Fins' Philosophy

Dolphins - Basic Skill Development
The first phase of the FINS program is the introductory level of competitive swimming. In order to begin this first level of our program, swimmers must be able to swim a minimum of 25 yards freestyle and 25 backstroke.  Dolphins are offered six practices a week, but we highly recommend swimmers only practice 3 times per week.  Practice is for 1 hour.

1) The focus is almost entirely on teaching fundamentals and developing basic motor learning skills, balance, and coordination in the water.

2) We believe young athletes should begin swimming on a regular basis no later than age 9 or 10; ideally at age 7 or 8. How far they swim is not as important as the fact that they are in the water on a regular basis developing their feel for the water.

3) It is vitally important to make swimming fun and enjoyable. We believe the most significant responsibility for coaches is teaching our young swimmers to love the water and to love the sport.  Games, relays, cheers, and occasional waterslide is a must.   We want to make it fun.

4) It is critical for coaches to emphasize correct fundamentals and to have the willingness to sacrifice speed for efficiency. This concept can sometimes work against a swimmer's short-term success at this age, but benefits them in later years. At this level, we believe there is great merit in competition based on skill development.  We put a lot of emphasis on stream line kicking.

5) The majority of yardage in the early years needs to be low intensity and technique-oriented. This is not necessarily as exciting or fun for swimmer or coach and even the parent watching, as is swimming fast.  We also add short sprints (8 second sprints) both in kicking and swimming.  Learning how to hold ones breath for a 25 sprint is also important at this time in development. We also use of slide pool for developmental practices, as it is exactly 15 meters wide. In the summer of 2011, we bought two lane-ropes to separate it into 3 lanes.

6) As it is an essential part of swimming and our program here at FINS, we put an emphasis on learning all 4 strokes. However, swimmers are not allowed to specialize in certain strokes until they are in the National group, as body type and stroke preferences change with age.

7) We place a very heavy emphasis on kicking. Coaches are required to make kicking a high percentage of the conditioning work done at the novice levels. Kickboards and fins should be the only training equipment used on a regular basis.

8) Swimmers are readily encouraged to participate in other activities and sports. We believe physical activity and the experience of other sports increases the number of learned movement patterns and general athletic development of the child. Sports such as gymnastics and soccer have excellent carryover value. The better the athlete, the better the swimmer.

9) At every level, but particularly the novice level, we take a long-term approach to swimmer development. Once swimmers begin in our program, we want to give them the preparation and tools they will need to make swimming a lifetime activity.

10) Swimmers will compete in USA swim meets and have the opportunity to participate in developmental meets.

Group II Silver ( around ages 9-10)  Basic Training Development

When ready, swimmers move into the second level of our age group program.  Swimmers who move into these practice levels are able to swim all four strokes and maintain good technique on low intensity interval work. This phase is a transitional level where the emphasis begins to change from primarily teaching to a relatively equal balance of technique work and physiological development.  Swimmers must be able to swim 5 x 100 freestyle on 2 minutes.  Practice is for 1.5 hours.

1) The focus is still centered on teaching fundamentals and developing a strong foundation in all strokes.

2) The number of practices per week offered at this team level stays at 6 per week and swimmers are encouraged to attend as many practices as possible, but no fewer than 3 per week.

3) Low intensity aerobic conditioning is emphasized and athletes begin to do more mileage on a weekly basis. It is important that the fundamental skills developed in Dolphins not be compromised as swimmers begin to swim farther in practice.

4) At this level, the training program focuses on preparation for the 200 IM and 200/500 freestyle events and 100 of each stroke. Even if swimmers show promise in specific events, we do very little specialty work. USA Swimming has developed the IMX program to promote interest and participation in the IM and in all stroke events including the distance freestyle events.

5) A high priority continues to be placed on kicking all four strokes. Beginning at this level, coaches are encouraged to do 40-50% of their kick training without boards.

6) Swimmers are still encouraged to participate in other activities and sports. However, we are hopeful that participation in other activities allows them to meet the minimum attendance expectations for swimming. In a perfect program, the swim team would provide opportunities for crossover training and exposure to other sports.

7) Stretching and limited calisthenics are incorporated into the overall program during this phase. 

