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Episode #63

Composed Under Pressure

with Emma Weyant

11 Jan, 2022 · Swimming

Olympic silver medalist and collegiate swimmer at the University of Virginia, Emma Weyant, shares her journey in sport, reminding us that confidence comes from preparation, & success comes from stepping out of your comfort zone.

Transcript

Episode #63

Athlete: Emma Weyant 

“Staying Composed Under Pressure”

EMMA: 

I think when you're swimming with the flag on your tap, you're swimming for something much, much bigger than yourself. There's something for your team, your country, your family, and that comes with a lot of pressures in itself. And I think that once you're actually behind the blocks, just looking over in the stands and seeing team USA and knowing they have your back is the best feeling in the world.

(background music starts)

STEF: 

Today. We sat down with 19 year old Olympic silver medalist swimmer Emma Weyant. Apart from attending the University of Virginia, where she is also a collegiate swimmer. She is a three-time US national champion, and two time junior pan Pacific medalist. Emma has won gold for team USA in the 400IM at the junior pan Pacific nationals in both 2018 and 2019.

This past summer, she won silver at the 2021 Olympic games. In this episode, Emma shares with us her various experiences during each stage of her rise in the swim world from getting dq'd in her very best event to swimming in the world's biggest race. We explore how Emma was able to rise above the pressure that comes with being so successful at such a young age, 

Through balancing the student athlete life during a global pandemic, Emma acknowledges that most of her motivation comes from her family and friends emphasizing the importance of finding a positive support system. Emma, thank you so much for joining us and welcome to the voice and sport podcast., 

From where you started swimming to where you are now at 19, you started at such a young age and you've certainly made your way up through the swimming world from joining the junior national team in 2018 and winning gold at the junior pan Pacific championships in the 400IM to then winning again, the U S nationals in 2019 and making your way to the U S Olympic team and bringing home most recently, a silver medal from Tokyo.

So we want to hear all about how your journey started and how you got to where you are today. I'm sure there's been a lot of ups and downs, and that's a big goal of our podcast is talking about the stuff that's maybe never talked about. So we're going to spend a little bit of time talking about the pressures that you have faced and worked through , throughout your entire career so far.

EMMA: 

Yeah. It's definitely been not a linear path to where I am now. There's been a lot of ups and downs, as you said. And I think the whole experience has just been learning and trying to learn as I go and learn as much from the people around me as I can.

STEF: 

I love it. Well, let's start in your early years, you started taking swim lessons at the age of four, and then you decided to really kind of get into the competitive scene around the age of eight. So what drew you to the sport of swimming and who made you fall in love with this sport?

EMMA:

Yeah. So, I kind of grew up in a household full of girls. There's four of us and my parents wanted to keep us active and involved. Keep us busy for sure, and I moved to Sarasota from Pennsylvania. I'm originally from Florida, but we moved back to Florida and my relatives had recommended for the sharks, which is my team in Sarasota.It's been around for a while and it had a lot of success at various levels. And my parents were like, okay, we're going to put you in here and we're going to try it. I think I was always super competitive growing up. And as soon as I hit the water for my first practice or try out,  I knew that's where I wanted to be.

You know, I loved the accountability that swimming brings as an individual sport, but then there's also a huge team aspect and it's even bigger when I got to college here. And also at my club team. So it was kind of the best of both worlds there. And I think what made me really fall in love with the sport was both of those aspects.  I think the most fulfilling part of swimming was always getting out of a good practice and knowing that you kind of work towards your bigger goals and, you know, we set different types of goals along the way, long-term and short-term, so I think hitting those smaller ones really gives you more confidence going into the end of season meets and kind of knowing that you're working towards the big goals that you dream about all the time.

STEF:

I love it. Well, it's not an easy sport. I did swim when I was little for a couple of years. I mean,  it's a tough sport and you know, you've stayed in it for a long time.  I feel like everybody gets into swimming for at least a couple of years, but then a lot drop out. So, part of the reason why we created this community at Voice in Sport is to help keep girls in sport.

But the sport of swimming specifically, I mean, it's tough. Like, and it, the, you know, the practices are always early in the morning. What's up with that. So it's hard to stay in it. What, why do you think you continued?  Who were your major role models that kept you going and that you looked up to in this sport?.

EMMA

Yeah, I would say for sure, swimming is probably one of the hardest sports.  I'm a little biased because I am a swimmer but I think what really kept me going was keeping my goals in mind. You know, I was always kind of a goal oriented person and had people teach me that along the way.  And you know, like it was hard transitioning from middle school to high school, you know, not everyone continues the journey because it does get more challenging as you go through the levels and, you know kind of your friend group changes a little bit as you go as well because people have different things that they want to focus on.

 But I think having people to look up to since you were younger, like I remember, watching the Olympics and seeing Elizabeth Beisel, and I thought that was really cool because she was also a Florida swimmer. She swam at UF and my coach had known her, so I got to meet her a couple of times and got to meet her again in Tokyo.

So that was kind of a full circle moment for me. But I think having people like that to look up to and remind you of how to set your goals and how to work towards them was really helpful to me. 

STEF: 

Well that is just so incredible to see your role models like that.

