In a recent USA Swimming weekly newsletter, the selection of the National Junior Select Camp was listed. I was delighted to see one of the young ladies I work with on the list, but I was slightly disturbed with one area in the selection criteria: “In all events except the 50 free”.
Now I know USA Swimming suggests “building the base” in youth swimmers [I argue these strict suggestions as closed-mindedness prevents and discourages advances in any field], but I feel this approach is impeding development and discouraging growth this niche segment, which the USA is currently already struggling.
I know a few will argue that 50-meter specialist are too specific and do not have the diversity at this age, but one could argue breaststroke and distance freestyle specialist [just to name a few] have similar limitations.
Another potential argument is the notion of youth sprinters not developing into Senior successes. Personally, I feel the success rate of any of these youngsters is slim and excluding one specific distance due to this thinking is absurd, especially in an event where the USA is having National difficulties.
Allowing a few more sprint swimmers would not take away from the special opportunity for these kids. Moreover, this type of closed-mindedness prevents creativity and expansion for the sport, remember no single size fits all for training. Moreover, the specific stroke and physiological testing for these kids could provide much benefit on the National scene, hopefully aiding the development of these sprint swimmers. Sprinters are also extremely valuable for college coaches and if we don’t develop sprinters in the United States, then foreign swimmers will happily accept a collegiate swimming scholarship in the States.
However, the US seems to be folding for youth sprinters, perhaps suggesting they do not know how to cater and develop these youth athletes. No wonder most of the athletic (ground-based) youth swimmers practically have to be convinced to become swimmers despite their remarkable success. In fact, sprinters have a negative connotation around many pool decks, which appears to be passed on from the National level.
Some of you may see this piece is biased and in fact it is, as I was once a sprinter. But, equal opportunity is all I feel is appropriate. Remember, the US is the land of the free, except for youth sprint swimmers!