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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Rob R
3 years ago

My mentally mature 11 year old girl was asked to move up to the senior group by her coach. Similar situation, she was beating all the other kids in her practice. Her times were actually in line with the senor groups 13-14 year old boys. Physically she was small at the time but was determined to keep up with anyone in the pool.

She thought it would be good to move up. I was a club swimmer my entire childhood and couldn’t think of a reason why not.

Absolute disaster of a decision.

As mentioned by others, everyone was nice to her but after a few weeks she didn’t have much in common with the older kids. She felt… Read more »

Swim Mum
3 years ago

My son is nearly 12 and had swimming lessons since he was 3, (with a year gap twice). His current swim teacher is holding him back as one of his feet doesn’t line up properly in free style. He has now been in the same class for 6 months as well as doing an extra course due the holidays. He is in a class with 7-9, he has been put back 2 levels with the new swim school and feels frustrated and no longer enjoys swimming. My problem is, I have explained that my son’s previous swim instructor also held him back for the same reason, after teaching him for two years, she said she could no longer hold him… Read more »

Swim mom
4 years ago

I have a 12 year old daughter. She has sectionals and futures cuts in a few events. Coach asked us if we would like to move her up to high performance and we declined. We are keeping her in her training group with kids her age, not high schoolers.

We want to keep our daughter from burning out. She loves swim but she also plays soccer, does ballet and has a huge group of friends. In her current swim group she practices 3-4 nights a week for 90 minutes. Swim has not taken over her life.

At age 12 her body is going through a lot of changes. Swimming technique will be dealing with growth spurts and puberty.… Read more »

4 years ago

I’m reminded of an old Garth Brooks song, Unanswered Prayers. As the dad of a swimmer who was at the top of her age group I can say without a doubt the extra time in her group with the kids her age helped tremendously. Her coach knew exactly where my daughter was and used the extra time to help her with the mental side of training. Learning to pace herself when she was smoking the other kids and learn how to be a leader in that group. I can tell you it made a tremendous difference when she did move to the elite group. The best thing a parent can do is have to patients to grow your swimmer completely.… Read more »

4 years ago

Everyone seemed to be moving up before my son at around 12yrs old. We trusted the coach. Nearly 16 now, he’s still swimming and getting more and more successful, many of them are not, or are having far less success than they used to,

4 years ago

Then there are the coaches who move up kids based on how much the parents brown nose….Seen many kids get placed in groups they have no business in due to that fact of the coach/parent relationship..It then turns swimming into politics…sad

4 years ago

Dear Wondering:

Ive had 4 kids in swimming. 3 are adults. One still in swimming at 16, has been with 4 clubs. We live in an LSC with a high density of clubs. We have been with the last club for 5 years. We moved from one club for logistics and the other two as they weren’t a fit for us and/or our kid. I’m still friendly with all coaches, years later.

What WE found is it’s about the kid , the coach and the program. They all vary. So anyone saying your kid is or isn’t ready just cannot know. Some Sr programs are brutal. Some less so.

My best advice for you about moving up is:
… Read more »

Reply to  Swimmingly
4 years ago

If the coach is a good communicator you should already have a good idea what he/she is thinking and the possible plan for your son/daughter .
That said , just because a coach says they pride themselves on being a good communicator , it doesn’t mean they are .
Quietly ask a parent of a senior swimmer who has been through the ranks ……they will educate you as to the pathway.

Northern SwimParent
4 years ago

Our kid moved up 3 times in the last 2 years. We accomplished that by moving clubs 3 times. So, we were at 4 different clubs within 2 years.

Two clubs had a fairly rigid “take a number and get in line”, regardless of technique and other factors. With another club, he was completely in the wrong squad and they had no room to move him. He is now with the right club/quad. We expect to remain there for a number of years.

We were careful to ensure that it is what our son wanted, explaining various options and the pluses and minuses.

As well, through our journey we did a fair bit of research to determine what club/squad… Read more »

Northern SwimParent
Reply to  Northern SwimParent
4 years ago

The down votes make me laugh! I guess there is something to be said about ‘persevering’ with the wrong club, coach or squad. Probably builds character, but to the detriment of other goals. Fill your boots!

Ask my son about our journey and he could not be happier with where he ended up.

Reply to  Northern SwimParent
4 years ago

….for now. Not a good look to be on 4 teams in 2 years. I think it would take at least a year to see if a club is a good fit. You clearly didn’t do your research if you had to switch again and again. Instead of trusting a team or coach you jumped around looking for what you as the parent thought was best. It’ll only be a matter of time before something is wrong with this team. You need to take a serious look at your mindset as a parent. It is also probably hurting your child socially as well.

Reply to  coachymccoachface
4 years ago

Why you so mad??? You only have 1 swim team in town?

Reply to  Northern SwimParent
4 years ago

Sorry, PsychoDad handle is taken.