Article from Head Coach, Career Progression

Training progression within each group and career development  

By Doug Rusk, Head Coach, SSCD


I think everybody understands that there is a training progression from group to group on a swim team. For example, the training will automatically progress from the Silver to the Gold group. But what many might not understand is that there is also a natural training progression within each group. This will occur in two ways: The first is that as the training ability of the typical swimmer in the group gets stronger (say over the course of a season), the coach will increase the training accordingly. The second is that within each group, the more advanced swimmers will often be given a more demanding version of a particular practice.


This natural training progression within the group ensures that swimmers can continue to develop and take on training that challenges each individual to their ability level while remaining in the same group for an extended period of time. If this were not the case, swimmers would have to advance to a new training group every 6 months and they would all end up in the Senior group by the time they were 11! This would not be a good plan because until swimmers are at least 13 or 14 years old they are not ready physically or mentally for the demands of a SR training program.


The best time to have a swimmer advance to a new group is when they are no longer getting enough training to continue improving, and they are strong enough to have little difficulty training in the next group. And this must be balanced with other considerations such as age, maturity, and training needs, as determined by their coach.


Another consideration is looking at the career development of the swimmer. We know that some swimmers will choose not to have a long swimming career, but for those that do, we are typically looking at 10 years until they get through high school, and 14 years until they get through college, which is when many swimmers retire from the sport. (Though of course, these days many are continuing much longer). To continue improving over a swimmer’s career, new training stimuli has to be added periodically.


Every year a swimmer’s training has to improve in some capacity. Either water time, or training volume, or training intensity, or technique work, or strength work will need to be added. To do this successfully it is important not to “max things out” at too young of an age. “Too much too soon” is well-known (in the coaching community) to be an impediment to future success. It also tends to lead to the “not enough later” syndrome.


Swimmers at age 10 or 11 should not be training more than 7-10 hrs per week. But by age 16 or 17 they should be training at least 15 hours per week. By age 20, in a college program, they will typically train 18-20 hours per week. It is important that we try to keep swimmers on this kind of career progression if they are to realize their swimming potential and maximize their long-term success in the sport.


See you at the pool!