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Is Coach Using the Right Approach for a 12 year old?


Hi Gary,

I have been following your website and responses to question for more than a year. I found it to be very informative. I have also read your book related parents guide.

My daughter, she is 12 years old and has been participating in swimming competition at state level. Her main stroke is Breast Stroke.

Over last one year her coach has been concentrating more on build endurance. So her daily routine includes 600/800m freestyle swimming at stretch. Mixed with few 25m sprints. Overall they cover 2000/2500m in one session.

Last year she was giving time of 40sec for 50 m freestyle and 47 for 50 m breast stroke. But now she is doing 38sec in freestyle and 50sec in breast stroke. Not sure whether this right approach. I have a feeling she is loose her flair in breast stroke. Please advice.

Thanks and Regards



Hi SG,

For a 12 year old girl, building endurance is very important.  It is this aerobic base that will help her to be a better swimmer when she is older.  The one condition I put on ‘building endurance’ is that swimmers do it with correct technique.  There is no point swimming incorrectly for long distances because you only reinforce bad habits.

There are many different ways of developing a swimmers aerobic base and swimming 600 to 800 metres freestyle is one of them.  Swimming backstroke over the same distances will also have the same affect so anyone who is good at backstroke should do at least part of this work backstroke.

The total distance covered in a session of 2000/2500m is reasonable will depend greatly on the past history of training and distances covered together with the number of sessions attended.  There are some 12 year olds who would regularly swim 4000m or more in a session so I do not see the distance covered as being too much (so long she is swimming with correct technique).

Her freestyle has improved which is great.  Her breaststroke has not improved in the past 12 months however this could be affected by many things.  This includes the time of the season because most breaststrokers will not swim as well early in the season if they are doing more distance orientated swimming.  In breaststroke, a lot depends on the timing of the arms and legs and this can be affected by doing too little breaststroke, too much breaststroke or general growth and development.  In general, I have found a focus on breaststroke kick sets, a focus on breaststroke pull sets and a focus on breaststroke drill sets has led to some excellent results in breaststroke swimming.  While it is necessary to do some pur breaststroke work in practice, it does not have to be straight breaststroke swimming all the time.

Be patient with your daughter and her coach and encourage her to concentrate on her breaststroke technique and timing of her arms, legs and breathing in practice.  This video will help her a lot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN3X6yPFAjg

Good luck.


The Swimming Expert


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One Response to Is Coach Using the Right Approach for a 12 year old?

  1. David Voysey June 6, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    I have been coaching 12 y.o.’s a few years now Inc a v fast 12 YO female breaststroker (2:38 for 200 LC). The Kids will probably do 4 sessions a week 1.5hr 3 times and 2 hours once (sat)
    1.5 hours will be around 3-4 KM and Sat 4-5KM.
    So the 2-2.5 KM even in an hour is not a heavy workload.

    Breaststroke technique is difficult and you often need to slow a swimmer down to get them faster (longer glide etc). I would be more interested in her 100 or 200 times rather than her 50.

    Aerobic base is very important and swimming training is done in cycles (with long aerobic sets the norm early in the season). Although at 12, drills and skills should be always be a regular part of the week)

    At 12 Don’t focus too much on a particular form stroke for a swimmer. The 12 YO I spoke of, training focus for her is I.M. and improving her freestyle. I know a national junior record holder in Breaststroke who represented his country in 200 Fly. Brenton Rickard was an amazing sprint freestyler as a junior but ended up a world record breaststroker.

    They talk about the 3 pins (Swimmer coach parent) the one between coach and parent is the hardest. Trust your coach and avoid talking too much about your child. Instead speak to them about swimming in general (e.g. “do you think Soni changed her style a little in London”?). You can find out their approach that way.

    Oh and most important….., is the swimmer happy and having fun


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