How Hard Should We Push our Young Swimmers?

young swimmers

How many hours of training should we put our youngest swimmers through? How intense should training be? When should we ask them to give up other sports and specialize in swimming? These are questions that have been around for a long, long time. And while the swimming world claims to divided on this topic, in practice there is little divisiveness.

On the one hand, we have hard and very visible evidence that elite swimmers started very early. Michael Phelps is a perfect example. He started swimming at age 7, and was world champion and world record holder at 15. To test how consistent this is among elite swimmers, I came up with a list of 20 random swimming superstars, and was able to find out the age they started formalized swimming for 11 of them. The average starting age for these 11?   6.8 years of age.

This early starting age for the superstars has lead to a huge and possibly subconscious movement in swimming to have swimmers start young, and then to have them specialized young. This is why we hear of teams where 10&Unders have multiple morning practices a week, and training camps involving two a day and sometimes three a day practices. Or we hear of competition swims that are truly mind-blowing. Three new girl’s 10&Under Long Course USA records have been set this year: 36.13 for 50 Breaststroke, 1:17.74 for 100 Breaststroke, and 1:08.67 for 100 Butterfly. Incredible!

But this is the problem. You don’t get this fast this young without some serious training behind you. And the data shows that these early results don’t really translate to later success. In fact, quite the opposite.

An oft-quoted ASCA study on this very issue reports the following:

Top 100 converstion to 17 18

Now, look at that table again and think about what this means. Only 11% of the Top 100 swimmers in any event as 10&Unders are in the Top 100 by ages 17-18. Even more incredible is that only 50% of Top 100 swimmers at 15-16 are still top at ages 17-18. That’s only 1-2 years later! The study goes on to say that most future elite swimmers never reached the Top 100 as age groupers.

Here are some more things worth thinking about.

  • The average age of US Olympic swimmers in 2012 was 23.7
  • a 2001 National Alliance for Youth Sports study found that 70% of children quit playing sports by age 13 because it isn’t fun anymore
  • a recent Swimming Science article reports that early specialization increases the likelihood of early burnout and quitting, and that some studies suggest elite success is inversely correlated with training volume at age 14

Put all this together and we have a problem. Despite considerable evidence telling us not to, we have an over-emphasis on hard training at a young age, and on forcing children to specialize in only swimming at a young age.

But why do we think this way? Why do we systemically push our young swimmers so hard?

Part of the answer appears to lie largely with the infamous Ten-Year Rule. This rule was made popular by Dan Coyle in his book, The Talent Code. Here he states that in order to achieve greatness in virtually any field, a person just needs to put in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Both Canada’s Long Term Athlete Development document (here) and Australia’s Long Term Development in Swimming document (here) have this concept as a fundamental building block of their program. USA Swimming doesn’t go that far, but does talk about how it takes ten years of deliberate practice, along with grit, perseverance and passion to reach an elite level (here).

The idea is simple. If it takes 10,000 hours to achieve greatness, and swimmers now reach their peak in their early 20s, then swimmers must have roughly 1000 intense training hours a year starting by about age 10. That’s 1000 hours a year, or 500 2-hour workouts a year. There’s no way around it, right? The Australian document even states “There are no short cuts!” (they bolded this, not me).

There’s one fundamental problem with all of this. It’s wrong.

David Epstein in his book, The Sports Gene, went to the original research by Dr. Anders Ericson on violinists, and found that the data was sparse, retrospective, and only provided the average time to master the violin. But no information on the range was given. Epstein found another much larger study involving the number of hours of practice it took chess players to reach master status. The average time turned out to be just over 11,000 hours – a similar result to the violinists. However, this study also reported on the range of hours to reach master status: from a low of 3,000 hours, to some participants who were at 25,000 hours and still hadn’t reached it yet.

The impact of considering the range of hours is huge. 3000 hours equates to roughly 3 years, not 10. If greatness can take as little as 3 years, or as long as 25 years, then it changes the whole nature of long term development programs. Apparently there ARE shortcuts! Maybe we don’t need to start grooming our 10 year olds for 1000 hours a year of practice so they can reach elite status in their early 20s. And maybe if we don’t start that specialization at such a young age, we won’t have so many talented swimmers burn out in their mid-teens. Sure, we might not get as many mind-boggling records by 10-year olds. But those swimmers might still be swimming at a high level in their 20s.

This is the dilemma.

Swimming data clearly shows that most elite swimmers started early and specialized early on their way to becoming elite. An early start and early specialization clearly worked for them. But these swimmers represent roughly the very top of swimming. The top 0.001% or so of competitive swimmers.

Studies also indicate that an early start can be beneficial to all swimmers. It’s the early specialization and early intense training that causes a tremendous fallout of swimmers who tire of the demands of the sport, or have stopped improving relative to their peers. And now we’re talking about the 99.999% of competitive swimmers who do not become elite.

Should we train our swimmers on the assumption they will be part of the tiny cadre of elite swimmers? On the faulty assumption that intense training is required at a young age in order to achieve greatness? Or should we provide swimmers with some balance in their young lives, and train them so that they are still swimming and still having fun when they reach their physical peak in their early-20s?

That’s the question every coach has to answer for themselves.


55 thoughts on “How Hard Should We Push our Young Swimmers?

  1. Great article! Thanks for making a good case for changing swimming to benefit our youth. As a parent and coach, it’s obvious to me that we all should put our swimmers’ health and long term enjoyment of the sport first. No early morning and double practices. Limit each practice to 2000 yards or less and focus mostly on techniques, not conditioning.

    1. Just reading this today, since I was once one of the 10 year olds (started competing at 8) breaking records yet by 13 I was struggling to get motivated. My 10 year old loves swimming and he just made the state team but does not compete for any club yet and does no mornings just 3 sessions a week and still enjoys playing soccer. I would prefer him not to be a record hold but enjoy his swimming until he wants to commit further and when his body develops further. I think parents get carried away too early and I feel the coaches need to back off a little 🙂

      1. Jason, your story is a very common one. Early success and lack of motivation later is a tough combination. On the other hand, early struggling leading to visible improvement and then some later success is energizing. I recently wrote what is basically a follow up post to this, It’s All About the Training Progression Path. Your story could have been different with a plan that allows continued progression through those 13-15 ages.

