Saturday, August 6, 2011

Snack: Swim-Life- Should Senior Swimming in the US Take a Step Back?

Take that Stone Cold Button! Ha!

I want to draw attention to another blogger out there, not just because he is Alaskan and that automatically makes him awesome, but because he is putting some ideas out there that deserve to be heard. Cliff Murray, Head Coach of Northern Lights Swim Club in Anchorage, Alaska has a blog called Swim Life. It is a collection of workouts and random thoughts about swimming. Recently Coach Murray has put a few posts out there that question the progression of Senior qualifying meets from the LSC level up to the Olympic Trials. Cliff seems to think that the old system with Regionals, three Junior National sites and the US Open made a lot more sense than the current system of Sectionals, Junior Nats, then Nationals. Cliff also is also able to give a lot of the dynamics that come into play that differ between large and small clubs.

If you have ever thrown up your hands wondering why there are such big jumps for senior swimmers to move up to the next step in the progression as I have, you really need to give these three posts at Swim Life a look:

Save Senior Swimming in the USA

Senior Swimming in America- The Progression We Should Be Following

The Facts About Senior Swimming in America

Check them out and sound off. Do you like the current system or is Cliff on to something?


  1. Cliff is totally nailing it! Him and I are thinking many of the same things. I obviously haven't put into words as well as he has what is going on with our developmental swimming.

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  3. yeah, I see it the most starting in 8th grade. If a swimmer doesn't have a sectional cut by the 8th grade they usually enter high school swimming feeling like that is "their level" and they start dropping their club goals and sticking with the small pond. It is frustrating as a coach because I see so much lost potential when they get unreasonably discouraged by the huge steps on the ladder. That's a lot of talent wasted and left undeveloped. Maybe the big programs don't have that problem... but I kind of doubt it.

  4. 8th grade? Seriously? Just developmentally, that seems absurd. Have you ever looked at an 8th grade boy? They're like overgrown kindergarteners. Nothing physically has happened for them seems like such a potential waste to give up on them at that point.

  5. exactly. it is hard to keep kids, especially boys, focused on club goals when they aren't early bloomers. High school swimming sometimes diverts them from the path when club swimming isn't set up to invite them in properly. it is hard to develop a team atmosphere when very few qualify for the big meet. I moved my club to a smaller LSC for that very reason. Even our LSC champs in the old LSC were tough enough to make my high school freshmen want to back out and Kia be high school Swimmers.

  6. Maybe I haven't been visiting this site often enough, but this is the first time I have seen such a clear anti-high-school-swimming bias. I am a high school coach, and I feel you are excluding us from what you consider the swimming coaching community. I coach at a school that is 60 miles away from the nearest club program, but have had swimmers make that commute to train more intensely out of season than our summer program allows, and I think that's fine, if they have the support system to make that work. But for most of our kids, high school swimming is "the only game in town."

    I am old enough to remember that most club programs in Minnesota were started by high school coaches. The best ones still work cooperatively with the high school programs, though there are a few that discourage their swimmers from swimming high school. I don't think they do their swimmers any favors. Every Minnesota swimmer that I can think of who has done well in college swimming swam high school, including Tom Malchow and curently Rachel Bootsma.

    Yes, we probably have too many meets and train anaerobically more than a lot of club coaches think is beneficial, but there is more excitement and enthusiasm in a good high school dual meet, let alone the state meet, than in any club meet I've ever attended. And that keeps more kids in swimming than achieving a time standard.

    Jon Isaacson
    Mesabi East High School
    Aurora, MN

  7. Jon, the Viking is a HS coach too..

  8. Yeah Jon, you misinterpret my take on it. I started a club partly because I was in the same situation as you. We were 80 miles from the nearest club. I am not knocking high school swimming. You are kind of proving my point. High school has a better set up for keeping kids in the water. The problem is, a lot of people really act like the progression is summer league-high school- olympics. Ha! As a high school coach, I want my Swimmers to have higher goals and swim all year. Every year I have my heart broken when Swimmers who grew up swimming year round reach their freshman year and decide that since they are already considered a hero in HS swimming there is no need to chase sectional cuts or go to LSC champs. Their development often hits a roadblock and never gets back on the road. I guarantee that for Malchow and Bootsma high school swimming was a wonderful PART of their goals and was not the be-all-end-all of it. They were at a level where they did not see the progression in USA as too huge a leap.

