Ask Swim Mom: I Want My 12-Year Old in the Senior Group

by SwimSwam Contributors 21

January 31st, 2020 Swim Mom

Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham

Dear Swim Mom,

What do you do if your daughter is the fastest in the pre-senior group? She just turned 12 and on our club you can’t be in the senior group until you’re 13. She’s already the fastest and I don’t want to be ‘that mom’ that forces the coaches to move her up, but I still want her to improve.

—Wanting What’s Best


Dear Wanting What’s Best,

I think talking this over with the coaches would be a good option for you. They will be able to explain why they have an age requirement for their senior group. This is a question I have received more than once and there’s lots of great advice from readers in how to handle this including having your child talk to the coach directly. Does your daughter want to move up? If so, let her talk to her coach, which she’ll need to do when she’s in high school and college. This will be a great learning experience for her rather than having mom jump in.

There are many factors to think about when moving into a senior group—besides how fast your child swims—including if you want her training with 16 to 18 years olds and the conversations she’ll be exposed to. Also, will your daughter miss her friends her own age that she swims with now?

Coaches weigh many things like technique, attendance at practice and meets, attitude, age and maturity level. I’ve seen several parents approach coaches and ask for their child to be moved up before they were ready. It rarely turns out well for the child, coach or parent. We want our kids to love swimming and stick with it for the long term and not become part of the statistic where 70 percent of kids quit sports by age 13. For 12 and unders, the focus should still be on having fun and improving skills. The senior group may be less enjoyable with more focus on performance and heavier workloads.

Good luck!

What advice do you have for “Wanting What’s Best” about asking the coach to move up her 12-year-old into the senior group?

If you have a question for Ask Swim Mom, please email Elizabeth Wickham at [email protected]

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

Why assume she won’t improve if she stays in that group for another year? Leading lanes and becoming more of a leader versus staring a feet, there is more to “improvement” than just faster times alone.

Reply to  Erik
1 year ago

I think it depends on the relative quality of the coaches. A 12 year old is going to improve under any coach. But learning how to train at a high level is process that takes years. Why not put her development in the hands of a more competent and experienced coach. If the senior coach isn’t much more experienced than her current coach, or it’s a big club with a really professional junior coach then I agree it won’t make much difference.

Reply to  CACrushers
1 year ago

I find it interesting that we’ve developed a model in this country where in swimming, “the more competent and experienced coach” is presumed to be coaching the older swimmers. If we bang away so hard at “technique is so important for young swimmers!!” why do we view 12 & under coaches as just transients not worthy of the same respect of the high school coaches?

I know that Nitro, which EXPLODED in an already crowded Austin swimming scene, said very early that they didn’t agree with this model. They put their experienced coaches and owners at the age group levels, because they believe that the age groups are the life blood of a program. That made a lot of sense… Read more »

Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

THANK YOU BRADEN! As a swim coach with 20 years under my belt who is now also a parent, this needs to be pointed out more.
I love my 12 & Unders, and I have worked very hard honing my craft. I am often asked why I haven’t moved up to coaching the senior group. My response is always the same: I love teaching technique and I absolutely love the little ones. There is something to be said for those of us that love building the sport and want to stay right where we are.

Reply to  Erik
1 year ago

I disagree. I was faced with a similar scenario on my old swim team. Senior groups tend to have faster intervals, and more room to push yourself and grow. When in the senior group, you can find older, faster people to race and use as motivation. There are more role models. I even switched swim teams because I was 13 an leading a lane in the senior group.

1 year ago

A couple of things to consider:
1. The conversations in the Senior Groups are far, far different than the conversations among the kids in the 12-under group. Nuff said there

2. Burn Out: While we all want our child to maximize their potential, our kids at 12 years old still have another 9-10 years of 6 day a week daily swim workouts with a ton of doubles also thrown in the mix.

3. It gives your child a perfect, early opportunity to be a leader and make those around him/her better. Not saying they have to act as their group “captain”; but by encouraging your child to encourage others he/she can really help improve the group dynamic as… Read more »

Reply to  Swimparent
1 year ago

Completely agree with your points. The meets that the Senior group attends may be different than the meets in the 12-under group, so travel becomes an issue. Burn out is huge, and if she moves into the senior group, she may not get any attention from the Senior coach. How do you define “faster”? Is it every single stroke and distance every time she gets wet? There are so many things for the swimmers to work on and improve. They may get more attention and stroke improvement in the younger group.

Reply to  Swimparent
1 year ago

Totally agree with everything said here. I would also add that your swimmer seems to be doing very well, why not continue to do very well while learning how to be fastest, a champion and most importantly a leader in her current group.

Reply to  Swimparent
1 year ago

Really well said, Swimparent gets it!

1 year ago

I have been swimming somewhat competitively for nearly 55 years. I think back on it and the reason is that I was very fortunate to have coaches who stressed impoving over everything. I still feel that way now. Each year I try to do an event better than the year before.