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

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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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CACrushers
2 years ago

Let the coach coach 🙂

VA Steve
Reply to  CACrushers
2 years 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
2 years 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.

coachymccoachface
Reply to  VA Steve
2 years ago

VA Steve E?

Jimbo
2 years 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

OldHilltopper
Reply to  Jimbo
2 years ago

Pretty sure that’s a violation of Safe Sport.

awesome
Reply to  OldHilltopper
2 years ago

nope. there are other kids around and staff.

Jimbo
Reply to  awesome
2 years 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

BGNole97
2 years 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 »

Jimbo
Reply to  BGNole97
2 years 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

BGNole97
Reply to  Jimbo
2 years 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.

working swim mom
2 years ago

A parent pushing to move a kid up usually doesn’t work well. The child is isolated from their peer group – which can be huge in swimming. It’s easy to say “but he/she is faster and mature” but that child isn’t going to have fun if friends are left behind. Coaches get that the whole kid needs to be considered when thinking through whether a move up should happen. There is a huge difference in a high school junior and a 7th grader. You want them to continue to love the sport, moving up too early may endanger that love if they aren’t with kids they connect with and have fun being around.

If the swimmer really wants to… Read more »

John H
2 years ago

We have always left the decision as to where to place our children in the hands of those who know best….the coaches. Each of our children are different and their paths in swimming reflected their uniqueness. We have been lucky having had a great team of coaches who have done their best to put groups of kids together who will have fun and move to the next level. Swimming is a remarkably tough sport. There will be plenty of time for fast kids to swim fast. Most young bloomers need to work more on technique and need to stay with their buddies. We have seen parent’s push back against coaching decisions. It is never a win, not for the child,… Read more »

Mike T
2 years ago

I also think its important for swim parents to talk to their kids to see what’s important to them. At 12, they may be more interested in swimming with their friends or being first in their lane. Is the swimmer interested in moving up or is the parent pushing for the move? My sense is that for a 12 YO, its still 80% skill, 20% power and the placement should be based on skill development and fit into their squad (ie are they with their friends, is the age group coach more skills oriented than the senior coach)? I’d also caution about being aware of the social dynamics. Throwing a fast 12 YO in with 14 and 15s will expose… Read more »

dmswim
2 years ago

Moving to a senior group early is rarely a good idea, especially if the young swimmer is still improving in their current group. If the child moves up now, they will spend six seasons in the senior group. That’s six seasons of the same training intensity. Doing the same training for six years can frequently lead to a plateau in improvement. It’s much better to have something left to add into training (mornings, more dryland, etc.) when the swimmer is a bit older and plateauing that would break them out of the plateau.
There are many paths for a swimmer to take to reach their maximum potential. They can drop significant time at 12-14 by rushing into heavy training… Read more »

Northern SwimParent
2 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
2 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.

coachymccoachface
Reply to  Northern SwimParent
2 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.

SoCalSwimmer
Reply to  coachymccoachface
2 years ago

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

PsychoDad
Reply to  Northern SwimParent
2 years ago

Sorry, PsychoDad handle is taken.