August 15, 2009
It’s getting close to the time of year that we start finalizing groups and placements for next season. Typically the coaches take a lot of mental notes throughout the year, and into the summer so that we can make sure that each swimmer is placed in the best possible group in the fall. I wanted to give you all an idea of what goes into that decision, so you and your children will understand how the decisions are made.
Many people think that the most important factor in deciding a group placement is how fast their child swims meets. Actually this is not the most important factor. In fact it isn’t even in the top 3 in our opinion. The most important factor for a swimmer is what they do with what they are given and what they need to do so they can improve. For instance, if a swimmer gets out of practice early on a regular basis or only comes to practice 2 or 3 days per week, moving to the next group may be too much for them. Attending one more day or fully completing their current practice, may be what they really need.
Another important factor is their ability to train at the speed that the group trains at. I’m sure you have no doubt heard of our group standards. These standards are set so that swimmers moving into a new group will be able to keep up with that practice. For example the Gold III group should be able to swim six - 50s on a 1:00 interval, the Gold II five – 100s on a 1:45 interval, the Gold I eight -100s on 1:25. A swimmer should be able to make these standards on a regular basis if they plan on being able to train with that group.
A third and very important factor is their self-directed maturity. When the coach asks them to stretch, do they, and are they improving in this area? Do they warm up and warm down at meets and at practice for the prescribed amounts, or do they cut corners? Can they read a clock and leave on an interval when directed to? Can and do they use all the equipment in their bag. This last one pertains mostly to snorkels with the younger swimmers. No swimmer will move past the Gold III group if they are unable or unwilling to use the snorkel. You might ask your child if they are in this group if they are using their snorkel on a regular basis. There are a number of swimmers who forget their snorkel or have mouth problems and say they cannot use their snorkel. These swimmers will not progress to the next group, as we rely heavily on the use of the snorkel. The snorkel is an essential tool in helping establish body line and balance in all the strokes except backstroke.
Each year we make placements and each year we are asked why a swimmer did not move. The group placements are by no means a one year thing. This is not like school where you go from one group to the next each year. If that was the case a swimmer starting in the White group at age 6 would be in the Senior group by age 10. The groups are set up each season to best accommodate all of our swimmers, and to make sure that each group can operate efficiently. Sometimes a swimmer will show that they are ready to be moved up part way through the season. Other times a swimmer will stay in one group for 2 or 3 years until they are ready, and need what the next group has to offer.
Please let me know if you have any questions about the placements. Your child’s coach would be able to answer any questions that you may have. We will be evaluating throughout the rest of the season. Any swimmer who wants to move to the next group still has plenty of time to show that they are ready.