  2. Well researched and considered. There is so much out there that tells us we should be changing the way we consider youth training and there seems to be lots of pressure from leadership to return to the old ways. Swimming is a lifetime sport and we need to consider it as such. We seem to be putting all of our effort (and funding!) into that small group of athletes at the very top when we need to expand the base. We also have to consider that times have changed. Swimming does not have the excitement level as something like snowboarding or the teamwork involved in soccer. Those things exist in swimming but are much harder to bring out in comparison.
    Lots of us even in small communities in which there are a lot of sports to choose from and kids at 14-15 years of age are always looking for something new and exciting. High school sports are a great way to get into this but unfortunately in Canada we don’t have great cooperation between year round programs and those in high school. (In the US high school swimming has been noted as one of the reasons why the sport has remained so strong over the years.)
    There are a lot of areas which need to be seriously looked at and are long overdue for change.
    We have to keep kids in the water, not push them out too soon.

  3. I have seen the numbers of that ASCA study a few times on different articles now and the more I start thinking about it, the more I feel that they are interpreted very one sided. The way this study is often interpreted is that you had better not be in the top 100 at age ten or you have all the odds against you. A 1 in 10 chance. Bummer for you!

    But then you have all these swim superstars that started young (and quite a few were already fast at younger ages as well). How can we explain this?

    Could it be a matter of looking at the whole sample and not just the top 100? Let’s say I have a 10 year old who is in the top 100. Who else is eligible for a top 100 spot 8 years later? Well, there are all the 10 year old now that aren’t in the top 100 and then you have those that start swimming later, but are the same age as my 10 year old now. Let’s make it easy and say they number 100,000.

    So here is my 10 year old with a 1 in 10 shot and the other 90 spots in the top 100 will be made up by 90 from the 100,000, giving those swimmer a 100,000 to 90 shot. Or a 1 to 0,0009 shot. This means that if you are in the top 100 now as a 10 year old you are 11,111 times more likely to be in the top 100 in 8 years from now then when you are not.

    Maybe, it is not all that bad being in the top 100 as a ten year old after all.

    Ok, very simplistic representation, but then so are the numbers of the study. This is what you get when you only focus on a small group. I think all the coached can do is focus on technique for age-groupers as opposed to speed only and with some talent and lots of hard work you may have a shot as a young swimmer. The important thing is to have fun on the journey and where it ends exactly becomes much less important.

    1. Hi Patrick, excellent comment!

      I think the purpose of those numbers isn’t to demotivated fast 10-year olds. It’s to make the swimming community aware that pushing young kids really hard doesn’t tend to result in long term success. In fact, many coaches think that many of the few incredibly fast young ones who are also fast when older, are like that because of genetics, and not because of really hard training. Think of Phelps and Ledecky and Michael Andrews and countless others.

      The lesson from those numbers is to gradually ramp up training frequency and intensity over the years, and let the swimmer grow into the sport. Not to grind young ones and force early performance. Those are the ones that tend to fall off the elite trajectory as they get older.

    2. Patrick’s comment in terms of conditional probabilities:

      Let P1 be probability that a swimmer will be in top 100 at the age of 18, given he/she was
      in top 100 at the age of 10, and let P2 be probability that a swimmer will be in top 100 at the
      age of 18, given he/she was NOT in top 100 at the age of 10. Then, P1 is still much higher
      than P2 (more than 11-times higher with Patrick’s input numbers, above).

      I could’t agree more, though, that fun and life-lessons are far more important than mind-blowing swims, in particular at the young age. Let them be kids.

      1. Patrick, Tomaz
        A thorough analysis of the data would require significant information on population sizes for each age group. I’d suggest that it’s quite possible that the 10&U population is significantly larger than the 18&O population. That kind of information is key to a proper statistical analysis of the US Swimming data.
        But the key aspect to me is that those top 100 10&U swimmers who were still top 10 later are most likely the genetic marvels (such as Phelps). Those swimmers will rise to the top as long as they are still swimming. The rest of the top 100 10&U swimmers are most likely very early maturing athletes who are just ahead of their time. Every coach will have stories about young phenoms who are crushing everyone around them at a young age, but then don’t continue to improve at the rate of their peers. By the age of 15 or so the rest have caught up, and they often quit.
        To me, the answer is still to provide a clear training strategy that gradually increases training loads on young swimmers so that they are continue to love the sport, and continue to improve until they hit their peaks in their early-mid 20s. That might mean dialing back the early training, and giving up points and recognition in big meets. It’s worth it in the long run.

      2. Rick,

        the fact that the 10&U population is (much) larger than the
        18&U population does not have a direct impact on interpretation
        of the ASCA data. Let

        Nall………be the number of kids that have at least one swim-time
        officially recorded by the age of 18, so that they can,
        at least in principle, enter the top 100 for 10&U
        OR for 18&U (OR here is inclusive: it can be one
        of the two or both);
        N10…… the number of kids that entered the top 100 for 10&U
        (because it is the top 100 in any event, N10 > 100, but
        I guess N10 < 500, and for sure N10 << Nall);
        N18…… the number of kids that entered the top 100 for 18&U;
        N10& the number of kids that entered the top 100 for both
        10&U AND 18&U;
        P1……….be the conditional probability that a kid will enter the
        top 100 for 18&U, given he/she entered the top 100
        for 10&U;
        P2……….be the conditional probability that a kid will enter the
        top 100 for 18&U, given he/she did NOT enter the
        top 100 for 10&U.


        P1 = N10&18 / N10,
        P2 = (N18 – N10&18) / (Nall – N10)
        ~ (N18 – N10&18) / Nall.

        According to the ASCA study, P1 is 10.3% for girls, and 13.2% for
        boys, but P2 is even (much) smaller than that (P1 and P2 do NOT
        add to unity!). That is:

        P1 : P2 ~ [N10&18 / (N18 – N10&18)] x [ Nall / N10]
        = [P1 / (N18/N10 – P1)] x [Nall / N10].

        The fraction N18/N10 need not be exactlly 1, but I would guess
        it does not differ from 1 for more than few percents, which means
        that [P1 / (N18/N10 – P1)] is somewhere between 10% and 20%.
        The fraction [Nall / N10], on the other hand, is huge: for the
        number Nall of all kids with at least one swim officially recorded
        by the age of 18 (before the 19th birthday, being precise) 500,000
        is probably a conservative estimate (an under-estimate),
        N10 ~ 500 (this is probably an over-estimate), and so

        [Nall / N10] ~ 1000 (an under-estimate) .

        This means that

        P1 : P2 ~ 100 (again, a conservative estimate),

        i.e., a kid with a top 100 10&U result has a MUCH (at least a
        100-times) better chance for a top 100 18&U swim than a kid
        without a top 100 10&U result (I think Patrick's calculation
        is wrong for a factor of 10: the ratio of 0.1 and 0.0009 is
        111.11 and not 11.111).

