NOVA Group Placement Philosophy and FAQs

Many factors influence group placement: some can easily be explained or enumerated, while others may be influenced by coaching instinct or experience. Clearly communicating our team wide philosophy for group placement will enable a better appreciation of the decisions that determine group placement.  First, a swimmer’s group placement only indicates a floor – not a ceiling! Each group has minimum time standards for placement (the floor) but does not have a limit on any swimmer’s achievements (the ceiling).  Swimmers in Prep level groups are sometimes faster than Silver level swimmers; some Silver swimmers will have achieved higher time standards than some Gold group swimmers. Overlap always exists.  

Group placement in NO WAY communicates a coach’s belief about a swimmer’s future success or value. Upward group movement is not meant to be a reward, but rather a next step in development.  The NOVA Coaching Staff views all swimmers as outstanding young people; we categorically reject inaccurate status labels that can be attached to groups. Some of NOVA’s best swimmers spent considerable time in developmental groups gaining the experience that would make them successful in our highest level training groups when they got older.

Some of the important factors driving group placement are the following:

  • Training ability and technique. (Does your swimmer practice at the same level he races, make the technical changes asked by the coach?)
  • Leadership. (Are the swimmer’s actions positively influencing others in the group?)
  • Commitment. (Practice attendance, meet participation, priority of the sport)
  • Maturity. (Chronological age, physiological age, ability to deal with change, and emotional development)
  • Meet results (as these translate to meet qualifications and training needs)
  • Group size (how many swimmers can each group take in order to keep number of swimmers per lane manageable)

When do Group Moves happen?

Birthday Dependent Moves usually follow this schedule, but only as general guidance:

  • September through December birthdays: (November/December can be tricky – this depends on the group and your child) will move to a new group starting in September.
  • December through District / Regional Champs birthdays: will often move to a new group after the December Champs, but sometimes this move occurs earlier, in September.
  • District / Regional Champs through Age Group Champs birthdays: will move after the District or Regional meet, but again, sometimes this move can occur earlier.
  • Age Group Champs through end of short course birthdays: This will depend on what meets your swimmer is attending/has qualified for, as well as the timing of upward movement out of higher groups.  Some swimmers will move right after Age Groups, others may wait until the end of the short course season.
  • End of school through summer awards/age group champs birthdays: Will move when school lets out.

NOVA realizes that group moves change family routines.  Group moves often change schedules, car pools, team dues, coaches, and expectations.  Because of this, we hope the above information will give you a good idea as to when your swimmer will move groups based on an age change, and that we will let you know as far in advance as possible about an in age group move.

The following is provided by the coaching staff to give parents and swimmers a general understanding of some factors coaches take into consideration when making group placement decisions.  This is NOT a checklist, NOR required criteria.  


Ages in these groups generally range from 6 to 10 years. Swimmers should practice 2-3 days per week. It is recommended that swimmers maintain a schedule that keeps them within the same practice days and times.

Novice Prep (NP) - Novice Prep is the bridge between SwimNOVA lessons and Novice Silver, the entry level on the NOVA swim team. Coaches focus on 25/50 yard distances in practice with a strong emphasis on correct stroke technique and basic NOVA drills. The minimum required skills include: one length (25 yards) freestyle with 3 count rotary breathing, two lengths of rifle drill backstroke, one length legal breaststroke with and without a kickboard, ability to flip in the water, ability to dive, and legal butterfly kick. Swimmers lacking these skills should begin with SwimNOVA lessons.

Novice Silver (NS) - This group places a heavy emphasis on stroke technique, turns, starts, (as well as some fun) and serves as an introduction to competitive swimming.  The teaching process in Novice Silver is deliberate, placing a heavy emphasis on the development of listening skills.  The basic skills required for entering this group are a strong backstroke, freestyle with bi-lateral breathing, and basic competency in breaststroke and butterfly. This is the level when swimmers begin to participate in swim meets. Swimmers are placed into Novice Silver based on an evaluation by a member of the coaching staff.  As the season progresses, approximately 25-50% of the swimmers in Novice Silver will advance on to the Novice Gold group.

