My son is 12 years old. He plays cricket, football, waterpolo, and some running. He also just competed in the Nationals for swimming.
He is now being asked to step up to a minimum of 5 sessions (4 x 2 hours, 1 land training) and really do 6-7 sessions for swimming.
We recognise that to make this commitment he will have to drop some other sports. However we do think that such a commitment will cause him to burn-out and drop swimming competitively.
In your opinion of athletes who eventually become olympic or elite swimmers; how many sessions should he be doing, given he will be gaining some fitness from his other sports.
Your question is a difficult one to answer because every child is different.
In regards to the training, many of the strong 12 year olds in Australia would be training 5 to 7 sessions per week, so what he is being advised to do is in line with what many other good 12 year olds are doing.
There are many misconceptions in regards to ‘burnout’ in swimming. I am not a believer in burn out, rather children will make different choices as they go through life and if they have done one sport for a while and then choose to try something else, and they are making a choice to change their focus. I have seen many many swimmers who have trained 5 to 8 sessions a week at a young age and go on to represent their country and others who have done the same when they are young and not swum past the age of 14 years. Ultimately your son will need to make choices on what he can physically fit in to his schedule and he needs to be guided by what he loves doing.
Competitive swimming is quite tough however it also has many benefits for a child’s development (both in and out of the water) and also assists with fitness for a multitude of other sports.
A majority of swimmers of swimmers who go on to represent their country in swimming lay a solid foundation by training between 5 to 8 sessions per week around the age of 12 years. There are also a smaller number who may not train this often when young and still come through to swim at an elite level when they are older.
The Swimming Expert