        In summary, in your post You claim: “And the data shows that
        these early results don’t really translate to later success.
        In fact, quite the opposite." This is the usual interpretation
        of the ASCA data, but the data, in fact, just the opposite
        of the usual interpretation, show that the early results indeed
        translate to later succes.

        I would again like to stress, however, that I agree by all
        means that kids should not be pushed (way) too hard (as they
        quite often are), but on grounds other than the quoted ASCA
        data 😉

        Kindest regards,

      3. Thanks Tomaz, for an excellent statistical analysis.

        What you are saying is obvious now that you’ve taken me through it. An 11% rate of being top 10 in both age ranges far exceeds expected rates if membership in each top 10 group was random.

        So I’m now wondering about the impact of early maturing athletes.

        It makes sense to me, although far from easily provable, that early maturing swimmers dominate the top 100 at 10&U. And it also makes sense that the physical benefits of being an early maturing swimmers would have pretty much disappeared by 18. One could argue that these early maturing athletes received favourable training and opportunities at an early age. But to offset that one could also argue that the psychological aspects of constantly slipping in rankings as everyone physically catches up causes some early maturing swimmers to quit at a higher rate. (I, and probably every coach out there, have stories of young and insanely fast speedsters who quit by 15 or 16)

        If we assume that early maturing swimmers are not over represented in the top 100 for 18&O, then it’s possible that the percentages offered by USA Swimming for each group is actually a glimpse into how the benefits of early maturation decline between 10 and 18.

        Your thoughts?

      4. Hi Rick,

        I think two onclusions may be drawn from the data of the ASCA study:

        1. P1 > P2 means that a kid, swimming extremely fast
        at an early age, will swim extremely fast in the future
        much more likely than a kid whose swims are not so fast
        in younger days.

        (The conditional probabilities P1 and P2 are defined in my previous

        I think that from the top-100 10&U list, dominated by the early
        matured kids, and from the top-100 18&U list with the early matured
        kids not being in majority any more, it would indeed be possible
        to conclude that the benefits of early maturation decline between
        10 and 18. But there’s no information in the ASCA data who of
        the kids in the top-100 lists matured early and who did not.
        I am therefore not sure that the ASCA data is actually
        a glimpse into how the benefits of early maturation decline
        between 10 and 18.

        An opinion about insanely fast speedsters who quit by 15 or 16:
        I think that the fact that there are such kids proves that
        a great success at an early stage is not always enough for
        a kid to stay in swimming. I can easily imagine that
        one of the possible reasons for quitting is that some of
        these kids cannot handle the pressure of slipping in rankings
        (of being catched up by peers who used to be way slower than
        them). Putting less emphasis on the achieved times in early days
        could therefore diminish the rate of quitting of these kids.

        I am not sure, however, that the rate of quitting
        of young speedsters is higher than the rate of quitting of
        those whose early swimming was not so outstanding – it may just
        be that WE REMEMBER quitting insanely fast speedsters better
        than we remember quitting the rest (the majority) of the kids,
        because of OUR SURPRIZE – WE DID NOT EXPECT them to quit
        after such a tremendous early success.

        Kindest regards,

      5. There is the second conclusion from data of the ASCA study, missing in my
        last comment:

        2. P1 < 1 (~ 11% – 13%) means that fast (mind-blowing) swims at an early
        age (10&U) are far from being a guarantee for super-fast swims in
        older years (18&U)

    3. Statistically is doesn’t matter “Who else is eligible for a Top 100 spot 8 years later?” The ASCA chart challenges the notion that early success leads to later success, which clearly isn’t a valid assumption. The purpose of the chart, or the study underlying it, is to discourage early specialization.

  4. Too many slow yards, sets written by coaches without any real understanding of what it’s doing to the athletes body, and the belief that the secret to getting fast is just to swim more.

    Technique, technique, technique.
    Coaches, do your homework and learn what a proper stroke looks like. Not the stroke you were taught in the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s… KEEP LEARNING for the sake of the sport.

    Use a program that walks you and your kids step by step through training. No more ad hoc corrections.

    And remember that you’re training these kids to be the future you. Show them how to motivate with a positive environment. Behave at the highest level. Leave the whistle at home and show the kids what it’s like to really be a coach.

    1. Hi John, Thanks for the excellent comments. When I first started out coaching my mentor was constantly asking me 2 things. Why was I doing what I was doing? And I had to have coherent explanation. And he was asking me what I was doing to improve my program. And I had to have a coherent plan.

      I still take that approach, and it’s clear you do too. I really like your idea that these kids are the future me. Very insightful.

      The other thing that I’m hyper aware of is to use creativity in practices to avoid the mental burnout that so many mindless programs create.

  5. Rick, I enjoyed your article on “How hard should we push our young swimmers?” The philosophy fits well with our swim club vision and tag line – “Swimmers for life” and I would like to ask your permission to cite your article on our club website so that our swim parents can gain a better perspective on the long term goal.

    1. Hi John, Absolutely. Thanks for asking. I like “Swimming for life”. It certainly does echo our concern. I might suggest you also check out my Age Analysis of Rio Swimming Finalists. You’ll find that the average age of Olympic finalists is 23-25. Which basically means that swimmers really don’t even hit their peaks in university, it’s much later than that. Which means even university is just another step in the progression of a swimmer. Pushing young ones hard to make them fast at a young age is pretty pointless when you consider you want them swimming and motivated a decade or more later.

  6. This is my dilemma. My 12 year old son loves to work hard and he has a coach who believes in making his group work hard, too. Example of his main set : 6 sets of (2×100 fly, 50bk/50br) on 1:30. My son was in the NAG top ten for the 100 bk, 100 fly, 100 free, His goal is to make it to the Olympic trials in 2020. However, the head coach for our team does not believe in the kind of swim sets my son’s coach gives them. He has already talked to parents about focusing more on technique and fun. SO how much is too much for a young boy who is very motivated? Will making workouts easier benefit a young swimmer who has his sight set on the Olympic trials? When should swimmers start working hard to achieve elite status?

    1. Hi Jen, Interesting issue you have. Briefly, I side with the head coach. And here’s why.

      First of all, I don’t your son at all, so I can make these comments in the abstract. These are not necessarily about your son.

      There are generally two types of young swimmers who achieve that type of success. The first are the genetically gifted ones. Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, etc. Those swimmers will become great unless they are burned out in their early years.

