March 10, 2016
Age Group Swimmers And Taper
From the American Swimming Coaches Association Level 3 Physiology School,
In Age Group swimmers (prepubescent), a true physical taper is usually unnecessary. The muscle mass is not large enough in most cases, to require a great deal of rest, and it is characteristic of these young people that they have abundant energy.
The concept of taper can be introduced for 12 year old females and 13-14 year old males, as they get older and experience the growth spurts of adolescence. This is assuming that a normal level of Age Group work is being done with regularity by athletes of this age. It is important to discuss with them the nature of taper, what is getting physically improved and what to expect. One critical factor here is to explain to them that they will experience for the swim meet, and not burn it off by increasing their non-swimming activity. This advice is good for all ages, of course. An emphasis on getting quality sleep and nutrition is certainly appropriate as well.
From the Technical Director of the ASCA
A “taper” presupposes there has been a program of strenuous overload of mature bodied individuals. In the case of age 12 and under age group swimmers a true taper is not productive because the day to day training of age groupers is rarely as intensive as with their senior counterparts. Total time in the water is generally only 50% or less of that of a senior swimmer who attends morning as well as evening workouts. The density of training (yards per hour) might only be 25% to 50% of senior training because of the greater emphasis on stroke work, drills, and fun time in an age group workout. Age group swimmers should maintain aerobic work until a day or two before a big meet and then reduce the amount of work by only 25% to 50%. For “A” level 9-10 year olds the typical level of aerobic work may be 2,000 to 3,000 per day (higher in some programs) and for “A” and “A+” 11-12’s typical aerobic yardage may be 3000 to 4,500 per day (higher in some programs.) Intense anaerobic swims of 50 yards and longer should not be increased in the immediate days before an important competition since it has the greatest potential for tiring young swimmers out. Instead, coaches often include a few “broken swims” of race distance and race pace more for the teaching of strategy and pace than for the physical training effect. A moderate amount of true alactic sprints of 25 yards and less with complete recovery times can be done at almost any time without effecting energy levels of young swimmers.