So to girls that are thinking maybe they're going to stop playing, or they're going to stop swimming at that critical age that you mentioned, you know, that your friend group kind of switched from like middle school to high school and a bunch dropped out. What would you say to those young girls that are thinking about quitting?

What would you want to whisper to them now that you have made it to, you know, age 19? So not like you're that much further along in your age, but you have definitely accomplished some incredible things.

EMMA: 

I would definitely say finding your people is a big thing. finding the people who will support you and people who have similar goals as you, and that's obviously easier said than done, but  through all these things, I've gone to all the meets and all the trips I've been on. I've met amazing people who I've been friends with.

And I think I'll continue to be friends with for a really long time. So I think looking back, at the place I was in, it was really hard to come to terms with, you know, not everyone was wanting to do this. Not everyone was wanting to be there all the time, but when you keep going, you're going to find the people who want to be there.

And I think, one of the most special things about beingon the Olympic team was a training camp. I think that's the best training I've ever had in my life, because I'm just surrounded by people who want to be there and want to do similar things as you. And that was an unreal environment to me that, I mean, I wish I could be in that every day.

 I would just say that, as you continue on your path, you're going to find the people who want to be there and want to do the same thing as you and people who are going to support you along your way also continue on the journey with you. You never know who you're going to meet, and I think finding your people and finding your place is one of the things you can look forward to when you're in a place where you don't know, if you can keep going.

STEF: 

Well, it's, it's so important, right? Everybody has their own path. And you're not always going to start with  one group and go all the way with that one group. So your friend group is going to change and adjust and you know, a big part of sports and enjoying it is being with people you enjoy and being with friends.

And so when you start to see some of your friends fall off, it's like, oh wait, you know where where's my friend group. But just remember that there's always other places. There's always other people in different cities, in different divisions that are just as passionate as you are. So I think that's great advice.

You actually made your first Olympic trials in 2016. So what was that like to finally get that time? And were there any disappointments with the timing of it all?

EMMA:

Yeah, I think going into 2016, I really wasn't super focused on trials or getting my cuts for trials. Like that seemed kind of an unreachable goal at the time, because I just made my first junior national cut. And so went to junior nationals after sending off our child's kids. I hadn't made the cut, before the meet.

So I remember doing a huge send off for all the kids on my team and thinking, well, like I really want to do this one day. I want to be a part of this. Andwe went to junior nationals,  and I actually made my first cut there. I made it in the 400 IM and you know, it was a little disappointing because it was about two weeks after the meet, but, you know, I think. I can't really be mad about it because that was something that I thought wasn't really possible at the. time. But I think that really motivated me going into the next three or four years, like saying  okay, I want to be at the meet the next time I want to contribute to the team the next time and , I want to see what I can do the next time. And I think watching 2016 and watching people, I knew there, it was super cool and it motivated me going forward.

STEF: 

I love it. Well, it's not without setbacks. Right. And I feel like the sport of swimming, it's like, you get a great time, then you get a bad time. And it's like this up and down. So at the US Open in 2016, you were actually disqualified in the 400IM, and you unfortunately missed a junior us junior team that year.

How did you feel after that disqualification and how did you work through that? What, what kept you kind of motivated to move forward.

EMMA: 

So that was definitely a challenging part of the journey you know, that was my best event. I think it was the first national meet I  had been to. And I remember going into prelims, I had made like the B final maybe. And I was super excited about that to get to swim in finals. And, know, I had gotten DQed after that.

And I remember talking to the coach, I was pretty upset, but he's like, okay, you can still try to get your time. So we decided to do a time trial the next day. So I had swam it three times then, and, you know, the time trial was a little rough, I will say. Sitting by yourself, can be difficult, but I think  the lesson I learned there, was just kind of to not let it set you back or,  letting it go a little bit, you know, getting up the next day and trying to do it again. To put yourself in that position, I had missed making my first junior team, but I think dealing with that and learning from it was crucial going into next three years.

Like my coach still tells a story and he says, it's  probably the most defining moments in my career. I just kind of like rebounding from that and resetting, and I worked a lot on my back to rest turns after that. Cause that's where the disqualification had come from.

And I think that's probably one of the best parts of my races now because we put a lot of work into it to make sure that would never happen again.

And you know, now I'm more confident going into the races, not having to think about like a possible DQ or something. Knowing that I had put the work in on that and already having, having gone through that, you know, I know how to deal with like the pressures of not meeting your goals that season and kind of having to put it off until the next year and putting that fuel into the work that you're going to do for the next goal.. 

STEF: 

Yeah, it's hard. Cause you could often see yourself just wanting to quit after something like that. Like, whoa, Hey, I made it to that junior team. Then the next time back, you didn't make it. And then it's is it, how did you kind of approach it with your mindset in terms of  thinking about your bigger goal and you know, not giving up when you had a setback.

EMMA: 

Yeah. I think,  going back in to training after that, we did so much work on the technique part of it that I like felt confident in it and, you know, I would get behind the blocks and not be thinking like, like worrying about that one transition because, you know, we had worked on it so much.

I think moving forward after that, I was just ready to get back into the pool and get back to work because, you know, having a season not go, well not getting what you wanted, you're just looking forward to the next one, even more and kind of resetting and setting bigger goals, probably because it would be the next year.