      The second and FAR more common type is the early maturing swimmer. These swimmers usually have the strength, coordination and training ability of swimmers much older than them. Early success comes easy, and of course they want to train hard because they experience all of the rewards and glory. The problem we face is that elite swimmers seem to hit their peaks in the mid-20s. That’s over a decade away for your son. And from many years of observation, here’s what often happens to those early maturing swimmers. They dominate at young ages, which causes them to train harder to dominate even more. Then as they get older the slower maturing swimmers start to catch up. The early maturing swimmer will continue to improve, but those late maturing swimmers will improve by leaps and bounds. Soon, that early maturing swimmer isn’t dominating any more. They start to face a lot of competition from swimmers they use to easily beat. When that happens, they can’t really increase their training much as they’re already maxed out. They can get discouraged and frustrated. At this point, the rewards and glory are starting to disappear. The main thing that will keep them driving forward is their love of the sport and their love of competition. But if the main reason they’ve been swimming is because they win, this becomes a problem.

      I personally favour the idea that you can challenge swimmers of any age, but you need to provide fun, and you need to provide a long-term plan that gradually increases training and intensity over the years. This way the swimmer will enjoy the sport and see a clear path forward. Because there will be a time when he starts being challenged by more and more swimmers.

      As for your son, there’s nothing wrong in having ambitious goals. But if he has to train far too hard and long in these early years to make those goals, he could be jeopardizing his future in swimming.

      1. How do you know that a swimmer has matured early? Would you advise that I pull him back from working butt off? His coach, a bronze medalist in the 1996 olympics, told me that my son’s workout was not as brutal as his. He says that to get to the elite level, he has to start working hard early. Our head coach disagrees. He thinks that there are no 12 year old champions. Who is right? How do I know what is right for my son when 2 coaches are in disagreement?

      2. I can’t really help you with this, as I don’t know your son or your coaches. I think you need to talk to the coaches and sort this out with them. They should be on the same page when working with your son.

  7. Statistics are often quoted as being unreliable but as a society they are utilised constantly as a tool to monitor performance, so I don’t intend to add to the comments above as to whether or not they can be relied upon as a full picture or otherwise.

    I, for my sins, have been a swimming parent now for 9 years. I have seen many talented swimmers leave the sport and pursue other endeavors as a result of being pushed incredibly hard, not having a life outside swimming, school commitments and greater opportunities offered elsewhere that are often easier to achieve as athletes given swimming fitness is very transferable.

    Of greater concern to me, is that there is no debate or discussion on how pushing swimmers too hard and often times too young closes down the opportunities for other athletes to join the sport. Swimmers are created before the age of 12. How does the aspiring swimmer at the age of 15 or even 20 “try out” ?

    As a code, we have children who are experts in their field and “retiring” at 13 or 14, but no scope to grow the sport through older teenagers or young adults developing their swimming skills past “learn to swim” to be a part of a squad.

    Any person can throw a pair of runners on and without any skill whatsoever join a “fun run” and become part of a new sporting community of runners. Likewise there are different grades for aspiring basketball players, cricketers, tennis players and you can even play casual golf, but we have driven our young swimmers to this point where we only have elite swimming past the age of 12.

    The question of how we get our young swimmers to be the next wave of Olympians lies not in how hard we push them, but how can we create opportunities within swimming so that as a code we continue to have enough swimmers to ensure clubs have opportunities for both social and competitive athletes, for without one, the other is proving untenable for the majority of teenagers, including the very talented.

    1. Hi Amanda,
      Brilliantly stated. Yes, swimming in general has a huge problem with “older” swimmers trying to break into the sport and be successful. One of the issues is that swimming is an early adaptation sport, in that there is a massive advantage for young athletes (10 or younger) to develop the unique motor skills, core strength and breath control that is required. That’s not to say that older swimmers can’t break onto the scene and do well. They can. But its an uphill battle. But in reality, that objection is really only related to being successful at an elite level.

      Success can be defined in many ways. Only a tiny fraction of swimmers ever become truly elite, and that certainly doesn’t mean the others are failures. Far from it. Unfortunately, most national swimming bodies define success in that very way – how does the country do on an international stage. The national programs, infrastructure decisions, qualifying times, etc are all geared for the tiny fraction of elite swimmers (much less than 1%). And often those national directives work against fostering a more inclusive, fun, and challenging environment.

      Which leaves local clubs to pick up the slack. And now we have to address the mandates of local clubs. Many have visions of greatness, and grind, burn out or just plain ignore anybody not on track to challenge the top levels. Many coaches will have explicit or implicit goals that are directly tied to being among the best in their area. Once again, the system is designed to favour the best, and mainly ignore or tolerate the others.

      So the question is whether local clubs can direct their attention to allowing all swimmers in the club to reach their potential. To allow swimmers to enter the sport in their mid-teens, and not feel like they’re hopelessly behind. I call those “community clubs” in that they service the community, including para swimmers and Special Olympic swimmers. This isn’t to say those clubs can’t produce elite as well. They can and have. But a broader definition of success can directly address the problem you mention.

      And lastly, Masters Swimming has done a wonderful job in breaking away from the traditional competitive model. Elite Masters swimmers can often train in the same pool and at the same time as beginning Masters swimmers, or triathletes, or social swimmers.

      There are no easy answers, but I think we first have to address the systemic barriers that prevent that more inclusive definition of success.

      1. Hello sir your article is much appreciated really by me! And thats what im doing today teaching my swimmers more on techniques not on conditioning and heavy loads of trainings i started teaching 2 years ago in competitive for 12&U because on my own way of coaching i want my swimmers to achieve greatness in proper time and not in short term of trainings.. Will on my way of trainings sometimes we go home with medals in some competition but very often as i said i want it long term success for me theres always a proper time. I can give them loads of thousand of meters of trainings 10k meters in morning 8kmeters in afternoon if i want but i did not, will my concern on own way of teaching is that the parents of my swimmers they always questions me and they always compare me to some other coaches they said why is that they practice early in the morning everyday and in the afternoon 7times a week why can we do that also? again as i said i stick on my way of trainings, ive been there before, in my time im a frustrated swimmer thats why i dnt want them to feel the way i do.. Can u share me your thoughts on how to explain it with the parents on how to deal with them? Some parents started to say that they want to transfer with the other coach because they want intense training for their kids.. Hoping for ur thoughts on this matter

      2. Hi RVE,
        Congratulations on not bending to peer pressure and parental pressure regarding your swimmers. You know you’re keeping the kid’s interests at heart. As for explaining this to parents, I have two suggestions.
        1) Hold an open meeting where you explain to everyone your reasoning behind not pushing young kids too hard. The choice is between pushing them to get fast now, and probably quit later, or allowing them to grow and get faster over time. The goal should be to deliver them to college/university swimming with good skills and a great attitude.
        2) It may help to point out that other coaches/experts feel strongly about this as well. You can point them at my posts, (I recently did one called “It’s All About the Training Progression Path”). And there are many other non-swimming blogs about the perils of pushing young kids too hard, and giving them too many early morning practices. You could also refer them to Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep. Dr. Walker is one of the leading experts in sleep research and sleep effects, and a passionate advocate for teens and adolescents needing far more sleep. There are also many studies that show when schools move start times earlier, students get worse marks, and later start times lead to better marks.

