SwimSwam Pulse: 86% Think HS Athletes Should Be Allowed To Train Club

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers whether high school teams should allow athletes to train with a club but compete with the high school team.


Question: Should high school teams allow swimmers to train with swim clubs but still compete with the high school team?

  • Yes – 86.1%
  • No – 13.9%

A huge majority of SwimSwam voters said that swimmers should be allowed to train full-time with a club while still competing for their high school team.

The high school vs club debate is a hot one within the swimming community, but is heavily impacted by geography: specifically, the level of high school swimming in various areas. In some states, high school swimming is much less organized and much less prestigious. For some, high school swimming has become synonymous with poor coaching and low-level competition. On the other hand, many states have extremely competitive high school atmospheres complete with well-regarded programs and coaches at the high school level. In some cases, swim clubs are seen as the pinnacle of the sport at the junior level, with respected coaches and more rigorous and specifically-designed training groups. In other cases, clubs are more known for overtraining athletes, pushing the commitment to the sport to unhealthy levels too early in a swimmer’s development (read: 5 AM practices during the school year, year-round seasons, meets on major holidays), leading to early burnouts.

In many ways, this debate goes back to the aspect of control in coaching. Club coaches are often loathe to let their athletes train elsewhere for a three-month high school season out of fear that a shakeup in training will set the swimmer back. High school coaches are often unwilling to let their athletes train elsewhere for fear that club training won’t match the compact training block that high school coaches have to build in a few months with regular dual meets built in.

This idea came up in a high-traffic Facebook group on swim coaching, and most of the responses centered around doing what was best for the kid. Ironically, though, most of those responses seemed to assume that the best thing for the kid was wherever the commenting coach was – club coaches argued it was objectively better for the swimmer to train with a club, while high school coaches maintained it was more beneficial to train in the high school setting.

Setting aside the idea that one environment or the other is by definition superior (not really a great argument considering the wide ranges of club and high school programs), the debate also has to do with team-building. Club swimming tends to lean more toward the individual side of the sport, emphasizing individual swims, cut times and major meets. High school swimming really gets to the heart of the team side of swimming: dual meets, racing, swimming different events to fill out a lineup. From that perspective, it’s hard to see any other team sport that would allow players to train wherever they want before coming together for competitions. The team aspect of high school swimming is an underrated piece of preparing for college swimming, too, and there’s a solid argument that high school coaches should emphasize that piece by requiring the team to train together.


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It all depends on if the high school coach knows how to coach higher level athletes, and if the high school has more than a couple faster kids to train with. High school relays were without a doubt the best memories of swimming for me, but it was fun because we were fast, and the best relays we were made of those that also trained at the same club together everyday for years. There was one non club swimmer that naturally was a 21/48 swimmer, but the rest of us that scored were club swimmers. Luckily we always got to go to high school practice as well as club most days. I would offer that club is what taught us… Read more »


Yes-Do both! I’m a club coach I encourage my middle and high school swimmers to swim school practices. They learn a lot from the variety of coaching styles and expectations. They also learn to trust me as their coach and filter different opinions to take responsibility for what is best for them.

90's swimmer

I have no issue if a HS coach says kids have to attend team practices and events if they want to be on the team. A swimmer can decide for themselves if they want to be on the team or not.

Swim Parent

So what if said swimmer wants to be on the team, attends all events and practices that coach requires, and in their free time, decides to go to their club’s practices? And said coach still threatens them with consequences? Is that fair?

Depends on how you describe ‘consequences.’ If ‘consequences’ means ‘you might not be on our relay at state because you swam a 12,000 yard workout yesterday and Jimmy tapered for this meet,’ that’s not a ‘consequence,’ that’s a ‘coaching decision.’

If you mean ‘coach benched me for a dual meet even though I would’ve been the faster choice for the relay and even though I made all of my hs practices and activities, he pulled me from a relay because I also went to club practice’ – that hardly seems fair.

Swim Parent

Our club coach is also a HS coach of another local team, so he is also tapering the team for our post season, so there is no chance of doing a 12,000 yard workout the day before Districts or States. I wish I could tell you the consequences, but I can’t because our coach simply uses that word with no definition. It’s ridiculous. Why can’t we all just work together for the best of the child? That’s my point.

OC Dad

You bring up a good point: some high school coaches are also club coaches, so there is a great deal of understanding from these coaches. We’re blessed with such a hybrid high school coach, and his only requirement is that HS swimmers attend at least one practice per week plus all meets for team building, etc.

90's swimmer

Sounds like a kid who wants it all. and is willing to do the work to earn it. Too bad the coach doesn’t see that.


