Looking After Age Group Swimmers Part 2
In part 1 of this post I wrote about how big aerobic sets for 9/10 year old swimmers can be boring and even lead to a reduced growth potential for a swimmer due to certain hormone level changes induced by aerobic endurance training. In part 2, I am going to finish off the topic by writing about how this training can harm skill levels in swimmers.
Some people believe that best way to reinforce a skill is to practice it over and over. Correct. Some would also think that a long swim will provide plenty of opportunity to put skills into practise. There are 90 turns in 30x100m short course. That is a lot of turns, and even in 10x100m there are 30 turns. This would be excellent chance to practice turns and underwater skills if only they could hold the same skill level for the duration of the set.
The problem is as swimmers tire and fatigue in sets, they will get lazy and it will seem harder to replicate a turn on the 11th 100m of the set than it was to do it on the 1st rep. This will subsequently result in a poorer turn being carried out, possibly even an illegal turn. Now multiply the bad turns out for the rest of the set, that is potentially 57 or even more poor turns carried out with compromised technique. This just reinforces all the bad stuff you have just been teaching them not to do. This works for stroke technique, turns, underwaters, finishes, everything!
Ultimately it comes down to priorities. Do you want fit swimmers who will thrash their way through a race with poor efficiency or do you want skillful efficient swimmers who will become fit later in their development once they have mastered skills and technique?
Take the first example of swimmer I just gave, try re-teaching them a skill at age 13/14. Imagine how long that would take. Now ask yourself how long will it take to make a skillful swimmer fit at age 13/14? I know which task I'd rather have.
Keep it skillful and fun at a young age and you will have an easier, more rewarding job in a few years.
I'm open to any thoughts you may have on this.