        Best of luck. You’re doing the right thing.

      3. Thanks for that! I want to change the way of coaching here in the Philippines but no one believes in me.i may not be the best coach but i want to try and learn and learn.. It would be an honor for me to learn from a good coach like you… Can you be my mentor? Hehehe just asking

  8. My son also Swimming Started at age 9,but his swimming three or two days for week and no restriction for my son doing everything as free child,amazing thing is on 26th June he done meet 50m breaststroke time is 34.43 under 13 age is +12 all are surprised because they are practice very hard. so I have a plane that after AUGUST 2018 will be start full time practices.

    My Wive is this Game.

    Parents are saving money for their children’s future. So why parents are not save swimming children’s FAST FIBERS and SLOW FIBERS energy metabolism. I must say that this is one of the main issue that all over the world Swimmers face. This game has become parent’s game but not children’s game anymore. If we can stop extra pressure putting on our lovely children these issues will minimize and will have lot of healthy swimmers which will go to the senior national levels,International and wins.🍔🍧🍉

  9. Hello Rick,

    I am glad to have read your article regarding youth training for swimming (applies to any sport really). Our daughter seems to naturally love being in the water and she has been taking lessons now for about a year. She is 5 1/2 now and naturally loves to compete, The lady giving her lessons suggested she join a small local swim team to start learning more advanced techniques. My wife and I agreed to let her join and she is very excited. For now things will be very laid back.

    As parents, I think we often visualize our children’s success earlier than the child, so we have a tendency to encourage them to work too hard too soon. I am grateful that I read your article as it will help me to keep my own vision in check and allow our daughter to develop her own sense of what she want’s to accomplish in the sport and enjoy the process of getting to whatever level that is.

    Thanks again,

  10. Just something to think about on the age & time put in issues. My son decided he wanted to join a swim team shortly before he turned 14. He only had 1 swim lesson when he was little. He was always moving, not listening & distracting other kids at the lesson. I don’t think he learned anything in the 5 day lesson. He was either under the water or having to sit on the side for causing such a disruption. They weren’t working on strokes just bobbing up & down most of the time. I took him swimming all the time when he was little but never took him to another lesson. He learned to swim on his own by just jumping around & playing in the water & I assume watching my husband & I. My husband was a college swimmer & I know how to swim all the strokes, but my son didn’t want us to show him anything. He just wanted to play. The summer just before he joined a swim team, I suggested he might want to breath under his arm when he swam. He was doing his own version of freestyle….. that was 1 month before starting on a team.
    My son is persistent & once he decide he wanted to join a swim team, he wanted it to happen right away. There was one team starting a month earlier than the others. I chose the team for that main reason of start time. My son just really wanted to get started with a swim team. I didn’t do a lot of research but lucked out that the team I chose had a terrific group of coaches. My son had to be taught to do all the strokes. He could only do his version of freestyle so that needed a lot of work & he had to learn all the other strokes. He also had to learn to do flip turns & how to dive. Diving is another thing he never wanted to be taught. He started the team in September & just under a year later he was 1st in 200 Fly long course in our State & had a AAA time. He went to Zones & I remember one kid asking a coach why he did a belly flop. He had a fast time, but still didn’t really have the dive down at that point.
    I should mention that he wasn’t & isn’t tall for his age. I think he is getting close to 5’10” as a 17yo. What he does have is longer than average arms….hands, fingers & wider than average feet but they aren’t extra long.
    I believe starting at an older age was the only way my son would have become a swimmer. He doesn’t have the personality that it would have taken to have been a competitive swimmer at a young age. He would have driven coaches nuts.
    From my sons experience, starting at an older age was not an issue. He might have had the benefit of tons of time in the water but he had no early instruction. He started learning strokes just before he turned 14.
    My daughter never had swim lesson when she was little either. She learned to swim by watching & took instructions a little better than my son. I paid a retired high school coach one summer to help her with something on her stroke when she was 12. It might have been just underarm breathing or flip turn. I can’t remember. I just remember him saying that he’d never seen a child her age be able to manipulate the water so well. I think both my kids probably had that ability from being taken to the pool so often. They were high energy & going to the pool was what we did probably 5 days a week. The time spent in water might be important, but from our experience the rest can be learned at an older age and apparently you can do a quick catch up by working hard and paying attention to coaches instructions.

    1. Hi Meg. I love your story! There are many ways to approach sports, and we seem to get stuck into the same old ways all the time. Your story shows that late starters can still love the sport, and do well. Sometimes I think we forget that this is all supposed to be about the kids

  11. Great article and comments. Interestingly, I did not see discussion about parents and their attitudes on improving their child’s performance. Sadly, we often see parents who are looking for that “secret weapon” in the performance arms race to insure their child out performs their peers. This is incredibly destructive behavior for both parents and swimmers. Most of these parents become disinterested or even downright combative when their child isn’t publicly set apart by the coach / club as an elite performer. Most leave and move to a club where this will be done for them. We have seen that the more we can let kids develop their own goals (with guidance) and grow into the sport, the greater their chances for success.

    1. Mike, you’ve described one of the biggest and most damaging issues in age group sports – parental involvement. In fact, I start out each year with a blog post about how parents should interact. Their involvement needs to be pure support and love. Of course, that doesn’t always happen, and we’ve lost swimmers to other teams because of their parents. As good as the swimmers may be, the departure inevitably is better for our team. We’ve also had to kick parents off the team because of aggressive over involvement. We feel bad for the swimmer, as they end up leaving as well, but the proper team environment is more important than any one swimmer or parent.

