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12 year old swimmer sessions per week

QUESTION:

Hi Gary,

My 12year old daughter currently trains 2 days per week but would like to train more because she enjoys her swimming and her winter sport is about to finish.
Currently her coach is telling us that some weekly classes are not available to her unless she commits to 5-6 classes per week. Does this sound excessive to you? Her reason for swimming is fitness and enjoyment but her coach seems to be intent on competing and achieving results more than the actual enjoyment for her. Her coach has also made negative comments towards her winter sport which we feel sends a negative message to our daughter.

Thanks for taking the time to give us your opinion.

Kim

ANSWER:

Hi Kim,

While there are many 12 year olds who do 5-6 sessions a week, to jump from 2 per week to 5 per week without a gradual increase over time may cause some problems.  The best way for swimmers to increase their workload is by progressive overload where the session numbers and length just gradually increase and as a swimmer adapts to ‘the next level up’ they then add another session or increase the workload within the sessions.

Every coach will have a different idea on what is right for a 12 year old.  My experience is that swimmers who train more than 5 times a week at 12 years old are less likely to continue swimming at 15-17 years than those swimmers who are doing 3 to 4 sessions a week at 12 years old and showing gradual improvement.  There is no set rule though because everyone is different.

Many coaches have limited pool space and struggle to cater for individuals requirements.  The program set up may only provide for those who are really committed (5-6 sessions per week) or those who are happy doing 2/week and that really depends on the coach and lane space.

It is a difficult balance for swimming clubs and coaches in regards to offering programs that are for fun, enjoyment and fitness versus ones focused on competition swimming.  Most good coaches will encourage a child who shows both talent in the pool and a desire to swim more often to become involved in a squad that swims more often and trains to compete.  Reading between the lines, this is what your daughter’s coach is doing.

Most coaches understand the benefits of taking part in other sports and winter is often the best time to do that because it doesn’t conflict with summer swim meets. I am a big believer in participating in more than one sport as it helps children to be well rounded with friends and their focus on not just one sport, especially at 12 years of age.

My suggestion is to sit down with the coach, explain your concerns and see if you can’t work out a plan together for your daughter.  Your daughter is old enough to do at least 4 sessions per week and then see how she adapts before doing any more.

Cheers

Gary

The Swimming Expert



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