Training Group Standards and Move-Ups: Age Group Program


Gator Swim Club's training group structure is designed to allow progression over time from novice to highly experienced and skilled swimmer. The lists below show the basic expectations for each group. Due to the structure of our program, moves from group to group are not carried out to accommodate more convenient practice times or other member-family preferences but are coaching decisions based on the group standards. The integrity and fairness of the structure is key to the success of our swimmers at all levels.

The GSC age group program is divided into two levels, each comprised of multiple groups. The Developmental level is comprised of the Pre-Competitive, White, Green, and Blue groups. These groups provide a step-wise progression spanning from lessons to novice competitive swimmer. The Advanced level is comprised of the Orange, Silver, and Gold groups. These groups are intended to take swimmers with basic swimming knowledge and experience and progressively train them in preparation for senior-level training and competition, including with their high school teams.

We train our youth athletes to be competitive in all four strokes, at all distances. We do not gear our training toward event specialization for our 14-and-under athletes. We believe that the best swimmers are swimmers that are versatile, with a strong training base that allows them to swim any event well.

Moves from group to group are made by coaches at the end of each season (Spring – late March/early April; Summer – August; Winter – late December/early January). Coaches tend to be conservative when determining readiness to move up. We aim to place swimmers in groups where continued success will lead to increased improvement, and we try to avoid putting swimmers into groups where they will struggle to keep up. It is extremely detrimental a swimmer’s confidence and success to place them in a group for which they are not ready. We want, at all costs, to avoid advancing a swimmer to a group where they will ultimately have to move back to their previous group.

Individual assessment of each swimmer determines whether they are ready and qualified to succeed in the next level group. Assessments are made based on the following general criteria:

  • Age
    • Groups are age-limited. This is to ensure that swimmers of similar physical, mental, and social maturity are grouped together as much as possible.
  • Achievements and Skills
    • These criteria include a combination of the following factors:
      • Times achieved at meets
      • Times/sets achieved/completed at practice
      • Distances completed at meets/practice
      • Physical skills (strokes, starts, turns, etc.)
    • Mental skills (understanding sets and intervals at practice, utilizing race strategies at meets, understanding nuance of stroke efficiency etc.)
  • Attendance and Commitment
    • Practice attendance
    • Meet attendance
    • Willingness to try new things and take on new challenges at practice and at meets

Please keep in mind that assessments are multi-factorial. There is not one single factor that will automatically move a swimmer from one group to another. Just because a swimmer is a certain age or has achieved a specific time standard does not mean that they will automatically be moved to the next group.

 

Developmental Groups

The goal for swimmers at this level is to take swimmers that have just emerged from the lessons environment and teach them the skills that they need to become competitive swimmers. The emphasis for these groups is to build excellent technique via drill work, skill work, and lots of kicking!
 
Pre-Competitive Group
The Pre-Competitive group is intended to serve as a transition from lessons to the team environment. This group will provide and environment in which swimmers will develop the skills and endurance necessary to succeed in the competitive program.
 
The group size is kept small, with a higher coach-to-swimmer ratio than in the other groups. The emphasis for this group is on learning the basic rules of the four competitive strokes, starts, and turns. Swimmers will also learn the skills necessary to function in a training group, including, but not limited to: circle swimming, basic clock sills, listening to coaches, and respecting teammates.
 
Although there is no required minimum attendance at this level, regular attendance at both practices offered each week is recommended for continued improvement.
 
Minimum requirements to move into the Pre-Competitive Group are as follows:
  • Age: Minimum 6.5 years old.
  • Achievements & Skills:
    • Completion of SwimAmerica or similar lessons program OR pre-registration evaluation deeming this group appropriate based on skill level and swimming knowledge.
    • Demonstrated ability to swim 25 or more yards of freestyle and backstroke.
    • Basic knowledge of the movements of butterfly and breaststroke.
    • Maturity and commitment level required to listen to coaches’ instructions and not be disruptive to teammates.
  • Attendance & Commitment: Not applicable at this level.
 
White Group
Swimmers in the White group are expected to already understand the basic rules of the four competitive strokes, starts, and turns.
 
The emphasis in this group is on developing the capacity to execute all four strokes legally. Swimmers will be expected to develop the skills and endurance necessary to swim the 100 freestyle, the 50 backstroke, and 25 butterfly and breaststroke. Swimmers will also work towards being able to swim the 100 IM.
 
Swimmers in this group are eligible for and encouraged to go to meets. Although there is not minimum attendance requirement at this level, attendance at 2 of the 3 practices offered per week is generally considered necessary for continued improvement.
 
