Practice Groups

The Helena Dolphin’s big picture team-wide philosophy drives group placement decisions. Swimmers are placed into the training group that is developmentally appropriate. The coaching staff and Capital City Health Club swim instructors make all group placement decisions. 


Some of the most important factors driving group placement include:

- Maturity (chronological age, physiological age, and emotional development).

- Commitment (practice attendance, meet participation, priority of the sport).

- Training ability and technique.


Racing times are not a primary factor for group placement, although they may be an indirect factor as racing times translate to meet qualification and training needs. The swimmer’s group placement determines a floor, not a ceiling. This means that each group has different standards for membership (the floor) but does not have upper limits of achievement (the ceiling). Group placement does not communicate a coach’s belief about a swimmers’ potential.

Swimmers are placed in groups that best serve their developmental needs. If swimmers or parents have questions concerning group placement, they are encouraged to speak with their swimmer’s primary coach.


Jr. Dolphins – designed for children between the ages 5-9. Swimmers focus on stroke development, improvement and build the endurance they need for competition. This level is a good transition when coming out of swim lessons. 


Penguins – Swimmers joining the Penguins should be able to swim a 25-yard freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke and tread for 30 seconds with no assistance. 


Gators – The Intermediate Group (Gators) are for swimmers who have mastered basic strokes and race elements. Swimmers in this group will focus on improving stroke techniques, streamlines, and starts and turns. These swimmers must have a basic level of endurance and be able to modify strokes while swimming. Swimmers must also have a level of maturity that demonstrates the ability to listen to directions, understand practice sets, and work towards goals.


Prerequisites: Swimmers in the group should be able to perform 50 yds of legal butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke as well as 100 yds of freestyle and 100 yds of IM. Swimmers must also be ready to learn and use flip always turns during practices and races.

Tridents- This group is for the most experienced and competitive swimmers focusing on preparing swimmers to swim in high school to college and beyond. The Trident Team will improve physical condition through progressive, strenuous training both in the pool and through dryland and strength training. Recommendation is that swimmers take full advantage of all practice available to qualify for higher level meets such as B-C Championships, State Championships, Y Regionals, Northwest Age Group Regionals, Y Nationals, Zones, Futures, Junior Nationals, Futures, and Olympic Trials.

Prerequisites: Proficient in all four competitive strokes, starts, and turns,.