Webinar Explains Dramatic Shift in U.S. National Junior Team Selection

by Robert Gibbs 10

June 17th, 2016 National, News

In a live webinar now posted on the USA Swimming website, (link below), National Junior Team Director Mitch Dalton outlined a new vision for the National Junior Team, and explained the process by which USA Swimming arrived at implementing some pretty major changes into how the National Team Junior is selected.

According to Dalton, the National Junior Team Tokyo Task Force, consisting of coaches like Jason Turcotte, Sue Chen, Dick Shoulberg, Teri McKeever, and Gregg Troy, sought feedback from other coaches about the National Junior Team, and soon realized that had been been no unifying goal, vision or purpose behind the National Junior Team.

These discussions led to a vision statement:

The National Junior Team program will strengthen the future performance of the United States Olympic Swimming team.

With the new vision statement comes more emphasis, prompted by feedback and statistics, on helping make sure the National Junior Team will keep athletes in the pipeline who will represent the United States at the highest levels.

Dalton’s presentation reviewed the highly detailed process the task force went through to arrive at the changes, but here are a few of the highlights:

  1. From the feedback, coaches wanted an increased focus on services to athletes and coaches.
  2. Identified five ways to measure success: Olympic medal, Olympic finalists, Olympians, Olympic Trials Finalists, and National Team Trips.
  3. A months-long process of data collection looked at the correlation of age, world ranking, highest meet, and time.
  4. The data showed that:
    • a female swimmer with a Top 75 world ranking had a 25% of advancing past the National Junior Team.  Only 3% if not in the Top 75.
    • a male swimmer with a Top 100 world ranking had a 17% of advancing past the National Junior Team vs. 3% if not in the Top 100 world ranking
  5. All together, this led the task force to decide to narrow the size of the National Junior Team, with a new focus on world rankings, instead of just top times among US swimmers.
  6. A smaller team, based on world rankings, will allow an increased focus on those athletes who are more likely to make impact on the senior level.
  7. Dalton recognized some concerns about having a smaller junior team, and he announced that, to help alleviate some of these concerns, USA Swimming would also begin to recognize junior swimmers who rank in the top 100 in the world, for 18 & under, as well as their coaches.
  8. There will no longer be any crossover between the National Team and the National Junior Team.

The upshot of all of this is that the National Junior Team is about to get a lot more selective than it has in years past, from over 100 swimmers to somewhere between 50-80 swimmers, and with an increased emphasis on where junior swimmers sit in world rankings, but now with a clearer stated vision of producing athletes who will help Team USA win gold medals at the Olympics and other major international competitions.

More details on selection procedures for the 2016-2017 Junior National Team here.

You can watch the full webinar here.

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So basically the data shows that in the case of men 83% developed into national team caliber athletes at the college level.
For all the hate it gets from foreigners on here it’s nice to see the college system validated.
It is the reason the US will always have better depth than other top swimming nations.


You can’t make that assumption. All this says is that 17% from group A have advanced to group B. As a mathematical matter, we have no idea from that stat alone how many other (non group a) people, if any, are in group B. Or whether they came from collegiate programs. And of course to assess the merits of our collegiate training, we would need to compare performance of athletes who came up through that program (so leave out phelps) to similarly aged elite athletes here and abroad who are in different training programs.


There are basically no males abroad that are late bloomers who train past high school.
This is why the US will always have the deepest national level meets.
For example, someone like Conor Dwyer would have never been a national team athlete for most nations.


Perhaps. I was simply pointing out that you were misinterpreting the data. I’d be curious to hear the views from foreign commenters about your latest comment. I can’t respond, as I haven’t tried to comprehensively track the membership of other countries’ national teams.


Much depends on what you call late bloomers & how successful they need to have been to be in this category.

I have a long list which includes World & Olympic medallists plus 8-9 men on the Aust Rio team that were not super juniors.

bobby gan

I must agree with Alec.
As far as I know, in most other countries, even in Australia, there’s no collegiate athletics/sports as developed and strong as NCAA. If a swimmer didn’t cut it at junior level, there’s very little possibility they are going to develop during college. So late bloomer phenomenon like Ed Moses would have little chance to became as great as he was had he not grown up and lived in USA.


Moses is not the best example. Pan am gold at 19, olympic gold and silver at 20. And his multi year layoff was by choice. Here’s a counterexample, another world record breastroker, but from Australia: Brenton Rickard. His Australian coach has a nice writeup about this “late developing athlete” here: http://i.swimming.org.au/visageimages/1_SAL/Swimmers__Parents/Long_term_development_in_Swimming.pdf. Hard to see how he wasn’t a later bloomer than moses. And he didn’t need US collegiate swimming. But the bigger point is that people can post one off examples all day and night (rickard example included). And Americans can continue to spout off their gut impressions about international practices without ever having actually lived through them. None of that is convincing. I would love to see some actual… Read more »

bobo gigi

As a swim fan I would like to see a better and much more simple schedule of US championships for the best US juniors. In my opinion the best young US talents don’t swim against each other often enough. It’s not interesting to see 2 SCY national championships at 2 different places in December. I want to watch the best teens swim against each other. And in the summer I want to watch all the best at junior nationals. But it wasn’t the case last year as the meet didn’t serve as qualifying meet for junior pan pacs. Maybe a simple junior championship held the week before the senior championship in yards and in long course with several age categories… Read more »


I agree with you about having two separate Jr. National Championships. However, I strongly disagree with breaking up the age groups. The U.S. already has the National Age Group record system to recognize the success of young athletes, but limiting children from younger age groups who are truly of the caliber of older athletes limits their growth. Franklin, Phelps, Ledecky, and Lochte benefited from competing against those who are older than them and learning to fail. Failure is a motivator, and if an athlete is limited by the talent of their age group, then prodigies such as the athletes I mentioned earlier would no longer occur, at least not at he rate they have been occurring as of late. That… Read more »


Well done Mitch!

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