  12. Unfortunately, I believe this research on year round swimming ( is spot on, and consequently, justifies the more ambitious clubs into pushing the Age Group swimmers to their limit. My son is 13 and has been swimming competitively since age 10, but only in the last two years has he started dual workouts (summer, evening) during summers. The team is high intensity year round, 5 to 6 days per week, 2 hours per day including 30 minute dry land. As a result of his commitment over the last 4 years he recently managed to complete a 50 yard free without taking a breath, much to his own amazement – all part of the 4 year path to 100% conditioning I was told. Yes, it takes on average 4 years of year round intensity for a swimmer to sprint a 50 on a single breath. Worse still, he would lose that advantage if he took more than a week off, and it could take at least another 2 months to build it back. I tested this “theory” and took a weeklong family vacation where he took 5 consecutive days off from swimming. His first workout upon his return, he told me that he “lost everything”. His first two days back were hell: his endurance was off, technique fell apart, flip turn timing all wrong, etc. This article was spot on – only 5 days from the pool and my son felt like he lost 3 months of training. Now, I practically have to force him to take a week off for family vacations. If my son wasn’t so proud of his physical conditioning as an “elite swimmer” and regularly qualifying for Age Group cuts, he wouldn’t be working so hard to maintain his edge. All his teammates are like minded – they WANT to do the work to stay qualified for JO and AG cuts; a few are good enough to qualify for Junior Nationals. Sadly, at this level young swimmers (Ages 11+) who want to be “elite” voluntarily undertake the hardest path. I speak to the parents all the time, and it’s actually the kids pushing themselves more than anything. I talk to my son regularly and it’s never in question that he would eagerly get into the pool 6 days a week. Of course there are kids who don’t want to take the elite path, and the club has a program just for them: 4 days per week, 90 minutes per day, no dry land. This latter group is about 30% of the teen group. But by far the 70% are young over achievers who just want a chance to to see if they can one day be the best if they just put in the yards.

    What to do? Say no?

    1. I hear about this kind of early start philosophy a lot. To me it’s an all or nothing bet. At 13 boys aren’t physically mature, so all this training will certainly lead to good results compared to their peers. But it’s very important to provide young athletes with a progression path in terms of gradually increased training in order to assure continued improvement. Without that progression they can plateau, and that’s so frustrating in a young athlete that they often quit. I’ve personally seen this happen too often. There’s also the very real risk of over training or injury. That much training in a young swimmer can cause shoulder problems in a few years.
      On the other hand, your son might be one of those extremely rare athletes who just keep getting better even with significant early training. Like I said, it’s an all or nothing bet, and a long shot bet at that.
      But let’s address some of the other aspects of your story. Why should your son miss out on the joy of playing other sports or other school activities for a while while young. There’s plenty of time to go exclusive with swimming in a few years.
      Then there’s the issue of one week requiring 2 months to recover. I’ve heard that before and that’s ridiculous. I have swimmers miss a week or more and they’re back at it pretty quickly. In fact my swimmers take most of the summer off completely, and they’re doing PBs by Nov. or Dec. I don’t think any young athlete should be subjected to that kind of pressure, especially when the rationale is highly suspect. You just don’t lose conditioning or technique that fast.
      And lastly, why so much emphasis on not breathing for a 50? It’s a nice accomplishment, but it should hardly be a huge deal. And I’d worry about shallow water blackouts if the coach is that insistent on no breathing.
      With swimmers reaching their peaks in their 20s, I don’t understand the rush to train this hard, and to train so unforgivingly at a young age. But that’s just my opinion. Your son’S coach thinks differently.

  13. Thanks for the feedback, Rick. You are right, I keep forgetting that he’s 13 making adult decisions that are shortsighted (like all decisions by 13 year old boys, right?). There is no rush, and I see exactly where you’re going. He’s in a competitive team so he sees his peer all improve and there’s pressure for all the boys to keep up and fear that “they’re falling behind”. I’ll focus on reassuring him to think big picture and not rush his swimming development. I spoke to him about concerns related to overdoing the breath control and to my surprise, the coach has already advised him to take at least two breaths on the back 25 now because his tempo clearly slowed due to the oxygen deprivation.

    As for other sports, believe me we have enrolled him in a diversity of sports (between age 9 to 12) before he chose swimming as his only sport. After speaking to other swim parents with similar experiences, we have realized that there is definitely a subset of boys whose personalities are a perfect fit for swimming, and they seem to share these characteristics: unfocused, easily distracted and slow to react to the ever changing environment of “ball” sports where teammates rely on you to make the right decision at the right time without reminding you to “keep your eye on the ball.” Then the boys are frustrated because they honestly don’t know why their teammates are yelling at them. So they have learned to avoid sports where their performance don’t directly affect their teammates. For example, recently in dodgeball during PE, my son enjoyed participating in a game that he thought was mostly goofing around with your friends and having fun, but the other boys refused to let him participate because they were afraid he’d “make them lose”; there’s no winning or losing in PE dodgeball! But apparently to these hyper competitive boys who also participate in elite club soccer, basketball, football, etc., they apply the same demanding team mentality to all activities. Swimming is where my son feels he has control over his own decisions and not subject to the tyranny of alpha males. Like many of his swim friends, he enjoys the single minded focus of swim sets where he just has to concern himself with the specifics of that set, no constantly changing variables. He also likes running cross country, fencing and badminton for similar reasons but now he just wants to focus on swimming.

    Having a second opinion like yours is reassuring. Please continue posting your helpful articles. Thank you again. We will definitely make sure he takes a few weeks off for other activities – we don’t want him to have long term shoulder problems!

  14. Follow up to my answer: Spoke with my son about the issues raised in your article and my concerns, specifically, whether it’s worth all this hard work for the unlikely chance that he’s among the 0.01% of swimmers. His response was that he wanted to see where he would be if he put in 100% – he may only be Top 1% or Top 5%, but that’s not relevant to him. He was fine with me keeping an eye on his health (recovery days, longer breaks) but he wanted to maintain as much of an elite workout for as long as he could “just to see”. This appears to be similar to the reason why people climb Mt. Everest: “Because it’s there.” However, for his own good I will remain extra vigilant and sensitive to any minor discomfort, soreness or emotional deterioration as a result. Thank you again for bringing up this topic – I would not have had this discussion with my son had it not been for your comments.

  15. Teach excellence and heroism from the day they walk on your pool deck. They will take those lessons through life. If they learn that fun is reaching for improved stroke, fitness, planning, goal setting and achievement of the zillions of elements that can and should be modeled, taught, measured and reinforced every day their lives will be better. I laugh at what seems to be seen as “fact” that Katie and Michael and Caeleb would be champions in any program. 95% of programs in the US just through laps and intervals at swimmer, fail to video regularly, fail to teach goal setting, rarely study models of great performers from a biomechanic basis, etc. But look at the programs these swimmers came from and what they were LEARNING at young ages and you’ll see the difference and why young swimmers with the temperment and high goals and intelligence should be expected to do progressively greater things. It’s simply a lot harder to swim fast enough to be n the top 100 when all bodies are mature. But every swimmer and swim program has an opportunity to teach excellence, including mileage excellence at a young age if the swimmer is ready. I make no apologies for the many swimmers I’ve coached to the top 16 as age groupers and who now are physicists, doctors, great family leaders, etc. You have to make it fun, but there are a lot of ten year olds who can swim a perfect 200 fly and 400 I.M. if you work as effectively as gymnastics coaches do on technique while working as effectively as North Baltimore on foundational endurance. Coyle is right when he states that it has to be the right practice. Don’t mistake long heroic sets with close attention on maintaining great stroke with a lack of fun. Most of my ten-year-olds who went 3,000 I.M for time re still swimming for fitness into their forties.