Minimum requirements to move into the White group are as follows:
  • Age: 7-11 years old
  • Achievements & Skills:
    • Ability to swim 50 freestyle and backstroke legally and without stopping
    • Knowledge of the basic movements to legally swim butterfly and breaststroke
    • Demonstrated ability to consistently use rotary breathing in freestyle.
    • Demonstrated ability to consistently hold a kickboard properly and keep proper body line during kick sets
    • Demonstrated ability to kick in a streamline position for a 25 in all strokes
    • Demonstrated ability to push off underwater in the streamline position, on both the front and the back.
    • Demonstrated ability to execute flip turns in freestyle.
    • Understanding of the basic mechanics of the backstroke flip turn, including knowledge of stroke count
    • Basic understanding of the pace clock , leaving on the :00 and :30, and spacing :05 or :10 behind teammates.
  • Attendance & Commitment: Not applicable at this level.
 
 
Green Group
In the Green group, swimmers will sharpen their skills in the competitive strokes via an emphasis on drills and kicking. The training demands of the group are increased order to prepare Green group swimmers to compete and train in longer distances: 200 freestyle, 100 backstroke and IM, and 50 breaststroke and butterfly.
 
Swimmers in the Green group are eligible for and encouraged to go to meets. Even if they choose not to compete, Green group swimmers are expected to develop a basic understanding of meet operations.
 
At this level there is no required practice attendance, however regular attendance of at least 3 of the 5 practices offered per week is considered the minimum commitment necessary for continued improvement.
 
Minimum requirements to move into the Green group are as follows:
  • Age: 8-12 years old
  • Achievements & Skills:
    • Generally swimmers in the Green group are capable of swimming the 50 yard freestyle in less than :50 seconds, and the 100 freestyle under 2:00 minutes.
    • Generally swimmers in the Green group are capable of swimming sets 400 yards or longer, on a base interval of 1:05 per 50.
    • Demonstrated ability to swim the 100 IM legally
    • Demonstrated ability to swim longer freestyle distances in practice with consistent flip turns.
    • Demonstrated ability to push off under water in the streamline position past the flags, on both the front and the back.
    • Forward and backstroke start certification
    • Basic understanding of the pace clock and simple intervals.
  • Attendance & Commitment: Not applicable at this level.
 
 
Blue Group
The Blue group is the final level of the developmental age group program at Gator Swim Club. The focus of the Blue group remains primarily on technique instruction, while also beginning to develop the training base and endurance necessary to move to the advanced age group level.
 
Drill work and kicking will continue to make up a significant portion of practices, however, longer swimming sets will be added to practices, and swimmers will learn to use both pull buoys and snorkels. At this level, consistent attendance at meets is strongly recommended but not required.
 
Coaches will introduce the concept of goal setting, and swimmers will be expected to hold themselves accountable for, and take ownership of, their swimming.
 
Minimum requirements to move into the the Blue group are as follows:
  • Age: 8-12 years old
  • Achievements & Skills:
    • Generally swimmers in the Blue group are capable of swimming the 200 yard freestyle faster than 3:20.
    • Generally swimmers in the Blue group are capable of completing sets of 500 yards on a base interval of 1:00 per 50.
    • Demonstrated ability to swim 500 yards in practice without stopping, and with all proper turns and legal technique.
    • Ability to understand and execute basic race strategies for races up to 200 yards/meters.
    • Demonstrated ability to use the pace clock as a guide for swim sets.
    • Demonstrated ability to execute complex sets.
  • Attendance & Commitment:
    • Minimum attendance of 60% or better for the bulk of the training season.
    • Demonstrated willingness to attend multiple meets per season.

 

Advanced Groups

The average swimmer entering the advanced age group level will have a strong technical background, with excellent strokes and at least some competitive experience. As swimmers progress through the different groups, they will develop the skills, endurance, and experience required for success at the senior level, while maintaining a strong focus on skill development and technique.
 
Due to the increased yardage necessary to build endurance and racing capacity, practice times are longer for these groups, and attendance requirements are higher and more important to continued success.
 
Swimmers in these groups have overlapping practice times and coaches. The larger group environment allows swimmers to see and understand what it takes to move up to the next level, while simultaneously building the bonds between teammates that are essential for the continued development of sportsmanship and collaboration necessary for our team’s success.  
 
Orange Group
The Orange group us the first level of the advanced age group program. Swimmers at this level know the basic rules of the strokes and the sport, and have developed a training base sufficient to compete and train at longer distances. Practice times are longer in order to achieve the higher yardage requirements necessary to succeed in longer races. Orange group swimmers generally have some meet experience and the desire to compete at a higher level.
 
