Staying on top

Staying on Top
If your son or daughter is among the Top 16 when they are 10 years old, shouldn’t they be in the running for a national championship when they turn 18? In fact, quite the opposite is the case. Improvement is not a steady positive slope, especially for swimming prodigies. A study by USA Swimming using the All-Time Top 100 swims in each age group found that only 10 percent of the Top 100 10-and-Unders maintained their status through age 18. Only half of the swimmers among the Top 100 in the 17-18 age group had made any top-100 list when they were younger. “Those winning races at 10 probably won’t be winning races when they are 20,” says John Leonard, the executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association. “This is one of those things that is obvious to coaches but can be a mystery to parents.”


I just read this on our LSC website.  I am always intrigued when I read articles such as this.  It seems clear that success in the older age groups has very little to do with being top dog at 10.  Yet so much emphasis is placed on those younger swimmers who are at the top, even in the LSC.

I personally am thankful that there isn’t pressure to succeed placed on my kids by anyone but mom and dad.  They know we are pushing them to THEIR very best and aren’t measuring their success by the success of others.  Their egos are fairly in check and they don’t believe success is guaranteed.

2 thoughts on “Staying on top

  1. As a coach, the real question and research should be in those 10% and what happened throughout their career to ensure they made it that far? What was the long term plan? What was the coaches approach to early success? Rather than going along with Mr. Leonard (which I rarely, if ever do), parents and coaches need to be proactive in bringing up the prodigy properly to ensure long term success.

    The statistics are great when you have a late bloomer or someone in that 12-14 year old range who will, without a doubt, begin to question why they invest so much time in an activity they may not see success in for years (versus their “friends” instant gratification of beating videos games and hanging out doing nothing during the week, which they call “awesome” or “a social life”).

    As a coach of a swimmer who has had early success in their career and is quickly approaching the years of potential plateau and the “why I am doing this” stage, its about providing perspective and leaving more intensive training for later years. A good coach will ensure that the swimmer understands what is going on and know what to do in order success (and fun) in swimming during this volatile time (adolescences).

    Lastly, parents should not put any pressure on swimmers to achieve success. That should all be internal pressure and should be communicated regularly. Any pressure from parents should be in the form of accountability for practice attendance, effort and attitude. If your swimmer has goals, help them stay accountable. Let them know they have to do certain things they don’t like in order to achieve those goals. That means going to practice on days you may not want to.. If your swimmer hates math, but loves English class and reading, they won’t get to Shakespeare and the classics without learning long division…

    • Well said.

      My blog isn’t intended as parenting advice, it is my free therapy to myself. I have read old posts and have contradicted myself down the road or changed my mind. I’m human I admit that. I don’t always agree with everything I quote entirely or for always either, I just find it all interesting.

      I have three kids at all different skill levels, and their skill levels change as they mature. I am a firm believer that to be good you need motivation, work ethic, proper nutrition, lots of sleep, great coaching, supportive parents, good friends and above all else a love for the sport. Some luck doesn’t hurt. The perfect storm of all of these things makes for the perfect swimminer.

      As a parent I have learned all three of my girls are motivated by different things. And even that changes.

      My 8 year old has enjoyed some early success. I would like to see her enjoy the same success at 18. And the key word here is enjoy!

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