I vehemently disagree with the 86%. I have seen first hand what happens when a club swimmer devotes most of their time training/competing with the club team. High school teammates would always ask the high school the following questions… “Why does the club swimmer only show up to one of our high school practices a week?” “How do we practice relay exchanges for a meet tomorrow if he or she is not here today?” “How come we cannot pick and choose what practices we attend?” “Will club swimmer even be tapered for our district meet where we need 4 fully-rested legs to make states” I think club swimming is a good thing when only that is pursued. I have found… Read more »




My high school coach made us come to every practice, but instead of having to swim, we helped teach technique and drills to the non-club swimmers. Worked well for us, and seems like a good compromise.


That’s the coaches’ job, not the swimmers! The swimmers have a responsibility to take care of themselves not to teach non swimmers foundational skills of the sport that they all learned with their true team when they were 10 years old. Ultimately the club coach is reponsible for the long term performance of the swimmer. High School coaches are not concerned w the direction or fitness of the athlete after they have left the HS program. In most cases when the swimmer returns to their Team (club) they are out of shape and Ill trained and unprepared to compete against their true competition in the USA Swimming world. They get left behind because of the short sightedness and ego of… Read more »


That is completely erroneous and quite possibly one of the poorest arguments I have ever heard. You are suggesting high school coaches do not have a vested long-term interest in their swimmers’ success. Mind you, many high school coaches train their swimmers the summer after graduation and allow them to come back and train over college breaks. Many high school coaches coach 30+ years, have pools named after them and are inducted into their respective state’s hall of fame.


You know how much an athlete can learn themselves by teaching?


Sounds like a waste of time

joe bagodonuts

If you can’t come up with mature, reasoned responses to the questions you posed, above, I assume it is because you’re not trying very hard: The club swimmer is practicing elsewhere. Exactly how much time is required for relay exchange practice? If you want to belong to a club and practice with them, you are free to do so. If the club swimmer isn’t among the 4 fastest, he/she won’t be on your relay. The underlying theme, though, of those questions is: How come someone else gets it do it differently than I do? The alternative is that swimmers’ options are limited – you MUST select club or high school, but you shall not have the benefit of both! How… Read more »


Practicing relay exchanges are not important? Really? Imagine if you will you have 4 medley relay swimmers that all swim at separate clubs. Their practices don’t align, nor does their dual-meet schedule. So the only time to practice exchanges is at that big meet. Tell me as a head coach, would you feel comfortable with that?


LPMAN – Yes. Perfectly comfortable with that. Come on gang, reiay exchanges aren’t rocket science. How many do you think our Olympic team does together (5-10 total is the answer).


Practicing relay starts in NOT important.

Former Swimmer

Relay starts are trivial. You can lock down relay starts within 5 minutes, it’s not rocket science.


A) because he/she is at their club practice the other days of the week
B) relay exchanges won’t make or break a regular season dual meet
C) clearly if club swimmer is picking and choosing then that is an option?
D) that should be the swimmers decision whether or not to taper, and the coach should consider that when deciding relay legs

samuel huntington

as I just mentioned in my comment, in the DC area you have so many people swimming club that this isn’t a problem. People go to one high school practice a week. And the taper thing was never an issue. For championship meets, people got amped up and swam fast.


Samuel just described Colorado as I’ve seen it. The HS teams I am familiar with ask that the club swimmers show up once or twice a week depending on the team. A lot of the HS practices are half learn to swim and another group that has some Rec, Summer League or even maybe some years of club experience are in that micro training schedule to peak at Leagues and State. I only really know 6-7 teams that well but what I’ve heard from both sides is the HS only swimmers know that the Club swimmers train much harder than they are and that when they join a practice nobody else on the team can hang in their lane. They… Read more »


Swimming goes by the stopwatch. I want the fastest swimmer on my relay team!

OC Dad

I don’t understand your comment about divisiveness because the club swimmer misses HS workouts? My son swims for both, and his HS teammates have ZERO problems with him swimming for club simply because his club workouts are WAY HARDER. They are thrilled that he is willing to workout longer and harder than them, yet they still get to exploit his speed during meets. You see the respect in their eyes because they know full well they have it easy compared to club intervals. When I swam HS and we had a club swimmer, we were definitely happy that he was on the team because he not only added points, but it was awesome to see him smoke the competition –… Read more »

Benedict Arnold Schwarzenegger

Just because there is no conflict in your case (that you know of…) doesn’t mean it’s that way everywhere.

And your charcterization of team (“exploiting” each others speed, being a “hero”, placing huge value on the fact that your son is better than his teammates) shows you have very little understanding of what it means to be a team. I hope your son has more understanding than you do; if not, he may need to swim a full year as a real high school team member if he wants to be prepared for college swimming.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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