The training requirements for this group are higher in accordance with the higher competitive demands place on Orange group athletes. Because the focus for this group is shifted to meets, Orange group swimmers should expect to regularly attend both in-season and the highest level championship meet for which they are qualified. At meets, swimmers will be expected to swim events in all four strokes up to the 100 distances, the 200 IM and up to the 400m/500y freestyle.
 
Orange group swimmers will learn the basics of goal setting, nutrition, hydration, and recovery for optimal athletic performance. Swimmers will be introduced to the concept of heart rate training and basic race strategies. Sets will be more complex, with less rest and higher yardage than at the Blue level.
 
Minimum requirements to move into the Orange group are as follows:
  • Age: 9-13 years old
  • Achievements & Skills:
    • Generally Orange group swimmers are capable of swimming the 200 yard freestyle faster than 2:50.
    • Generally Orange group swimmers can complete sets in practice of 600 yards on a base interval of 1:45 per 100 or faster.
    • Generally swimmers entering the Orange group have an IMR score close to 1000 or higher.
    • Demonstrated ability to understand and execute complex sets
    • Ability to understand and execute race strategies for races up to 400m/500y.
  • Attendance & Commitment:
    • Willingness to push boundaries, try new, harder events and sets.
    • Minimum attendance of 75% during the bulk of the training season
    • Demonstrated willingness to attend both in-season and championship meets.
 
Silver Group
Swimmers in the Silver group take on a more rigorous training load, while continuing to build on the skills from the Orange level. The increase in physical demands placed on this group requires that swimmers come to more practices per week during the bulk of the training season in order to keep up with the demands of the group.
 
Swimmers in the Silver group should expect to regularly attend meets. At meets they will swim all four strokes in a variety of distances. They should expect to regularly race 100s of all four strokes, the 200s of freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and IM, and the 400m/500y freestyle.
 
Swimmers in the Silver group will be expected to engage in seasonal goal setting, at will continue to increase their understanding of how nutrition, hydration, and recovery impact their swimming performance. They will learn how to modulate their training based on heart rate, stroke count, and other measures of effort and efficiency. Sets will become more complex, with shorter rest and higher yardage.
 
Minimum requirements to move to the Silver group are as follows:
  • Age: 9-13 years old
  • Achievements & Skills:
    • Generally, swimmers in the Silver group can swim the 500 freestyle faster than 7:15
    • Generally, swimmers in the Silver group can complete sets of 800 yards in practice on a base interval of 1:35 per 100 or faster.
    • Generally swimmers entering the Silver group have an IMR score close to 1200 or higher.
    • Demonstrated ability to understand and execute complex sets.
    • Demonstrated ability to understand and execute race strategies for races up to 1000y/800m.
  • Attendance & Commitment:
    • Willingness to push boundaries, try new, harder events at meets and harder sets at practice
    • Minimum attendance of 75% for the bulk of the training season
    • Attendance at at least 3 meets per season
 
Gold Group
The Gold group represents the final level in the Gator Swim Club age group program. This group is intended to provide the training foundation, technical skills, knowledge, and experience necessary for swimmers to transition to and succeed in the senior team environment.
 
Practice times are longer, and more practices are offered at this level. Attendance requirements (for both meets and practice) are higher. Swimmers are expected to take ownership for their swimming, and to set and work towards seasonal and annual goals. They should have a thorough understanding of interval training, and can work at a variety of different effort levels and speed. There will also be a greater emphasis on learning and executing complex race strategies.
 
Swimmers will be consistently challenged to work harder, take on longer events, and work outside of their comfort zone. Swimmers in the Gold group are expected to attend the majority of in-season meets, and are expected to attend the highest level championship meet for which they are qualified each season.
 
Minimum requirements to move to the Gold group are as follows:
  • Age: 10-13 years old
  • Achievements & Skills:
    • Generally swimmers in the Gold group are capable of swimming the 500 freestyle faster than 6:10.
    • Generally swimmers in the Gold group are capable of swimming sets of 800 yards or more in practice on a base interval of 1:20 per 100 or faster.
    • Generally swimmers entering the Gold group have an IMR score close to 1800 or higher.
    • Demonstrated ability to understand complex sets and race strategies
    • Demonstrated ability to understand and use heart rate and stroke efficiency to achieve objectives in practice and in races
  • Attendance & Commitment:
    • Demonstrated willingness to push boundaries, try new harder events and sets, and consistently work outside comfort zone
    • Minimum attendance of 75% for the bulk of the training season
    • Demonstrated ability and willingness to attend at least 2 in-season meets and the championship meet each season.