March 6, 2019
I wanted to take some time and go over the thought processes
regarding the season and our meet selection. I know we went over
this prior to the season, but since we are in the middle of all of
these championship meets, I thought it might be nice to revisit why
we have certain meets on the schedule. More importantly, I want to
remind everyone of how this all fits into our goal of serving all
our members; not just the high performance athletes. If you are
already familiar with this process, great. If you want to learn
more, read on.
Most teams in our Local Swim Committee (LSC) chose to focus on the Florida Age Group Championships as their season ending meet for their fourteen (14) and under swimmers. In the past, that meet was held in March. In recent years, the meet has moved into February. To me, that is not enough time to challenge the swimmers’ energy zones enough for ideal adaptation. We normally rest for a meet in December. Doing a full rest in February means we only have about ten (10) weeks to train from the end of the December target meet.
I am also not crazy about the idea of families getting use to their season ending in February. As they grow in the sport, most of their season ending short course meets will take place in March or early April. We want to mimic the senior level cycle as early as possible. This allows swimmers and families to get into the seasonal flow, so to speak, early on in their career.
The FLAGS meet serves under ten (10) percent of the swimmers in our LSC. If we focus on FLAGS, we are not serving ninety percent (90%) of our members. Making a FLAGS cut is a nice achievement. Unfortunately, many FLAGS qualifiers feel lost when they age out of that meet. Even worse, swimmers and parents can feel a big sense of loss when they age up into the next age group category. Also, many teams make such a production out of making FLAGS or scoring at FLAGS that other meets seem anticlimactic later in the athlete’s career.
We strive to reduce this from happening at Blue Wave by keeping FLAGS in perspective. It is simply the second rung on the championship ladder; just above the Harry Miesel B Championships. We also want our high performing age groups to think more nationally, than LSC. Toward that end, we focus our fourteen (14) and under swimmers attention on the National Swim Coaches Association (NCSA) Age Group meet held in late March.
NCSA National Age Group Championships
This NCSA National Age Group Championships meet brings in some of the best teams and athletes from across the country. In addition to being a national level meet in March, it also has other great benefits for our swimmers. It is held nearby in Orlando, the conditions are controlled as it is an indoor facility and the entries are limited to about eight hundred (800) swimmers. Fortunately, I have been supporting NCSA events since the first one nearly twenty (20 years ago. This means our club has the right of first refusal to participate. This is a luxury that not all teams in our LSC are afforded. In addition to these benefits, the NCSA meet adds a third heat to the finals for eleven (11) and thirteen (13) year olds. Sometimes it’s hard to make it back for finals when you are at the bottom of your age group. This addition helps keep the younger swimmers in those age groups motivated to come back.
But what about the older athletes?
NCSA Junior Nationals
There is another national level meet held by NCSA. It is an eighteen (18) and under meet held in Orlando the week prior to the age group meet. This is one of the fastest eighteen (18) and under meets in the country. Swimmers who qualify for this meet use it for a season ending meet. Making it back to finals is a true achievement. While this meet is the focus of their short course season, we added another meet to the schedule that gives them more of an opportunity for a second swim. More on that in a bit.
But what about the swimmers who do not qualify for the above events? Well, we have two options. The first is designed for all of our swimmers, but especially for those who may be new to the sport or who have yet qualify for the other championship events.
AAU Spring Short Course Championships
BSAC is host to the Spring AAU Short Course Championships. Since it is an AAU sanctioned event, all of our Novice and Blue swimmers can compete in a non recreational meet without the need to register for USA Swimming. We have the meet observed by the Florida LSC. This means that all of our USA Swimming members will have their times submitted into the USA Swimming SWIMS database. This meet can also be a qualifier for the NCSA championships as well. It’s a great way to have our newer families get into the March Championship seasonal flow while giving our more experienced swimmers another shot at cuts or season best times.
This is a home meet and requires some help from the families to make it happen. That said, it is a much better option for our swimmers than the alternate. That alternative is the Area 3 meet. That meet allows swimmers who did not qualify for Senior Champs or FLAGS to have a prelim finals event. It sounds great, but in practice, it can be a new family killer.
The Area 3 meet can be a difficult experience as it tends to run very long. Weather can also be an issue. Since it is held outside, it can be very cold for the little ones in the morning. It is also a three (3) day championship. As a prelims and finals event, families can be at the pool, or waiting in their car, for twelve (12) hours a day. If a Novice athletes wants to compete, they also have to register with USA Swimming which costs another $80 or so. After a long weekend at the pool, basketball starts looking pretty darn attractive to those new swim families.
Running the AAU meet at our pool means we can start the meet at 1pm. We can limit the number of entries to keep the meet fast and family friendly. And, of course, running it through the AAU means all of our swimmers, not just the USA registered kids can compete. It is a much kinder and gentler affair for our swim families.
The one thing I never liked about all of these different championships is that the team gets fragmented into smaller sub groups. That reality means that there is no real team spirit happening. Sure, the athletes who are at the events cheer for each other, but younger swimmers do not get the opportunity to see their older teammates in action.
I know when I was new to the sport, seeing my older teammates crush it at meets was very motivating. When a younger swimmer gets an on team role model, their motivation and performance increase. It’s also great for the older swimmer to take a few of his or her younger teammates under their wing. Towards that end, we chose to go to the GTSA Spring Championships
GTSA Spring Championship
This meet checks off a lot of boxes. It is an all ages meet. It is traditionally held at the end of March or early April. There are no qualifying times so all of our USA Swimming registered swimmer can compete. It is local so we can save our families money. There are teams competing from all over the East Coast. The biggest thing is that we can finish the season as a real team.
I ask the swimmers who qualified for the NCSA meets to come and swim at this meet as well. Not only will they have a better shot of a second swim, they can also try some other events; ones they may not have qualified for at NCSAs.
While this plan basically covers every team member we do, from time to time, offer other events if we have some individuals who have unique situations. Meets such as the International Swim Coaches Association (ISACA) could be utilized as a target if needed. Long story short, while we will always plan our seasonal meet schedule for the team as a whole, we will always find ways to make sure every individual is served at the end of the season.
We go through the same thought process there as well. Instead of NCSAs we look to USA Swimming Futures, Juniors and National Championships for our higher end swimmers. We hold another AAU District Championship in July, we go to the National AAU Junior Olympics as a team event and even hold a summer league championship at the end of July at BSAC.
I penned this post because I want to ensure that all of our families understand why we have such a large meet schedule this time of the year. It would be easy to follow the herd and simply go to FLAGS, Senior Champs and the Area 3 meet and call it a season. While it would be easier, especially on the coaching staff, it would not be in the best interest of our swimmers or our program. We can only succeed as a team when we take care of the needs of all of the individuals on it.
If you made it here, thanks! I appreciate your desire to learn more about the sport, our program and how we try to tie it all together to create one united team experience. If you have any questions about this process, just ask. Here is to a great finish to this champions season!
See you at the pool - Rich