    One more thing — high achievers usually don’t burn out. They walk away when they realize they aren’t gong to be first. They find other things they can win. That’s not an age group coach’s failure; it’s preparation for excellence. Keeping them slower doesn’t solve that, IF it’s a problem.

    1. Hi again Steve. I agree with most of what you said. In fact the only real disagreement I have is that I think the truly self-motivated, tough-as-nails, genetically gifted athletes will find ways to achieve success in any program except the destructive ones. Especially as they age up and get exposed to other coaches.

      You raise a fantastic point about the coaching philosophies at the young ages. We glorify the top college and post-college programs and coaches, but so many times it’s the unsung coaches of the developmental and young kids that really set them up for success. And that’s a natural extension of the team’s philosophy. You’re also right in that, as coaches, we should define success in broader terms than just swimming success. Not all of our athletes are bound for swimming glory. But the lessons they learn can help them succeed in later life.

      One clarification. Staged preparation in terms of providing a path towards increased training isn’t the same as keeping them slow. It’s a philosophy of not allowing them to train too much at early ages. I’ve coached young phenoms (national age group champions and medallists) who were pushed too hard too early, and they did burn out. That path to greater training hours and intensity provides a system to try to minimize burn out.

  16. Question: if an 8 year old swimmer A is enrolled in a rigorous swim team program (more days of practices and all year round, more swim meets competitions, talented/strict coach) vs. another seemingly talented 8 year old swimmer B (my son) enrolled in a less rigorous swim team program (i.e. only 3-4 days and not all year round) can swimmer B still catch up to swimmer A in the future meaning high-school possibly?

    My son, swimmer B has steadily improved in all his strokes slowly but surely and is showing potential and progress with his times especially in the Butterfly where 5th place in the JO’s. In the championships and JO’s we saw that Swimmer A was consistently #1 in almost all the strokes and later found out was enrolled in an elite swim team program – all year round swimming, no breaks in the year. Swimmer B is even swimming 400s at 8 years old! My son just recently did the 200 IM Long course lol! In regards to growth, my son’s build looks to be like his dad who is 6’3 1/2 and his frame as well which may possibly bode well for his “swimming future”

    I don’t intend to change my son’s routine. I want him to be able to enjoy his childhood and is actually busy doing other things ( soccer, piano, guitar, etc) But my son definitely loves to swim and compete. He has noticed Swimmer A’s record so we did tell him that Swimmer A as well as being talented/hard worker is enrolled in a highly competitive/rigorous swim program. But I told my son we do not want him to be in such a rigorous training because he is still growing, his bones and we don’t injuries and we want him to be able to do other things. We said *maybe* we can look into it when he’s 12 possibly even older but its too soon to discuss that. If we allowed it, my poor son is WILLING to work even harder if we let him. He is that type of person and such a good boy. But I feel so tired just looking at him practicing and competing! But so far he has no no complaints and really enjoys it.

    But just between myself and my Mom (who helps me with all these practices/competitions, etc.) (we only have discussions/debates to ourselves about this, never to my son of course) we would daydream about the what-if’s and debate of the unlocked potential my son would have if he too was in such a rigorous program. But my Mom and I still in agreement that we don’t want my son to have such a rigorous life at his age. Technically and culturally we are the “stress the academics” type of family and this whole sports thing is new to us. We have always told him (and he acknowledges and understands) that with everything he does school is still the #1 focus. Which is another thing how can one become an elite athlete AND the demands academics whether its middle school, high school then college.

    In other swimming meets, I met one parent who also has a fast swimmer daughter and she tells me that she home-schools her kids AND they practice about 6 days a week! When I researched Swimmer A’s swim team there was an article of a couple of their members who were ALS home-schooled AND they qualified for those Zone championships etc. etc. Is it me or are most elite athletes home-schooled 0_0?? That’s why I’m like dang, that’s what it takes to possibly be a champion! So then I wonder about my own son what his potential would be too if he too had the same opportunities as them. But like I said, I don’t have any intentions of having him do that at such a young age, but maybe 12 and up. Would love to hear opinions in general about this. Thanks for reading this long post!

    1. Hi JK. Wow, what a post. There are so many things that truly bother me about the pressure for 8-year olds to train hard and swim fast. Sounds to me like another cog in the commercialization youth sports machine. Year round at that age? Ridiculous.

      First of all, I believe you have the right approach with your son, and you could even dial down the swimming even more. A swimmer at 8 is too young to know anything about their future, other than pushing hard now will almost surely cause a significant plateau in the early teens, which increases the chances of them quitting. And as you probably know from my posts, swimmers don’t really peak until their early to mid 20s. There is absolutely no reason to push them at a young age. Our philosophy is to keep swimmers in Novice meets until at least 10, and even then don’t train them overly hard, and don’t expose them to competitive meets until they have the technique and drive.

      Next, I don’t believe you can use the term elite when talking about swimmers at this age. That should be reserved for swimmers doing well at the senior level. Fast young swimmers may be fast due to early physical maturity or excessive training. Neither of those will help them be fast by the time they’re teens.

      Finally, you are absolutely right in that your son should be exposed to an incredibly wide variety of activities in order to help him be a well-rounded person. Who’s to say that swimming, or even sports, is where his life-long passion will be? Making a commitment now for your son to continue to swim for another 15+ years is to give up so many other worthwhile activities.

      Oh, and I’ve never heard or sensed of any correlation between elite athletes and home schooling.

  17. Hello,
    I love your comments.
    I have a 9 year old who seems to be good at all sports. He loves swimming, but he also loves team sports. We have kept him in a recreational swim team for the last 3 years, swims 3 days a week for about 8 months a year. while also doing soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring. He is by far the fastest swimmer in his age group in our little team.
    There is a USA swim team in our area, which is much more competitive. On one hand, the coach teaches technique really well, which our rec team coach does not. On the other, the competitive swim coach does not want kids to do other sports, and requires at least 4-5 practices a week.
    I will probably transfer him at some point, but what is th best age to do so?