Novice Gold (NG) - Novice Gold covers starts, turns, and stroke drills and technique more rapidly and in greater detail than Novice Silver. The coaching staff makes every effort to teach with energy and enthusiasm, with entertainment being an important by-product of this process. New swimmers are placed in this group after careful evaluation by the coaching staff. Swimmers must demonstrate proficiency in the free, back and back-breast turns and in each of the individual strokes. Novice Gold seeks to channel capable swimmers into the Age Group Development program. Like Novice Silver, listening skills are emphasized and developed. During a swimming year, nearly one third to half of the Novice Gold Group generally joins the Age Group Development program, thus moving into our 11 month program.



AGDS continues to build on the stroke and technique work of the NOVA Novice groups, as well as introduce training and racing skills to the swimmers.  The main goal of AGDS is to develop a love for the sport of swimming by teaching new skills, giving swimmers new challenges, and helping them to enjoy racing. AGDS introduces swimmers to the concept of reading and following a written practice. Ages in this group range from 8 to 10 years.

Coaches look for:

- Be proficient in 4 strokes and turns
- Commit to a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 3 practices a week
- Attend meets whenever possible


Age Group Development Gold (AGDG)

This group was created, generally, for the 9-10 year old swimmer who has been in the NOVA program and has achieved a designated level of success based on effort, practice consistency, meet participation, and time standard achievement.  The young swimmers recommended for AGDG have been recognized by the NOVA coaching staff as potential State Championship qualifiers, and the group will be specifically working towards seasonal goals which include developing a good work ethic, continued stroke and technique development, goal setting for meets, and a love for racing! This group is for the NOVA 10 & under swimmer whose goal is to be a multi-event state championship qualifier by the end of the short course season.

Coaches look for:

- Committing to a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 4 practices a week
- At least 8-10 10 & under “BB” times, or 2 “A” times in more than one stroke. Having "BB" times in the 200 IM & 200 free is a good gauge for this group.
- Attendance of meets throughout the season is a priority

AGE GROUP GROUPS(11-12 yr olds)

Age Group Prep (AGP)- Aging up from 10 to 11 is one of the most difficult transitions a swimmer will make. This group is designed to ease that transition as a bridge from Age Group Development Silver and Development Gold to our Age Group program. It is mainly for the 11-12 year old B/C swimmer. The main goal of Age Group Prep is to develop a love for the sport of swimming while building a foundation of proper stroke technique and habits that swimmers will use and build upon throughout the program to reach their full potential. Swimmers may practice from 2 to 4 times per week.

Coaches look for:

- Swimmers to be at least 11 years old
- Be legal in all 4 strokes with the ability to swim a 100y IM in 1:48 or faster
- Able to swim a 100y Free in 1:35 or faster
- Commit to a minimum of 2 practices per week with a maximum of 4 practices
- Attend meets whenever possible.

Age Group Silver (AGS)- This group is designed primarily as a building block into the 11-12 competitive age group level.  AGS serves a wide range of ability levels, but most specifically those swimmers who have proven to be ready for more training oriented practices. Most swimmers in this group are at the BB and B level.

Coaches look for:

- Swimmers to be at least 11 years old
- Ready to commit to a min of 3 and a maximum of 5 practices a week
- Achievement of a B time in the 200 free or 500 free and the 200 IM in the 11-2 year old age group
- Attendance of meets all season is strongly encouraged.
- Swimmers ready to compete in the 200 yard and longer races.
Age Group Gold (AGG) - This group is designed to meet the needs of the 11-12 year old swimmer who has been in the NOVA program and has achieved a designated level of success based on effort, practice consistency, meet participation, and time standard achievement.  AGG will allow a much smoother and more prepared move to the Senior Development groups. Swimmers recommended for Age Group Gold have been recognized by the NOVA coaching staff as potential State Championship qualifiers and this group will be specifically working towards seasonal goals which include developing a good work ethic, continued stroke and technique development, goal setting for meets, and a love for racing! This group is for the NOVA swimmer whose goal is to be a multi-event A/BB and State Championship qualifier by the end of the short course season. Participation in these meets is a requirement.

