Looking After Age Group Swimmers Part 1
It is well documented by long term athlete development (LTAD) that at a young age kids should be learning the basics of a sport, the skills required to succeed rather than be physically conditioned with big volume sets. When I say kids I'm talking about children under the age of 11. Any coach worth their salt will know this right?
In this 2 part blog post I am going to talk about why I think the above is absolutely correct and look into some of the science explaining exactly why doing the opposite could have damaging implications as the young swimmers grow up.
Young swimmers need to be kept engaged, what's better for this than working on technique; progressing through drills and focus points, learning new skills and developing these with challenges and competitions? One thing that will certainly not help is doing big volume sets. One thing that 64x50 or 32x100 will do to a young swimmer is make them bored, they'll get bored of swimming up and down constantly, bored of feeling out of their depth. You need to keep them engaged!
The average height of a male Olympic swimmer is 6'2" according to an analysis from SwimVortex with the majority of this growth obviously occurring during adolescence. So what has that got to do with 10 year old's? Well, some research conducted jointly by the universities of California and Connecticut (I'll link the paper below) shows that aerobic endurance training in 10 year old boys has a significant effect on the levels of some hormones in the body. Yes, it will inevitably improve their VO2 Max but it will also increase levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and decrease the levels of IGF-I (a growth hormone) key in achieving maximal growth. So this research is suggesting that by exposing young kids to volume sets you could potentially slow their growth which will have a knock on effect in them reaching their potential height. The increase in cortisol levels will lead to a child feeling tired and weak! Not want we want to see in young swimmers!
Look out for part 2 of this post coming soon!
Paper on Cortisol and IGF-I: