winningest Olympian ever.
As he dived into the water, his goggles flooded. “I dove in and they filled up with water, and it got worse and worse during the race,” Phelps told later. “From the 150-meter wall to the finish, I couldn’t see the wall. I was just hoping I was winning.”
No panic: because of the tape, he was prepared. Phelps not only won the race but set another new world record. “If I didn’t prepare for everything that happens, when my goggles started filling up, I’d have probably flipped out.
At 4:19 in this video watch Michael rip off his googles and cap.