Ask Swim Mom: I Think My Child Should Move Up

Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham

Dear Swim Mom,

I feel like my 12-year-old daughter is ready to be moved up. She’s mature for her age and faster than the other kids in her group. She’ll be turning 13 in a couple months. I mentioned it to her coach after practice and I didn’t get much of an answer. I think she’d fit in better with the senior level swimmers who are faster. What can I do to help her get moved up?

Do you have some advice on what to do?

—Wondering What to Do


Dear Wondering What to Do,

Moving up into the senior group can be an exciting time, if your child is ready. Most teams have set criteria and it’s helpful for swimmers to understand what’s required at each level. Some coaches move kids only at the beginning of seasons or into the senior group at certain ages. Others may move kids up individually when they feel it’s appropriate.

I’ve watched parents insist their kids move up into higher level groups — whether or not they were fast enough or prepared. Unfortunately, these kids quit swimming altogether within a year or two. With 70 percent of kids in youth sports quitting by age 13, moving up a child before they’re ready could end in burnout or losing passion for the sport.

The goal is to have our children progress and stick with swimming as a life-long activity. As they move up through the levels, practices get longer and more demanding. Our children have to find balance with homework, school, swimming and other activities.

Kids develop at different times both physically, mentally and emotionally. You mentioned your child is mature for her age and a fast swimmer. The coach may be looking at a long-term plan and doesn’t want her to burn out. If the next level is seniors and includes morning practices and more yardage, it might not be the best thing for her if you’re looking at the big picture.

Some factors coaches consider before moving up swimmers are:

  • Attendance
  • Attitude
  • Work ethic and effort
  • Technique and skills
  • Leadership
  • Ability to listen and follow directions
  • Age
  • Times

Set a time to meet with the head coach or your daughter’s coach. Find out what criteria they have for moving swimmers to the next level. You can ask when they see your swimmer moving up and why. Then your child, you and the coaches will be on the same page of what’s best for her.

What advice do you have for a parent who wants their child to be moved up?

If you have questions for Elizabeth Wickham, please email her at [email protected]. Your question may be featured in an upcoming article.

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.

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1 year ago

Let the coach coach 🙂

VA Steve
Reply to  CACrushers
1 year ago

Absolutely, but if you don’t understand your swimmer’s placement, talk to the coach. One common thing they are likely to say, however, is that when you are prematurely moving up to a senior group, the intervals become too challenging and it becomes “touch and go” for the swimmer. So instead of swimming 4x50s (with rest) you are swimming 200s (without rest). That isn’t good for anyone.

Pennsylvania Tuxedo
Reply to  VA Steve
1 year ago

Be careful describing it that way too. Some parents will see this as a great thing, because in their mind 200s will make their kid WAY tougher than 4 x 50s with rest.

Reply to  VA Steve
1 year ago

VA Steve E?

1 year ago

My coach won’t allow parents on the pool deck unless it’s an emergency. He says it’s practice time not watch for your parents time. So it’s hard for parents to say their kids should move up when he won’t allow them there. Which I agree with. It’s a small pool and could be distracting

Reply to  Jimbo
1 year ago

Pretty sure that’s a violation of Safe Sport.

Reply to  OldHilltopper
1 year ago

nope. there are other kids around and staff.

Reply to  awesome
1 year ago

Yeah I’m in senior group. The little kids parents are allowed to be there (and trust me there is a lot of them) but ours aren’t allowed to be on deck so we can focus plus all in all we have 4 other coaches there

1 year ago

Obviously improvement and technique is a factor, but typically the focus on the younger groups is about having fun. Once the swimmer is moved into the Senior group with high-school age kids, the focus turns to performance. The senior-level coaches may be more direct with their criticism and demand more focus in practice. Senior level groups may also do more resistance work with paddles, drag bags, bungee cords, power towers and more intense dryland work that just isn’t suitable for younger kids’ bodies. You also have to consider the practice group comaraderie. Perhaps the group she’s in is a very tight group and she has fun with them in practice. Moving into a new group all by yourself might as… Read more »

Reply to  BGNole97
1 year ago

It’s funny for you to mention height. A good percentage of my team is extremely tall. Girls and guys included. Like some of the 14 year old girls are as tall as me I’m 17 and a guy. It amazes me

Reply to  Jimbo
1 year ago

I’m a 5’10” 44yr old grown man. When I’m officiating, it’s stunning when some of the 12 and 13 yr old year old girls get out of the pool, stand up…and keep standing up until they’re taller than me. But by 13, many girls are fully grown, and the boys are just getting started.