How many hours of training should we put our youngest swimmers through? How intense should training be? When should we ask them to give up other sports and specialize in swimming? These are questions that have been around for a long, long time. And while the swimming world claims to divided on this topic, in practice there is little divisiveness.
On the one hand, we have hard and very visible evidence that elite swimmers started very early. Michael Phelps is a perfect example. He started swimming at age 7, and was world champion and world record holder at 15. To test how consistent this is among elite swimmers, I came up with a list of 20 random swimming superstars, and was able to find out the age they started formalized swimming for 11 of them. The average starting age for these 11? 6.8 years of age.
This early starting age for the superstars has lead to a huge and possibly subconscious movement in swimming to have swimmers start young, and then to have them specialized young. This is why we hear of teams where 10&Unders have multiple morning practices a week, and training camps involving two a day and sometimes three a day practices. Or we hear of competition swims that are truly mind-blowing. Three new girl’s 10&Under Long Course USA records have been set this year: 36.13 for 50 Breaststroke, 1:17.74 for 100 Breaststroke, and 1:08.67 for 100 Butterfly. Incredible!
But this is the problem. You don’t get this fast this young without some serious training behind you. And the data shows that these early results don’t really translate to later success. In fact, quite the opposite.
An oft-quoted ASCA study on this very issue reports the following:
Now, look at that table again and think about what this means. …read moreRead more