Ask Swim Mom: Should There Be a Maximum Practice Schedule?

by SwimSwam Contributors 7

January 25th, 2020 Lifestyle, Swim Mom

Dear Swim Mom,

For 12 and unders, most teams have a minimum practice requirement. It seems that some of the swimmers AND parents could benefit from a suggested maximum as well. If too few is no good, I would think too many could be a negative as well. What is too much? 5, 6, 7 days a week? Doubles? Private lessons? I understand the idea of hard work, but at such a young age, it seems to only provide more pressure. Maybe a suggested maximum might help kids avoid burnout and give parents a better guide of what is necessary for the younger kids?

—Practical About Practice


Dear Practical About Practice,

You bring up a great point. We may think more is better in terms of hard work and attending practices, but there’s a point where it may become detrimental rather than helpful. If you have a decent coach, they will have guidelines on how many practices children should attend based on their age and maturity. Some parents may want their kids to attend more practices than are necessary, but instead should rely on the coach’s judgment. Coaches are interested in having kids stick with swimming and not burn out. One of our coaches said, “I’m interested in developing the fastest 17-year-old, not the fastest 10-year-old.”

No two kids are the same and there can be big size and maturity differences between children the same age. Some coaches may have strict age group requirements for number of practices and levels or instead may look at swimmers individually. I believe it’s about trusting your coach to make the right decisions for your children. If we don’t trust our coach, then we’re bound to have more issues to deal with later on.

When kids are younger, the focus should be on having fun with friends in a positive learning experience where they are developing new skills and technique. There’s a reason why 70 percent of kids drop out of organized sports by age 13. The number one reason is “it’s not fun anymore.”

Our kids had private lessons and it was a positive experience. Our coaches at the time didn’t focus on technique during practice. The coach who taught private lessons was very good at teaching technique and keeping it fun. Private lessons were motivating and fun. I think signing kids up for private lessons depends on whether or not kids are getting the skills they need at practice. If the lessons are adding pressure on the kids to perform, then it’s obviously a negative.

Our coaches have guidelines of how many days per week kids should practice according to their age. It wasn’t until age 13 that kids started doubles once or twice a week. If you have great coaches and you trust them, then follow their practice schedule. Parents who take their kids to extra practices or insist on moving them up to an older group aren’t helping their children.

What are your thoughts about having a maximum practice requirement?

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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7 months ago

The bigger clubs have different groups. The higher level groups I feel should have attendance requirement. I have found it really annoying over the years when parents are in the high level group and take a lot of time off some a month. Their kid comes back to group totally out of shape and now the other kids have to deal with them in their lane with limited lane space and they cant make the intervals. Go down to the lower group if you are not committed to the sport and training Its not fair to other kids

2 years ago

For what it’s worth, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more in hours training per week than your child is years old. So a 10 year old should max at 10 hours weekly.

2 years ago

I have mixed feelings here. I started doubles when I was 11 which I admit I think was a little early, but at the time, I was improving rapidly. I started really speeding up around 13 and I qualified for Juniors and Nationals as a 14yo. At the time, I trained 23 hours a week (2x2hr M-F and then 3hr on Sa). That generally felt like a lot, but I think it was a good balance for me.
Then my freshman year of high school (at 15) I decided to switch teams to a team I deemed “better.” It ended up being a bad decision for me. We trained 2.5hrs in the mornings M-F and then 3.5hrs in the… Read more »

Reply to  Sophie
2 years ago

Oh my word! To me, any coach who asks this – and any parent who allows it – has totally lost perspective, and seems to be in the business of harming their child’s / athlete’s development rather than supporting it. A 36-hr training week, with no down-time at age 14?

Also, was amazed to read the line: ‘our coaches at the time didn’t focus on technique during practice’ with respect to young swimmers…

cynthia curran
Reply to  Sophie
2 years ago

Making Nationals met you where a really good swimmer. The practices I can see where too much overtime. I think teams should do more strokes than lots of freestyle. This reduces the yardage. I didn’t swim over 4,000 yards as a kid until I was 14 years old. I started with the novice/swimmer league workouts at 12 to 14 years old.

2 years ago

Every time I read this stuff I can hear the helicopters hovering.

Reply to  Voteblue
1 year ago

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA that’s hilarious. I hear the blades revving up fast in your answer! The helicopter parent thing always makes me laugh, because the real helicopter parents are the ones who want to do more and more and more for their own needs. The ones who are grinding their kids to fulfill their own failed dreams. More tournaments and meets, more practices, more scheduled kids so the PARENT has something to talk about or something to post to their FACEBOOK page. Who’s the real helicopter parent…the one who is with their kid in a car (I mean helicopter) or hotel all the time, flying them to and from events, or the parent who actually has their own life and their own… Read more »