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.

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

I’d start by asking the swimmer what SHE wants. Be careful about how to ask this because your swimmer may be associating swim success with parent approval and offer an answer that they think their parents want to hear. Does she like her current coach? Does she enjoy being with her lane and locker room buddies? What does the coach think – is she fast because of technique or physique? Keep in mind swimmers mature physically and mentally at their own rate – some girls are full height at 12 and then have a really hard time improving times after they turn 13 or 14. As others have noted, there’s a huge difference in the social dynamics of middle school… Read more »

2 years ago

One big question here is whether the child is in/through puberty by this time. If not, then she absolutely should not be training with the senior group. The type of training done – almost certainly much more anaerobic work – would just exhaust her in return for minimal physiological benefit.

John Vogel
2 years ago

Move her up, that’s how you achieve her goals. This age stuff is keeping kids back. Check our history, the age of our female swimmers that have been successful. Let’s produce champions, not summer leaguers where everyone gets a ribbon

Bridget Aguado
2 years ago

My son is an elite swimmer. Based on our experience, I believe that keeping him with his age group was the best option for him. Based on his times, he could have moved up to senior group 3 years before 13 years old, but it wouldn’t have been beneficial even though we tried it a couple of times. I felt it was more important to keep the fun aspect of swimming in the picture so he wouldn’t get burned out. He was able to stay with his peers and be a leader. I do believe it depends on individual but for my son, swimming with his peers was best.

2 years ago

As a former swimmer who was exactly like your daughter at age 12, I strongly encourage her to be patient. I was nationally ranked and a top performer at age 12. I was pushed into the senior program and was done with swimming by age 15 due to shoulder injuries and the need for an operation. The Doctors were all in agreement that moving into the Senior group was the issue. I was on a team that was new and trying to put themselves on the map. The coaches saw that I was significantly better than my peers but should have known to ease into my training. Not push to the senior group. The risk is destroying your daughters talents… Read more »

2 years ago

Any coach that has renewed their AMERICAN Red Cross Coaches Safety certification would realize this is covered… 99.9% of 12 year olds are not mature enough for senior level training. Even if they physically might be able to handle it they are rarely ready emotionally or mentally.

2 years ago

My daughter was also the fastest for her training group. My daughter moved up to the senior group and it has been a struggle because socially she cannot relate to the seniors. She is actually debating on quitting swimming because she doesn’t fit in and doesn’t enjoy practice anymore. Success isn’t always based on speed, as we are realizing, it also depends on how happy they are with the group they practice with everyday and sometimes twice a day. Just my experience and what we are dealing with right now. It is having a mental impact which is now affecting her physically. One other aspect is the jealousy of the older swimmers with having a younger faster swimmer in the… Read more »

2 years ago

There is no reason for anyone under 13 to be practicing with a senior group unless they have Olympic Trial cuts (and even then it’s a maybe). Every year you have to do more and more to get better, especially once you stop growing. When you put a kid in the highest group at 12, that’s leaves at least 5 years of the same training before college. They might improve significantly that first year, but they are likely going to plateau in their 3rd or 4th year of the same training. It will become harder and harder to add things in to keep getting better. Why not save that big bump in improvement for later? College coaches tend to want… Read more »