So I think that, having it be going right into the next quad. Was also a really good spot for me to be in because, you know, I had four years until the next trials and I could come off of that DQ and kind of learn from it and work towards it the next four years, you know, I had a lot of time and,  I think that it was only beneficial to me looking back. I might not have thought that at the time, but I think I learned from it and I tried to make the best of. 

STEF: 

Yeah. I mean, it's just such a great lesson because here you are at 19 and that time you were 15 years old. Right. And you were about to go into high school. You had like a pretty disappointing moment and you could have just stopped. You could have just been like I'm done, you know, and  if you could say anything to a girl out there today, that's  in that same position, you know, what would you say to her?

EMMA:  

I would say that the biggest thing would be leaning on your coaches and your teammates, because I don't think it would've ever been possible without them and their support, you know, talking to people is a huge part of it. And know, that wasn't always my strength, like asking people to help me or asking people for advice.

I think that you reach out and you find people that you can trust. You know, setting a plan, setting a path that works for you. I think that was crucial. And you know, like I talked a lot about trusting the process and how that was kind of my team's motto and my coach's motto. My coach Brent Arckey would say that to us, like every day since probably I started swimming there and it really holds true because sometimes you can doubt it and not know if you're doing what you need to, or it's right for you or like, it might sound crazy at the time. But once you get to the end or get to where you want to go, you're going to look back and think like, okay, I'm glad I trusted them.

I'm glad I did what they asked me to do. And I'm glad I trusted in myself. And I'm glad that I trusted the people who support. 

STEF: 

Yeah, that's amazing. You know, building that support system is so important. Right. So when  you take a look at like, how do you build a support system when you're in that critical time period of like age 14, 15, 16, where, you know, a lot can be determined, but also , your big moment might not come for four or five years.

So what, what advice do you have about building a support system? You know, at that younger age of like in high school?

EMMA: 

Yeah. I mean, I think it's the best age probably to start building it because you have so many opportunities ahead of you and so many people who want to help you. And I think finding that small circle of people that are there for you and love you and really want you to succeed. You know, I have the best family and my sisters and my coaches and my teammates and my friends.

And I think, you know, once you find those people that are going to be with you throughout those three, four years or however long it might be, and you know, everyone's there for each other. And  swimming as a team sport, I think the team is huge. And the team in college is huge.

And my club team,  you know, there's no better people in the world because everyone's there for you and everyone wants to see you succeed just as much as they want to.

STEF: 

So then in 2018, you went to your first junior national team competition in Fiji, and you were competing at the junior Pan-Pacific championships and got the gold in the 400IM and the bronze in the 800 freestyle.So what were the events leading up to you qualifying for the team? Like, and what was it like making your first USA team?

EMMA: 

I remember I had made my first A final at nationals and that put me in a position to be able to qualify for that team. And,  I had talked about the junior team for years before that I had friends who were on it, I had teammates whowereon it. And that was always, you know, the best thing at that age to be on.

And remember getting my packet from Mitch Dalton, who was the director at the time, and it said flying to Fiji on it. And that was the ticket that you had made it. And that was kind of the coolest thing to me. You know, getting to be a part of team USA for the first time and be in that environment, there's no better feeling. And getting your first swim cap with the flag on it really just surreal. And I think leading up to that meet the main goal was to put myself in a position to make the team. But once we actually got there being in a position to try to metal and contribute to the team was always the goal because, know, you want to be able to say that you contributed to that count and you're up there with your teammates and you brought people with you. 

STEF: 

Well, what was it like to compete at the international level for the first time? Was there a new type of pressure that came with this level of competition? I mean, you have the cap now with the flag on it you must have did something, right? Because you won a gold  at this meet, but how did you deal with this new type of pressure?

EMMA: 

Yeah, I think when you're swimming with the flag on your cap, you're swimming for something obviously much, much bigger than yourself. You know, there's swimming for your, your team, your country, your family, and, know, that comes with a lot of pressure in itself. And I think sitting in the ready room, trying not to think about that, because that can add stress to the situation when you're thinking that many people are trying to, you know, perform well because of that many people.

One of the big things on team USA Was you're always with someone else. And you're sitting in the ready room with other team USA teammates, and I think leaning on them and talking to them and, know, sharing the experience with other people really helped along the way andkind of relieve the stress going into the race.

And  I think that once you're actually behind the blocks, just looking over in the stands and seeing team USA and knowing they have your back is the best feeling in the world.

STEF: 

Were there any surprises, now that you're looking back on it that, “Oh, I wish I would've known this”, heading to that first competition?

EMMA: 

I mean, I think the big thing probably would just be taking a bit of the pressure off of yourself that you know that there's these huge expectations, because really like, it's just another swim meet, and I know people say that all the time and, but it really is true. Like it's the same race in the same pool, the same length, everything, but just a little different because you're swimming for your country, but, I think you're in the mindset of just routine and keeping it the same, that's when you perform your best. And you know, the whole racing aspect is really what matters the most. So, know, taking away all the extra stuff and just getting back to executing the race is what really works for me. 

STEF: 

Well, it worked, but I'm assuming that coming off of such a high from Fiji that, you know, you come back and maybe you have a low or something, but you came back the following year and you won the 400IM again at the US summer national championships. So what was that like to win the title nationally? And how did you feel that that set you up for the following year?