Coaches look for: 

- A minimum attendance of 4 practices a week
- 2 “A” times in more than one stroke and at least a BB time in every stroke in the 11-12 yr old age group.
- BB times in the 200 IM & 500 free
- Attendance of meets all season is a priority
- Coaches reserve the right to place swimmers in meet events
- Full participation in the long course season


Senior Development Silver II (SDSII)- This group is designed as a bridge from the Age Group Silver or Age Group Prep Groups to the Senior Development program and is mainly for the 13-15 year old B/C swimmer.  This group will continue to build on the techniques and skills taught in the Age group groups, as well as more training and racing skills for the swimmers. The main goal of  SDSII is to help the younger inexperienced teenager to develop a love for the sport of swimming by teaching new skills, giving swimmers new challenges to build confidence, and helping them to enjoy racing. Swimmers may practice from 3 to 6 times per week.

Coaches look for:

- At least or turning 13 years old before their championship season.
- Commitment to a minimum of 3 & may practice up to 5 practices a week
- Attend meets whenever possible
Senior Development Silver I (SDSI)- This group is designed for the 13 or older swimmer who needs more of the physical and stroke development necessary for the Senior Development Gold or Senior level. This group will continue to enhance stroke technique as well as develop cardiovascular conditioning. These swimmers attend practice 4-6 times per week.  Attendance of meets is strongly encouraged. We do expect a wide range of motivational levels in this group and will coach according to the needs of each individual.

Coaches look for: 

- Attendance of meets is strongly encouraged
- Swimmers are encouraged to swim a minimum of 4 practices a week. Swimmers can attend up to 6 practices per week. 
- Swimmers with B/BB times, especially in 200 and longer distances

Senior Development Gold (SDG)- The Senior Development group is designed to serve as a bridge between the Age Group (11-12 yr olds), and Senior (14 & over) groups. The SDG group is designed to introduce swimmers to the level of training required to excel at the senior level.    The Senior Development swimmers will be expected to maintain a minimum level of 5 practices per week. Coaches reserve the right to recommend that swimmers, who are consistently unable to maintain the practice standards, transfer to another group. 

Coaches look for: 

- Attendance commitment to 5 practices per week.
- Multiple "A" times for 13-14 yr olds or Age Group Champ cuts.
- Meet participation is expected
- Championship meets are required
- Swimmers must be able to train consistently the group’s high level.  Before moving into this gold group swimmers, must be leaders in their current group and succeed on the fastest interval.  Technique must be sound so injury does not occur with added yardage.
- Coach recommendation.


Senior (SEN) This group is for the 15 and older swimmer who wants to practice in the morning..  There are no attendance requirements, and meet participation is optional. Since weekday practices run 6:30-8:15am, swimmers may leave practice early in order to get to school on time. Requires a coach’s recommendation for initial placement.

Senior Silver (SS)-  Swimmers must commit to attending a minimum of 5 mornings, with strength & conditioning dry land provided by NOVA strongly encouraged.  All swimmers in Senior Silver should be preparing themselves for Senior Gold. It is recommended that those swimmers aspiring for Senior Gold attend 6 morings and 1 afternoon double to show the commiment at the next level. The standards of commitment and competition will apply throughout the year as our swimmers develop into positive leaders and teammates for their fellow NOVA swimmers.   Entry into the group is by coach recommendation. 

Senior Gold (SG)- Commitment of 7-9 water (at coaches recommendation) and 3 dryland practices per week. The coaching staff is aware that some training weeks may present unforeseen attendance difficulties.  Make-up practices may be available through the Senior Development groups with permission. Our purpose is to develop a cohesive training group that will allow dedicated swimmers to reach National and International prominence.