October 12, 2016
Planning. It is such an important part of any successful enterprise. It is also very important for swim families as well. I went ahead an outlined the competitive meet schedule, through early April ‘17, to give our families an opportunity to plan their schedules accordingly. I still have some other events and meets in the works, but figured it was important to get out as much information out as soon as possible. We will add Mini Meets, Dual Meets and other team events when those dates are secured.
I want to take a moment and give you some insights into the thought process regarding the selected meets. Many teams in Florida target FLAGS and Senior Championships as their main short course meets; with those who make a Junior National cut also competing in that meet in March. I feel this approach is flawed in many ways. First, let’ look at a FLAGS focus.
For many area swimmers, Parents and coaches FLAGS has become the “Superbowl of Swimming”. At any given point in an age group meet you can hear, “bla bla bla FLAGS Cut bla bla bla...”. While making a FLAGS cut is an important step in the developmental process, it is only the second rung on the championship ladder; just above the Harry Meisel “B” Championships. And for those 14 & unders who do not make a Flags Cut? You get to go to the Area 3 marathon meet where I believe guaranteeing torrential rain at some point in the competition is an absolute requirement for getting a sanction.
One of the other reasons I do not care for a FLAGS-centric approach for an age group program is when the athlete ages out of eligibility, there is a deep sense of, "what's next?". Having swimmers and families focused on national meets ealry on goes a long way in keeping their goals clear when they are too old to swim in FLAGS. I have, unfortunately, seen many great 14 & unders lose interest when they are no longer competing in FLAGS. Our approach minimizes the likelyhood of that happening to our swimmers.
A Senior Champs focus is not wise choice as well. When a club has their older swimmers focused on Senior Championships, they are making their season extremely short. Senior Champs will begin on February 23rd of next year. That is just nine weeks after the December target meet, which, is just four to five weeks post high school season. That is hardly enough time to design an effective seasonal plan for any level athlete.
Oh, by the way, swimmers who do not have a cut will have to taper for a January meet in order to qualify...even less time. If they do not make it, well, they, too, can “hang on” until the Area 3 meet mentioned earlier. A series of short seasons does not help in the long term development of any swimmer.
We have selected meets and championship targets based on how they can help our swimmers develop properly over time. Instead of a FLAGS focus, we will target the National Swim Coaches Association National Age Group Championships held in late March at the I Drive YMCA in Orlando. This meet has many advantages for our 14 & unders.
The first advantage is it is a single age group meet. Swimmers who are at the “bottom of their age group will not be penalized by their birthday. 9, 11 & 13 year olds will be competing with their peers. No more “wait ‘till next year” syndrome. The FLAGS model does not take that important element into their meet format equation.
The second advantage is the meet is held indoors. While it is not always possible to swim a championship meet indoors, it is nice when the opportunity arises. This way, the swimmers can get out of the elements and into their swims. I try to instill in each swimmer that they should control the controllables. As a coach, I try to do the same. We will go to FLAGS, but it will be to have fun, see where we are developmentally and help our swimmers get more NCSA meet cuts.
Getting a second swim while tapered is important for our athletes, especially our older ones. Sometimes, it can be difficult for all but Junior National qualifiers to get that opportunity at a Senior Championship meet. Those older swimmers who qualify, will go to the NCSA Junior National meet held in March at the I Drive YMCA in Orlando. Those who do not will attend the GTSA Championship held at the end of March / early April.
The GTSA meet offers prelims and finals. Based on past results, more of our swimmers will have a second swim opportunity. It is also an all ages meet. This means we can have an entire team experience rather than participate in a series of segmented meets. If you have been watching workouts lately, you can tell we are trying to get much more interaction between the age and training groups.
As mentioned, more events will be added as they are secured. We will also take into consideration individual needs and differences and make accommodations when we can. The bottom line is our meet selections reflect our individual and team goals. I feel the schedule we have posted reflects those goals well.
Thanks for your continued support. It is an honor to work with your children.
See you at the pool - Rich