8) Although the overall level of training expected of swimmers increases during this phase of the program, coaches are charged with being creative and making the experience fun and enjoyable. Great age group coaches have the special ability to make hard work be fun.

Group II Gold (around ages 11-12) Progressive Training

The quantity and intensity of the training program increases. For the first time, the program structure calls for more time to be devoted to physiological conditioning than to teaching fundamentals.  Swimmers on this level must attend five training days per week, with one of those practices being on Saturday.  Of course we do allow swimmers in this group to participate in other sports and activities.  We will be happy to make arrangements with the swimmer so that we can understand their schedule of practices.  Swimmers must Swim 10 x 100 on 1:40 or better.  Practice is 1.5 hours Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; Practice is 2 hours on Saturday.  On Saturday’s swimmers will train with Group I.  On other occasions swimmers will be called over to swim with Group 1.


NOTE: 9-10 year olds that have 3 or more AAA times will be allowed to swim with the Gold.

1) Beginning with this phase a high priority is also placed on maximizing the number of training weeks per year. Peak performance efforts are put off until the latest point possible in each season. Likewise, the importance of swimming through the year is emphasized. This training philosophy carries through to the higher levels of the program.

2) In this phase, the mileage completed each week begins to be an important consideration. We want to take advantage of the pre-pubescent window of opportunity to more fully develop aerobic capacity and anaerobic capabilities.

3) Although low intensity aerobic conditioning is still the highest priority, we have athletes begin to do more anaerobic threshold work. It is critical that technique is not compromised as swimmers swim faster in practice a greater percentage of the time.

4) At this level, the training program focuses on preparation for the 400 IM and middle distance freestyle events and 200s of the strokes. Even if swimmers show promise in specific events, we do very little specialty work. IMX program is a prominent focus within these practice groups.

5) We believe that to be as successful in long course swimming as one is in short course swimming requires approximately 10-15% better conditioning. The training program in this level is designed to emphasize and promote long course swimming throughout the year.  During the summer this group must attend our long course practices at UNO.

6) Swimmers are encouraged to attend as many practices each week as possible. 5 minimum.

7) Beginning in this phase, careful attention is given to maintaining aerobic fitness levels from one season to the next. Breaks between seasons are limited to avoid significant deterioration of aerobic fitness.

8)  Specialized stroke instruction can be arranged with one of the FINS coaching staff members.  All lessons must be approved with the GOLDs group’s coach.

Group 1 SENIOR TEAM and NATIONAL TEAM  Advanced Training
Swimmers with the appropriate dedication, desire, experience, and talent move to the advanced training level of our program around the age of 13.  Age is important but not the determining factor for swimmers to be moved up.  Swimmers must be able to commit to 5 days per week (with one practice being on Saturday) Swimmers must be able to swim 20 x 100 on 1:30 or better.  The training program is very demanding with a heavy emphasis on distance based physiological training.


NOTE: 11 and 12 female swimmers with 3 or more AAA times will be allowed to practice in GROUP 1.

1) Success over the long-term remains a high priority. Although we could train high school age swimmers in such a way that they could swim faster in the shorter events during their teenage years, we believe it is our responsibility to provide an aerobic-based training foundation that will allow them to achieve ultimate success in their college years.

2) Work within various energy systems becomes an important component of the overall training program. Emphasis is still heavily aerobic, but specificity of training for stroke and distance becomes part of the regimen.

3) While mileage completed is an important consideration, attention to detail and improvement in stroke technique is very highly valued. Coaches continually stress efficiency and technical precision as key components to success at the elite levels.

4) Swimmers are still encouraged to train and compete in a wide variety of events. We believe there are many instances in this country where 14-17 year-old swimmers begin to specialize too early in their careers.

5) The commitment level required at these levels of the program is 5 practices per week (with one of those practices being on Saturday).

6) Sports Performance is a standard part of the training program for swimmers 15 and over.  Optional for 13 and 14 year olds. 



  • Must have a sectional qualification time (or the desire to swim on a national level.)
  • Must attend 5 general practices per week ( school year: 2 mornings per week /  summer: 3 afternoon)
  • Must attend Sports Performance (unless 14 or under)
  • Must hold 1:15 for 20 x 100 free
  • Must be able to get along with their peers
  • Must be a good role model for the rest of the team