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May 12

Progressive Developmental Model for Age Group Swimmers

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American society’s competitive values are equally reflected throughout all sports. Therefore, athletes (swimmers) are often exposed to undue pressure to succeed very early on and are frequently treated a ‘miniature adults’ in regard to expectations by coaches and parents.

According to sport psychologists and sociologists burnout rates have increased, as has dropout (73% across all sports).

“It was no longer FUN” is among the leading causes. If the so-called ‘sport drop-outs’ (swimmers) joined other sports they usually lack the physical components, i.e. general athleticism’ to succeed in any new sport activity.

Should we specialize early or have swimmers engage in a variety of activities outside the pool or in combination with our swim programs?

Fröbel, German educational pedagogue (1782-1852) invented the idea of the ‘Kindergarten’ proposing that the development of children resembles a ‘nourishing garden whereby they blossoms or die if not properly tended’ as all children have unique needs and capabilities.

Eric Erikson (1902-1994) suggests that children 6-12 years engage in the so-called “smorgasbord of activities” rather than focusing on one activity.

In order to integrate such educational ideas and to develop the ‘complete athlete’ a sequential and progressive model from introductory stage to elite performance would be one solution.

It includes a variety of cross-training from gymnastic- and athletic-type activities, modified ballet for swimmers, and others to enhance the physical components of general athleticism in conjunction with swimming skills at each respective level.

These are taught in interrelationship not as ‘isolated’ skills (i.e. specific physical attributes are linked to specific swimming skills). In particular for swimming, the model includes a ‘skills pyramid’ from introduction to the elite performance, a paradigm for effective teaching/coaching delivery, and a drill framework from beginner to advanced level.

The ‘Achilles heel’ of such a model is, however, the requirement of a very ‘creative’ and trained coach and one who has a multi-sport experience rather than specializing in swimming alone.

The 5-step developmental model is based on the following concepts:

 

  • FUN – Fitness – Fundamentals…
  • Learn to train…
  • Train to perform and compete…
  • Train to compete and win…
  • Train to win and keep winning…
    • Refinement and Performance perfection…
    • Refinement – Mastery and Skill stabilization…
    • Elite or High Performance…