EMMA: 

That was a bit of a surprise to me. You know, I went into that meet,  not really having huge expectations, I really just wanted to race and set myself up the best I could for trials, but, you know, having the chance to come out of there and race, the people in the country, really worked out well for me.

I think that made the next entire year of training completely different, and way more focused and specific. And, you know, I think that coming off of that and going into the next year, it was difficult to kind of reset because that whole next year would be focused on trials.

STEF: 

What was your training process like that year? You know, so it's 2019. It's right before COVID hit. Right. I kind of want to talk a little bit about how COVID affected your training leading up to the Olympics. But before that, like, what was your, what was your training process like to kind of continue to elevate yourself at that level?

EMMA: 

Yeah. So after 2019, my coach and I sat down and we're like, okay. If we want to be in contention for a spot on this team, these are the things that need to change. And I think one of them was that my drive was stronger and we put a lot of work into that. And then in the pool, the 400IM has a lot of moving pieces, obviously. So I'm working on the weaknesses and just getting in the amount of work we needed before start getting super specific right before COVID hit. But I think the big thing was strength and being more powerful.

STEF: 

So when you look at like a week, what does your week look like in terms of your training? Monday through a Sunday?

EMMA: 

So we would double every day, except Wednesday and Saturday. So we would do all long course that year because the Olympics are long course in trials are long course. So we trained on the 50 meter pool, which was super nice. I'm super thankful to have that at home and would go,, 7-9 in the morning and then we'd come back and go 3:00-5:30 and we'd have dial-in and swimming.

And then on Wednesdays we would have a longer practice. We would usually go, 9-12or 9:30-11:30, and then on Saturday we'd go 6-9 and would have different groups to kind of focus on pace, work and everything. So I'd be training for the 400IM pretty much every day. So it was definitely specific training 

STEF:  

I always wondered that as somebody who's not as familiar with this moving world, like, do you constantly double down on your specific event or do you cross train by, by looking across all the different events. And does that give you an advantage by focusing or does it give you an advantage by doing different events?What is your take on that?

 On my club team, we definitely cross train a lot.  I still swam a lot of distance freestyle and mid distance freestyle because it compliments my event really well. So finding the things that support your main event, I think would be the goal. And I don't think I stopped training for other things, but once we got closer to trials, you know, the main focus was the 400IM and that was kind of where I was putting all my attention to, and my best chance. So finding all the things that would be beneficial to that, I think that's what most people would do, you know, finding things that compliment their main event.  You know, like the 400IM when you're training for that, you can train for a lot of things. Cause it has a little bit of everything. So, yeah. 

STEF: 

Amazing.  Well with the global pandemic and the quarantine that we have all been through, I'm sure the training over the last year and a half hasn't exactly been the easiest for you or really any athlete. So I would love it if you could share  your experience training before the Olympic trials and how did you mentally cope with things getting moved around.

EMMA: 

Yeah. So trials and before everything had gotten canceled, like I thought I was in a pretty good spot and training and I was feeling good. And then, you know, once things started shutting down, our pool did shut down and,  It was really difficult to deal with that whole moving in a year away process, especially because I was planning on going to college that year and that ended up being pushed back another year, So I could stay at home and train.

And I think we had to kind of  get creative while being safe. And, you know, it was hard thinking about a whole nother year where everything was hyper-focused again. And having everything centered around that one race, or that one day of the meet and, you know, it was hard to come to terms with that, like that we would go through the cycle again.

But you know, I talked to my coaches and my family a lot during that time. And you know, that time off kind of gave me time to think about it and think about like what I wanted and you know, what I wanted was to make the team. So I wanted to do it again. And, you know, I talked to my mom a lot about the whole staying to train thing and like how that would be difficult because my friends were going off to college and everything.

And, you know, I thought that would be the best option for me because of consistency. And, you know, there are way less risks and you know, it would put me in the best situation and I would look back on it at trials if I had made the team, there would be no regrets there, and I think that was the main thing. Looking back and there being no regrets and, you know, staying home to train and gave me the best position. And even though I'm super excited to be here now, I think that was the best thing for me last year.

STEF: 

So you gave up like going to college right away to just like really focused in double down on your training and you ended up having an amazing race at the Olympic trials pulling ahead in the last 50 of the 400IM posting a best time to win the event and make the team so that must've been pretty exciting.

And then in Tokyo, you had another amazing race with a best time to bring home the silver. So the Olympics, you know, is obviously  a huge event. Even the trials in the U S is just huge. What was the pressure like at the trials and in Tokyo and how did you cope with both of these scenarios?

EMMA: 

Yeah, I think most people would agree that Olympic trials is the most pressure packed meet and more stressful than the games itself. And I think my prelim swim at trials was the most nervous I've ever been in my life. Like I remember my reaction time off the block was like or 0.9, which is just not good because I was just so nervous and I like physically just...

My mind was ready, but like my body was stalling and I was just shaking. So I kind of had to get that out of my system before finals so that I could be in a better place mentally and physically. And you know, only two people there get to move on and that's difficult for sure. But I think walking out for trials, I kind of just thought to myself like, I'm going to execute my race and whatever happens is going to happen, but I'm going to give it my best shot.

