USA Swimming has unveiled their new Motivational Time Standards for the 2013-2016 seasons. It comes as no surprise, based on what we’ve been seeing as age group swimmers have gotten better-and-better, but the times have been ratcheted up for the upcoming four years as training develops, technique develops, and more of the best athletes are kept in the sport.
These times on some level are arbitrary, as they won’t qualify anybody for a National Championship meet, but they are still very important. Not the least of which is in the name: motivation. Young swimmers who can call themselves an “A” swimmer versus a “BB” swimmer feels a huge upgrade in confidence, and reaching for these times give young athletes an idea of what they should be shooting for.
These times are also used often to determine eligibility for certain local meets, and for determining training groups. The drop will, at least in the short term, shift numbers away from A & Up meets to BB & Under meets, which may not be unintentional.
USA Swimming has done an analysis of how much change there has been between the old standards and the new, specifically at the AAAA (highest) level. Many of these standards have increased in difficulty by over 2%, and most are over 1% (though not every time has changed).
To describe what that means, this year’s 17-18 boys could earn a AAAA time in the 400 yard IM in 4:07.09. Next year, they’ll have to be a 4:02.59. During the 2011-2012 season, 292 17-18 boys nationwide made the AAAA standard in the event. Under the new guidelines that would have been slashed to 160.
Looking at another time, at random, an 11-12 girl would now need a 2:18.19 to make an A time in the 200 yard freestyle. Last year, that would have been a 2:19.89 – almost two seconds slower. 4,971 girls hit that time last year. Under the new standards, that would have been 4274 swimmers, or about 700 fewer.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? That probably depends on who you are. Some might argue that faster swimmers should be given more space to navigate at their meets, but others would retort that the overall development in the sport is better when, at the youth levels, athletes have the chance to race against better and tougher competition than themselves.
Either ways, the new times have been installed, and are probably in general a pretty fair progression to the time drops we’ve seen nationwide since the old standards were installed in 2008.
Get ready to step up coaches!