  9. Agreed SV, I was apart of the old 3-meet JR Nats. HS was a great way to improve my ability to race, race often and be spotlighted in my social circles a bit more. The old JRs gave me something to reach for that was attainable in the middle between LSCS, Zones and Nationals. NSCA has got it figured out, can we hope that USA Swimming is waiting until the next quadrennial to fix it?...

    ...The HS State meet was big, but not the end all be all that many kids here in Nebraska treat it as. So much "good enough" mentality around these parts, not very many kids see the point of putting themselves out there for the POSSIBILITY of national success when they get it locally at half price.

    Fear of failure and commitment are the biggest thing holding many kids back from being great. I firmly believe the "instant gratification generation" has a tremendous amount of difficulty with long term results being exactly that, long term. If I want to talk to a friend, I text them or FB message them. If I want to be entertained, I get out my favorite show from my DVR list or turn on the XBox.

    We need to bring back lawn darts, dodge ball, gravel driveways, wood chip embedded play areas and "kids playing outside until the streetlights come on" back into the mainstream thought...

    I also *&!$-ing hate this "hand sanitizer generation" of parents too. I don't have kids, yet, but mine will: eat dirt, ride bikes, have goals and go to practice even if they don't 'feel like it'. Structure in a kids life is a good thing. They want it. They want to know where they stand, but people are to freaking worried about burnout or forcing their children. Promoting responsibility, accountability and excellence is not doing a disservice to your child personality.

    I'm going to stop now before I break my keyboard.

  10. "Hand sanitizer generation" of parents. Brilliant.

  11. Gordy from AlbuquerqueAugust 8, 2011 at 8:14 PM

    I just returned from the Western Zone SR Champs and that was a FANTASTIC meet for the kids you guys are describing (the kid that makes the sectional cut but doesn't have a prayer to make it back at night). Unfortunately there were a few swimmers ages 19-20 that were there just crushing the HS aged kids...give me a break, one of them won the 100 Free in a 51+...I did speak to Brandon Drawz about the possibility of a ceiling Time Standard for the older swimmers. He was open to it.

    Is that possibly the direction to go in Senior Swimming? For those of you old enough to remember, if you swam at Seniors, you couldn't swim that event at Juniors. Unfortunately, Seniors has become a college-aged meet with a few HS-ers mixed in there.

    I love the NSCA Juniors! It provides a really good intermediate step.

    I was told there are 1750 swimmers at Juniors right now - so those standards are going to drop.

  12. Sorry I misunderstood your point. I discovered this site a couple of weeks ago and make it a daily stop now. I like the fact that you people take swimming seriously and still let your sense of humor express itself.

  13. First I want to say thanks to the Screaming Viking and Chris D for the mad props and dropping the old Swim Life blog into the mix. Shout out to you you Screaming Viking and your Petersburg, AK roots. I should have started writing this stuff a long time is cathartic.

    2nd, I want to say that as a club coach and a HS coach in a remote area (Alaska), we need something new. Maybe the SR Zone champs meets are the key; I am going to try to get it worked into our meet schedule next year. I am certainly willing to give it a try. Having said that, I think it is important to continue to work on the progression. Ideally, that SR Zone meet would be a little before the Sectional meet...right? These are the things that run through my head when I watch my HS age boys crush it at HS state (which is in November for Alaska) and then kind of float through the rest of the SCY season because they did not make their sectional cuts.

    I know part of this is an Alaska Swimming issue, but USA Swimming is going to reap the consequences nationwide in the not to distant future, especially when it comes to our boys...the numbers just don't lie.

  14. BTW, I love the Alaska/TX graphic.

  15. What the MN HS Coach neglected to mention about MN HS Swimming is that Minnesota allows kids in 7th and 8th grade to participate in HS Teams. Developmentally probably not the wisest choice for most male swimmers. Just saying.