And I think the last 50 was the most painful it's ever been, you know, it was kind of just a, whatever it takes mindset at that point. And then moving on to Tokyo itself. I think that there's obviously a lot of pressure and stress because it was competing at the biggest stage that I've ever been to and that you can be at.

But I remember walking out for my race and being way more excited than nervous because like, it's crazy,  you're at the Olympics and you're competing for your country. You're competing with the best in the world. And, you know, there is stress because of that, but I was just kind of all stuck at where I had been and like walking out and seeing the pool and everything was kind of just surreal.

And I was just super excited and I wanted more than anything to contribute to the team. And, you know, I think one of the best pieces of advice that I got before that,  one of the coaches on staff for team USA at the Olympics had told me that he heard someone say that "pressure is a privilege". And I think that was one of the coolest things I've ever heard, because, know, even though it might be hard to deal with your, you put yourself in a situation where you're able to have pressure and you're able to be in a place and perform under stress, but that's honestly the coolest place you could be.

Even though it might be hard, I really wouldn't want it any other way, because that's where you've been dreaming of being your whole life.

STEF: 

I love that quote. And I think it's such a good one as a motto to have. So when you are standing on the blocks at Tokyo  do you remember what you're saying to yourself? Like in that moment?

EMMA: 

I was just thinking of kind of the culmination of my entire swimming career, which, I mean, it sounds a little bit dramatic cause I'm only 19, but I'm like, this was pretty much everything. I've been working towards my whole life. And especially this last year was so much sacrifice and it was just like, okay, , now's the time,  you've worked for this, you've done the work. You've trusted the process and  just, enjoy the moment and have fun and race. All the people that looked up to forever. And it was, it was definitely the coolest race I think I've ever swim. 

STEF: 

And when you're in the ready room, what, what kind of techniques do you use to keep yourself focused on having a good meet?

EMMA:

 I think the traditional ready room for me, you know, just staying calm and, talking to people around you and getting in your zone and getting ready to execute and think about how you want to swim and worrying about your own race is huge. 

STEF: 

Well, and a big part of it too, is  sort of the lead up to the event, right? Like a lot of the preparation you do and how you perform that day is like the work that you put in like the weeks, the years before. So when you take a look back at like how you prepared, you know, was there anything that you did to sort of change your nutrition or your training that you felt like really, you know, got you to this next level, because in 2018, your 400 time to win junior pans at the time, you know, was I think four minutes, 40 seconds.

 And then just two years later, you dropped about seven seconds in the Olympics. So, you know, I think that's obviously pretty impressive to drop that many seconds in that short amount of time. So, yeah. Did you do anything different, I guess, with your nutrition, your training leading up to.

EMMA: 

Yeah. So this past year, we had the opportunity to go to some of the pro series meets and we treated those kind of like Olympic trials. So we tried to replicate things that we wanted to do at that meet to make it similar. And think after the first one, back in January, I came off of that with a lot of things I could do better.

And one of those was definitely nutrition. We talked a lot about keeping your strength up through the meet and not being so fatigued and tired on the last day. You know, I would swim multiple events every day.

So by the time we get to the last day after having, you know, the yardage buildup over the meet, Coming to the last day, not completely drained is something that I had to get better at. And, you know, I talked to a nutritionist, I talked to Alicia Glass from the USO BC, and we kind of talked about ways that I could do better.And I think one of the big things was replicating what I did at home. Kind of bringing that to me with swim meets and not changing what I do from things at home. Because routine is super important and finding ways to, know, have meals with Sam I did at home or eat the same things, or even like cooking versus like eating out and things like that.

I think going to the next pro series and applying those things me a lot and I saw better results. I felt better. And then obviously carrying that with me to trials helped and then on to the games and learning things along the way. 

STEF: 

Well, it definitely worked. So what advice would you say to young athletes that are trying to cut their times and their goals they're trying to reach, but their goals might seem really far away like a seven second gap or ten second gap. 

I would say that it's definitely a process. It doesn't happen automatically. And trying to find those small things in your races, because once you get to a certain point, it's all in the little 10th of a second and everything, even if you're trying to drop large, lots of times, it's still about the details and working with your coaches and working on your strengths and your weaknesses and not avoiding those weaknesses as a huge thing.

Even though it might be hard, you know, backstroke used to be my worst stroke and I pulled back for a whole year. We did a lot of pulling and I got a lot stronger and now it's the first or second best part of my race. So, you know, trying to eliminate those weaknesses and being open to change. 

Shianne Knight: 

Thank you for listening to the voice in sport podcast. I'm Shianne Knight, a junior soccer player at Howard university and producer of this week's episode. If you're enjoying hearing from more and would like to get the chance to talk to athletes and experts like her, go to the voiceinsport.com/join to sign up for a free membership and gain access to exclusive episodes, mentorship sessions, and other weekly content.

Don't forget to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok at Voice In Sport, and let's get back to the episode.

  

STEF: 

What do you think has contributed the most to your success? You're  19, you still have a huge career in this sport. But when you take a look back so far you know, what has really helped you succeed?

EMMA: 

I think for me, I loved going to practice everyday and working hard. think that was my favorite part of the sport. Getting to go to practice and race, and then going to meet itself, knowing behind the blocks that you had done the work. So not having to worry about What if I had done this or this you know, knowing that you had already done it and you've done things that no one else had done; done things that you had never done before, gives you so much confidence behind the block.

