Is your child having fun and enjoying the experience of swim lessons? Has he or she shown an interest in joining a swim team? Perhaps you are looking for an organized sport activity that your child can do until they graduate college, and beyond!
Swimming on a team offers fitness, socialization, and camaraderie for all ages. As an experienced swim instructor and coach (and also a long-time swimmer), I can’t imagine a better way to move toward lifelong friends and fitness.
Your Sunsational Swim School Instructor Can Help
First of all, ask your Swim Instructor about whether your child is ready to try a swim team. Many of us are still swimmers and coaches, and/or have knowledge of swim programs in our particular areas.
Start with the Basics
Readiness depends on the age of your potential competitive swimmer, but he or she should have mastered the age-appropriate basics of swimming:
→Ages four to seven years old:
Your child will need the ability to do a strong, fast and sustained flutter kick on their back, and also on their stomach, with intermittent paddling and breathing. Ideally, children of this age should be able to complete fifteen to twenty-five yards in this manner.
→All children who start joining a swim team should be somewhat comfortable with physical separation from parent/guardian, and an ability to follow instructor directions.
→Ages eight to ten years old:
Swimmers in this age group should be able to master the full strokes of backstroke and freestyle (with rhythmic breathing to the front or to the side). He or she should have a working knowledge of breaststroke, and should be familiar with dolphin kick.
→See How to Swim the Butterfly Stroke for more information on dolphin kick.
→Swimmers of ages eight to ten also need to be able to complete repeats of one to two lengths of backstroke, freestyle, and flutter kick with a kick board.
→Ages eleven years and older:
Swimmers of these ages should be able to do backstroke, freestyle (with side breathing), full-stroke breaststroke, dolphin kicking, and freestyle flip turns. They should have a working knowledge of the butterfly stroke. They should be able to work up to repeats of fifty to two hundred yards of swimming and kicking.
→Ages thirteen and older:
I advise you to contact teams to see if they have space for novice swim team members.
Does Your Child Love the Water?
If so,a local swim team might be a good fit.
Start by having ongoing discussions with him or her about what they hope to gain from joining a kids swim team near you. Swim Programs are as varied as people are; therefore, being aware of what you and your family is seeking from a youth swim team is a great way to start the process.
Good questions to consider before joining a youth swim team near you:
→Does your family want to join one activity that all siblings can do, or do you have various children enrolled in various activities through the weeks and seasons?
→Does your child want to represent his or her middle school or high school in swimming when the time comes?
→Do they have a friend who swims in the summer for your community pool, or for the local year-round club?
→How many days each week are they able to attend practices?
In addition, discuss what meets and practices might be like:
→Competition is fun!
→Opportunities to learn new skills
→Hanging out with friends
→Personal growth physically, mentally, and emotionally
→Learning to struggle and persist
These goals and decisions will drive what your next steps will be.
Levels of Competitive Swim Team Programs
Summer Community Pools/Teams
→This is a great introduction to swimming for a team!
→Generally, these teams start right after Memorial Day (depending on your location) and run for six to eight weeks.
→They offer practices each day, and meets run on a weeknight or a Saturday morning (or multiple days per week).
→Meets are team-scored, and there is usually a lot of team spirit!
→Check online in your area for summer community pools/swim teams. Some have league websites; others do not.
Year-Round Swim Teams
→Year-round swim teams, and their philosophies, can be quite varied.
→The amount of pool time - and expectations for attendance for practices and meets - can also be very different.
→In general, year-round teams require more of a commitment from team members. Most competitive swim seasons start in September, and run through the end of July.
→Start your search online for teams in your area:
→USA Swimming teams (www.usaswimming.org)
→Jewish Community Centers (check your local area)
→Many schools, depending on where you live.
→After examining the websites of a few teams that interest you, now is the time to make contact.
→First contact should be via email. Share your child’s goals and ability level.
→Competitive swim coaches travel and are very busy in March, and also in late July. Usually, April, May and June are optimal times to make contact.
Tryouts for a Competitive Program
Tryouts can be daunting for children, and most competitive teams hold them.
→Prepare your swimmer for various scenarios; for example, lots of kids, or chilly water.
→It is a good idea to bring a buddy who is already on the team.
→Be patient and persistent!
→Engage the coach(es) after the tryout, to get a feel for whether your swimmer is ready.
→If possible, chat with current team members and families to ascertain how the team is run, and whether it is a good fit for your goals and philosophy.
→If your child is a strong swimmer, but is shying away from a group tryout, ask the coach to schedule a quick private tryout for your child.
→If not, move on! There are plenty of programs out there!
Swimming is a wonderful sport for so many reasons. Even if the beginning stages can be confusing and a bit rocky, the outcomes are worth it. Swim team and swim clubs are a blast!
If your child needs some additional swim training before joining a swim team we have many experienced competitive instructors who will come to your own home or community pool!
Katie Jenkins’ bio:
Katie Jenkins is a Sunsational Swim School instructor in the Baltimore Metro area. Katie swam from age six to age twenty-four, and continues to participate in open water races. She has been teaching with Sunsational for a year, and has been a competitive swim coach for over thirty years. She loves being with kids and helping them master new skills!