    1. Hi Anna, I love how your 9-year old approaches sports. Have fun, develop skills and have more fun. At that age, that’s pretty much all that matters. I personally am not in favour of pushing a single sport onto kids until high school, although I do recognize that many high-performance teams get fast young swimmers from that specialized process. As my article points out, boys won’t reach their peak until early-mid 20s, so there is absolutely no rush to specialized, and the other sports will teach him more life and physical skills than swimming can alone. Since he doesn’t have to train a lot to be relatively fast (compared to his peers), I’d say keep doing what you’re doing. Perhaps in 5 years or so, you and he can re-evaluate. By then he’ll have a much better view on sports to help him make up his mind about his sporting future.

  18. Not surprised at all that I had to scroll past so many passionate comments to get to the post section. Really happy to see that there is a considerable dialogue with regard to this aspect of such a great sport, which is being ruined by egotistical, self-centered, elitist coaches who seek to live vicariously though their star swimmers. Modern swimming’s emphasis on early starts and specialization nearly ruined the sport for me. I have always seen myself as an example of what happens when you push someone too hard, too early in the sport. I joined a (somewhat) elite club at age 9, and by 11 I was putting in 3 hour practices six times per week. What was especially difficult was that this was my routine year round, so it always felt like there was no respite. By the 7th grade I had gone from looking forward to practice to dreading it, and burned out HARD to the point of depression. My output at practice began to decrease significantly, which was only met with hostility by my coaches. And having to compare yourself against children who peaked athletically at the age of 10 will do wonders for your self-esteem, and it was these star children who only received attention in terms of technique. My club team was huge, with the six lanes packed to capacity (as the coaches made little to no cuts, likely to increase their profits), so if you were not a standout your coaches would make no effort to improve you and allow to continue swimming improperly, sometimes leading to injury, even though you paid the same amount to be part of the team as anyone else. It seems even at 9 years old, I had entered the sport later than optimal. By 8th grade, my routine included morning practices, which was the final straw for me. I did not re-enter the sport for a year, and it was my high school team that re-invigorated my interest in the sport. There was a far greater sense of team camaraderie and while the practices were intense I was now a rapidly-growing teen up to the challenge. But taking an entire year off really held me back. Plus, many of my HS team’s top swimmers swam for the very club team I left, prompting me to reconsider swimming year round. But my discouraging experience left me feeling intimidated by the idea of re-joining, and thus I never realized my true potential as an athlete.

    1. Thanks for the great comments, Joe. I’m sorry to hear about how you were treated. However, you may want to eventually try masters swimming as it tends to be far more relaxed and sane.

      You’re absolutely right about the egos, motivations and job protecting that goes on with coaches of younger swimmers. The sets that I see described for some 11-12 age groups with these coaches are sets that I wouldn’t give my senior swimmers. Not because they’re too hard but because they are often stupidly long. The mantra for these coaches is often “builds mental toughness”. And the problem is that these training philosophies work in creating relatively fast swimmers at that time. But it’s not sustainable. Your example of 6 x 3-hour practices at age 11 is crazy. You don’t peak as a male swimmer until your early 20s, so how do you progress your training for the next 10 years if that’s what you’re doing at that age.

      The craziness prompted me to write a follow-up post called It’s All About the Training Progression Path (

      The idea is that whatever the coach believes is right in terms of training load for a certain age has to take into account that the swimmer must keep training harder every year. In your case, it’s pretty much impossible for you to train more and harder each year when you start off with that much. So that template is bound for fail for the vast majority of swimmers.

      Thanks again, and I hope you regain your love of the sport again.

  19. My problem is that my 13 year old is only swimming 4 sessions (5 hours) per week but making finals in regional competitions. The club won’t allow her to train with the elite squad who are achieving similar results on 15 – 20 hours per week as they want compulsory two mornings a week plus 5+ evenings and her studies/health come first. I feel that children should not be penalised for not being allowed to train more by their parents if the results are coming in. I feel that entry to elite squads should be performance based not time commitment based. If she was getting the coaching at the higher level for the four sessions which would equate to 8 hours not 5 in the elite squad then her performance would be even higher

    1. Hi Diane. One of the most important elements in training concepts is ensuring that there is a progression path. This means that every year should involve a little more training, whether it’s in the water or on land. If your daughter goes into the elite squad, she would lose that progression path. The repercussions of not having the training progression is hitting a plateau and having performance stalled out for extended periods of time. However, I also have to agree that 5 hours a week for a successful 13-year old does seem a little low. But jumping to 15-20 (or anything close to that) would most likely be disastrous for her.

      1. Yes that’s how we feel, we would like to step up the training to 8-10 hours but there is no provision, its all or nothing and currently she is being excluded from training with others of her standard because we won’t allow 15-20 hours

  20. My son just turned 9 years old and he joined a USA Swimming team in January. He is a good swimmer and with what his coach call, a lot of endurance. He has very strong legs and when they use the pads to practice kicks, he is very fast compared to the other kids. His arms dont move as fast as his legs when they do the other strokes but I guess that will come with time. He is one of the best swimmers in his team; however, when we go to the meets with the other teams I see other kids swimming so much faster. He doesn’t get this courage by this which makes me very happy and I always tell him that right now he needs to just do his best and focus on his technique. if anything I tell him, compete with yourself to be the best you can be right now. He has good technique on all strokes except backstroke. He is not very fast and I can see he still struggles to do it correctly. I dont intervene with the coaches, but I was wondering if this is something I should mention to them. I don’t see them correcting him as much as I would think they should? This is all new to me so I”m also learning as we go. At this time he trains 1 hour, 3-4 times per week which I think is more than enough. We have tried other sports but he really likes swimming and he never complains to go to practice. I want to make sure he doesn’t get burned out and he that he also enjoys just being a kid. You can feel the pressure when you go to these meets and see all these other kids swimming so fast and so competitively. Any feedback, comments would be highly appreciated! Thank you!

    1. Hi Andrea, your comments and approach are admirable. At 9 years old, the focus should entirely be on having fun and learning the fundamentals of swimming. It sounds like that’s already happening, so I doubt there’s a need to talk to the coach about his backstroke.

      As for the fast kids from other teams at meets, that will always happen. Those kids generally have a lot of natural athleticism, and that helps their early years. But eventually hard work and perserverance will win out.

      The things that burn kids out are too much pressure to be as fast as others, too much training before they’re ready for it, or a negative atmosphere. As long as he’s loves swimming, it’s all good.

      Keep up the good work

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