Like I can't talk about that enough.You know, being at the meet and realizing like this, your moment and just executing as you had planned and not deviating from that plan on race day was huge. And I would just say to people finding what works for you and, know, finding the part of the sport that you love, whether it be racing or being with their teammates or, you know, going to meets itself, whatever it might be for you. And really just enjoying all the moments and enjoying the process.

STEF: 

How have you personally dealt with  dips in confidence? Because, you know, you have to get up and perform. There's lots of eyes on you and it's timed, right?  So you have these moments of like ups and downs and like you lose everybody loses confidence at some point. So what have you done to kind of get your confidence back when you've been maybe in a dip.

EMMA: 

Yeah, for sure. I mean, especially in this last year, there was moments where, you know, I was second guessing what I was doing or second guessing, where I was in the process. And I think it really just goes back to trusting the plan and knowing that if you're doing what you need to do,  things are gonna work out.

And hard to see sometimes when things aren't going your way or not having the best training or the mid season races aren't going as planned. But, know, I think what builds that confidence back up, for me was through training and through experiences and that, and working with my coaches and Just finding ways to know that you're on track. So finding marks to know that you're going to be where you want to be.

STEF: 

With swimming, I mean, you guys work so hard you're in these double days, like the practices are long. How do you push through that when maybe you're not seeing the results you want to see or the progress that you want to see? How do you keep going when it feels like you're not making any progress?

EMMA: 

I think that's when you have to kind of take it step by step, and really just break it down into little things because we set these huge long-term goals and that can seem a bit overwhelming. So when we have those daily goals and practice goals come into place. And even if those aren't working out, just thinking of little things that practice, like the amount of kicks you're taking off the wall or stroke rate or anything like that, I think thinking of the little things will calm your minds a little bit because you're distracted by like how many strokes you're taking or something like that, because is really what's going to help you.

Trying to stay on track with those goals, whether it be the smaller, the large ones. 

STEF: 

What are some of like the small goals that you've been focused on yourself over the last couple of years to get like that improvement in time or improvement inform.

EMMA: 

Yeah, I think in the fringe and we could set little things for every stroke and transitions for every stroke. So like I said, like one of the things I'm backstroke was pulling and another thing on land was getting stronger, like dry land and workouts, like strength, workouts were never my strong suit.

So getting better at that and like small things, like pushing off the wall or working on my reaction time or things like that. 

STEF: 

Amazing. Well, you've just come off an incredible year at the Olympics and training, leading up to it. And now it's your first year at college at UVA. You have an incredible program there with a great leader in Carla. What are you most excited about for your experience to swim and in the NCAA.

EMMA: 

Yeah, I'm super excited to be here.  I mean, they did super well, obviously won the national championship for the first time. I'm just super excited to be a part of a team again and contribute, as much as I can and, you know, follow the people who have been here and try to start, forming my own path here and you know, swimming for something better than myself again, which always makes it better. And, you know, I hope we can be in the running again for another title. And I hope I can contribute to that.  

STEF: 

What has been the biggest surprise for you coming into your first year at college that you kind of wish you would've known before you got there?

EMMA: 

I think probably just knowing that it's going to be different than what you're used to and accepting that. So I think being open to change and really trusting your new set of coaches and teammates and leaning on them and ask them for advice is the biggest thing.

STEF: 

That's such great advice. Well, and now you have kind of two sets of coaches, right? So how do you balance the college scene, the training, being an NCAA athlete, as well as team USA swimming.  How does that look like for you as a college student now?

EMMA: 

Yeah, so pretty much, I'll swim  around my collegiate team till the summer, and then in the summer, we will try to send for international teams again. So broken up pretty well and, now, still training for similar things, you know, the year that are applicable to both things. So UVA, obviously the coaches have a big focus, not only on NCAA's, but you know, worlds, Olympic teams, Pan-Pacs, things like that. And there's also other people on this team who have similar goals. So that's been really cool. 

STEF: 

Did you ever get pressured to  choose to not go to college after you won the silver medal? Was there ever conversation of like, Hey, you should just 100% focus on being a pro athlete. And if so, like how'd you make that decision to actually go the collegiate route?

EMMA:

 I think I always knew that I wanted to swim in college. Like that was always a dream of mine and you know, the people here the coaches and it's something that I really wanted to be a part of. So it really wasn't ever a question to me because I get to have so many opportunities here and some, for a team and train with people because, you know, I think that's the most beneficial part when you're swimming with people with goals. 

STEF: 

Well, what do you love to do Emma, outside of swimming? Like what are your, what's your other passion?

EMMA: 

So, like I said, I have three sisters, so, we're kind of really close and we do things together all the time. And living in Florida, we would go to the beach all the time. And during the pandemic, we took off like paddle boarding and things like that. And we got active.  just hanging out with my friends and family because, I don't get to see them a lot now.

And, you know, when I get home, seeing them again and having everyone here that I've been on teams with is really cool. 

STEF: 

Amazing. Well, you know, a big part of what we're trying to do at Voice in Sport  is really help the younger girls think about their journey. So when you think back, what would be one piece of advice that you would tell your younger self in sport?

EMMA: 

I would say patience and trust are two skill sets that I had to work on and really instill in my own belief system throughout my years in this sport. In my club team in Sarasota taught me the phrase, trust the process, like I said which taught us on our first day, like on pre-team and tryouts.

And it continued throughout my senior year of school, and beyond, and you know, to me, this phrase holds so much power because I can say that my swimming journey was in no way, just like a straight path to the top or the where I am now. There's just so much that goes on behind the scenes and so many highs and lows that we go through, not only as athletes, but more specifically female athletes and, you know, there's moments in my career where I thought I'm not where I wanted to be.

 Especially when I was younger, I wasn't always like the strongest person or this person or anything like that.  Or even had like the most accolades going into high school or going into college. But, I trusted in my coaches and in their plans and I learned to trust in myself and think that's what got me through the times where I felt like I wasn't.

Falling in love with the sport, you know,  I dedicated so much part of my life to this. And so does everyone else. So I guess that what I was saying was that, any young girl who's struggling with seeing herself as lacking a sport, she loves is to trust and where she is in the long process and remind her of the goals and set reminders for why she started the sport in the first place or why I started swimming in the first place. And what really drew you to the sport and kept you on the sport.

STEF: 

I love it such good advice. Often hard to like listen to, to trust the process, but you know,  it's so important to like, be able to take a step back and even just looking at reflecting it your years from like, when you were at 15, all the way to now 19 and sort of the ups and downs that you had along the way.

So I appreciate you talking through some of those today because you know, it is a struggle sometimes, but it's when you make it through those struggles that you can have amazing moments like you have had, in Tokyo at the Olympics. So it's really inspiring to see, and I can't wait for more of the younger girls to follow your footsteps.

From a swimming perspective, what is one thing that you would like to see changed for the future of women's sports?

EMMA: 

I think one of the biggest discrepancies that I've seen between men's and women's sports is really the media reflection. And that was really prevalent to me as I went through the levels of sport. With social media being the focal point of everything now it's more apparent than ever the language and kind of the vocab that's associated with female athletes. And, you know, whether that be through like Instagram or Twitter and news outlets, we always see the headline put a stress on the emotion that's shown through female athletes and, you know, whether it be like drama or overreaction, that comes with like winning or losing. One of the things that I always found interesting was watching the celebrations and athletes after a win or a loss especially in Tokyo, like watching people's reactions different results.

Everyone of course has a different type of reaction. But I always found  the criticism probably that women receive, was much higher than others. And whether it was not smiling enough or smiling too much or overreactions like that. You know, it's always taken out of context or, overly criticized and I don't think I've ever seen anything like that probably for the opposite gender.

And I think that one thing that I would want to see change for the future is, you know, being more accepting and appreciating in the language and, really just respecting the things that these women do and focusing more on their achievements and the outcomes. focusing on the work that they put into it because they're achieving their dreams, and it's something that shouldn't be really a question. You know, another thing is that I've been loving all these news outlets that are highlighting women in their achievements and using positive language surrounding them. And of course, Voice In Sport is one of the best at this. And, you know, following the Olympics, I've followed a bunch of these news outlets that are highlighting these things and putting a spotlight on it because it's super simple. 

STEF: 

Yeah, it's so important. And you know, also we didn't really talk about it in this podcast, but like social media specifically can be like really detrimental to a young girl's journey. And so, you know, because of the, the words that are used or the imagery that's portrayed it can, it can be actually a really tough space for a young girl to be in.

So do you have any advice like yourself now that you've been through the Olympics and you have a silver medal? You have probably more followers, more eyes on you. How do you approach social media so that it doesn't, you know, tear you down? Cause that can be a really common thing for, for both men and women.

EMMA: 

I think the biggest thing would be the comments, you know, is hard to do because I started out reading everything and I think now you really have to filter you're, what you're intaking, because it can obviously be detrimental.  I think finding times when, you know, you just have to turn it off, especially when you're in,  timeframes where you're racing or training, because it's not going to be beneficial to what you want to do and what you want to achieve.

So finding times to unplug them really put it to the side, and staying off social media leading up to your race directly, following your race, because are when your emotions are out of high and, taking time to think about it before, you're reacting to certain things or you're posting about certain outcomes.

You know, I'm still learning about this because this was kind of my first experience with having heightened media, which has been kind of weird in itself. But I think learning from other athletes to apply it to what I'm doing now has been the most help. 

STEF: 

Certainly. Well, I think that's great advice. What do you think is like the secret sauce that you have that has gotten you to where you're at? You know? Cause I bet there's a lot of young girls that are listening to this podcast thinking, well, how did Emma do this?

EMMA: 

I think that, you know, loving the journey and the process of this has been the most fun part, honestly, because getting to the end and achieving your goal is amazing and it's fulfilling and you get to see her, your hard work payout, but loving the day in and day out and you know, the work and,  gaining experience so that once you get to these high moments of your career you're not worried about all the little things, you know, you can just kind of let it play out and just focused on racing and executing.

And, acquiring different pressure situations that once you get to higher levels and higher levels of them you know how to deal with it better. And obviously I'm still learning and still trying to gain experiences. But think for everyone starting out you know, you're already starting to learn.

You're already starting to have that experience. So I'm applying that every day so that you're not putting it on your race day is huge. 

STEF: 

If you had to summarize like three tips for young girls on how to deal with pressure in the sport of swimming, what would be Emma's three tips.

EMMA: 

I would say one would be leaning on your support system because talking it through and, you know, vocalizing the pressures and vocalizing your stressors and not keeping it in is huge that you're not bottling it up. And it all comes out on race day or performance day. I would say another thing would be learning from your experiences because whether it didn't go as planned or it didn't work out the way you wanted to, you know, you learn from it and you can take  it with you to the next race or practice or meet.

And then the third thing I would say, Would be once you find yourself in a place where you feel the pressure to kind of think back the small things, whether it be like thing that you want to focus on a race or,  one small outcome you can control, like your number of kicks or something, and not thinking about the things that you can't control at all, like what the other people around you are doing.

And I think that's something I really had to learn was, know, executing my own race, especially in an event where there's a bunch of different variables, you know, sticking to what works for me. And not worrying about what's going on around the pool or the ready room, you know, what works for you and, you know, really stay true to that, even in times of stress, 

STEF: 

It's such great advice. And I think I want to end a little bit on one of your favorite mottos that you've mentioned  in an article before where you said "I'm not defined by what I achieve, but by whom I am loved". So, you know, you just won a silver medal. Obviously you just achieved some really cool stuff, but how do you, you know, keep this motto, I guess, in the forefront at the end of the day, because you are not just an athlete, you are an amazing human and have a lot of incredible values and passions outside the sport too.

So can you share a little bit about like, why this is a motto you care about and what is the impact that girls should think about when they hear you talk about this motto?

EMMA: 

Yeah. So this is something that I heard a couple of years ago and I really loved it. And you know, I've, I've written it down. It's  hanging in my room. This is something that I've really held close to myself, because think once you get to the pinnacle of wherever that may be, once you achieve that goal you know, what really matters when you look around is you see the people who love you and have supported, you have gotten you there, you know, it wasn't just you, and it wasn't just that performance or luck or anything, you know, you look around and you see all the people who did small things for you, or, you know, talk to you or supported you, or were there for you and low points of your career.

And, know, that's what really got you to where that point. you know, I remember right after my race Tokyo, I called my coach,  and my family and just heard screaming on the other end. And that was like, that was a really emotional moment for me because, you know,  they were a part of that journey and, you know, bringing the metal home was for them and, you know, bringing it to them and knowing that they were a part of this and, know, ma doing that and making the team and meddling was kind of a we thing, not a me thing. And, you know, it was just a really cool moment because it's the people who have loved and supported you for your whole life.

And, and that's the biggest thing for me. 

STEF: 

Such a amazing statement. "It's a we thing, not a me thing". So how much do you think where you've gotten today has been based on luck and how much has it been based on hard work? If you had to put it into percentages, what would you.

EMMA: 

I mean, I would probably say that this is like 99.9% hard work, you know, really don't think there's a whole lot of luck, at this level, you know, everyone's talented, everyone works hard, but it's just the little things that set people apart. And you know, whether that be like on how you view things from a mental aspect and dealing with the pressures and the process and everything, I think there's not a whole lot of luck as much as people might say or anything like that, but it really comes down to race day and who's willing to put it all out there and you. know, who's going to touch the wall first or whatever it may be.

But I think it all comes down to the work and, who's ready to go on race day. 

STEF: 

Well, you have clearly from a very young age, had a ton of discipline that you've put into the sport. So I just think  it's really admirable to see how amazing, how much hard work you've put in and what it's resulted in. So congratulations on your most recent, Tokyo Olympics. And I can't wait to see what you do next, excited to see what you do at UVA and how you like the college experience.

I'm so thankful that you shared your stories with us, Emma. We're excited to have you part of the Voice In Sport community and excited to see what you do next. So thanks for joining me.

EMMA: 

Awesome. Thank you. so much for having me,  know, this is an amazing platform and super excited that I got to contribute to it. So thank you so  📍 much.

STEF: 

This episode was produced by VIS creator Macy Mannion, a swimmer at Princeton University and edited by VIS creator, Shianne Knight, a soccer player at Howard university. Thank you, Emma, for sharing your experience and reminding us that confidence comes from preparation and that success comes from stepping out of our comfort zone as athletes.

It's important to understand that sometimes we may have to go through the low moments to get to the highway.  Emma's advice. I'm not shying away from our weaknesses and building on our strengths is something that any young girl in sport can apply both inside sport and outside of sport.

You can follow Emma on Instagram at @emmaweyant. Please subscribe to the voice and sport podcast. Give us a rating and review on Apple Podcast and send this episode to a friend that you think might enjoy the conversation. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok at @voiceinsport. If you're interested in joining our community, sign up for free at voiceandsport.com to get started.

When you join our community, you gain access to exclusive content and podcasts, mentorship from some of the best swimmers in the world and access to the top experts in sports, psychology, and nutrition. You might also want to check out other episodes featuring Olympic swimmers, such as Lydia Jacoby, who just won an Olympic gold medal, Lia Neal and Ella Easton.

See you next week on the Voice In Sport podcast.

Olympic silver medalist and collegiate swimmer at the University of Virginia, Emma Weyant, shares her journey in sport, reminding us that confidence comes from preparation, & success comes from stepping out of your comfort zone.