Delta Aquatics Progressions for Athlete Development
Delta Aquatics has been structured on the premise that there are four levels of progression in age group swimming that all swimmers regardless of age or experience must progress through. Each of the 6 training groups in our program are designed to help the swimmers learn the skills and experiences necessary to continue to develop in the sport of swimming.
Following is a description of the four levels of progression in age group swimming and the Delta practice groups which swimmers in that developmental range will be placed. Also included is a description of the goals and expectations for each level of development. Since the nature of youth athletics is very dynamic and constantly changing and swimmers cover a wide spectrum of abilities, the lower levels of development are divided into two training groups to cover those swimmers whose skills are emerging and those swimmers whose skills are more developed. These ideas are clearly demonstrated in our progressions chart found at the end of this page
Basic Skill Development: Ages 11 & Under- Fundamental and Developmental Groups
This phase is the introductory level of competitive swimming. In order to be in the Fundamental group of our program, swimmers must be able to swim a minimum of 25 yards freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke. Swimmers who have mastered all four strokes with an increased proficiency will be placed in the Developmental group.
In these groups the focus is almost entirely on the teaching of fundamentals and developing basic motor learning skills like balance and coordination in the water. Swimmers in this level should be practicing 2-3 times per week to develop a proper feel for the water. Swimmers in either of these developmental levels should also swim consistently 7-8 months out of the year. It is vitally important to make swimming fun and enjoyable at this level. The primary goal for the coaching staff at this level is to make the swimmers feel comfortable in the water and learn to love the sport of swimming.
In these levels, our coaches emphasize the correct fundamentals of all four competitive stokes. Our coaches feel it is important that all swimmers develop all four strokes and do not allow the swimmers to specialize in one stroke at this level. Our coaches have the willingness to sacrifice short term speed for long term efficiency. While this concept can sometimes work against a swimmer’s short-term success at this age, our coaches take a long-term approach to swimmer development. Once swimmers begin in our program, our goal is to give them the preparation and tools they need to be successful at the highest levels of competition and to make swimming a lifelong activity.
The majority of yardage done in these early years is of a low intensity and mainly technique-oriented. While doing this, we place a very heavy emphasis on kicking. Our coaches make kicking a high percentage of the conditioning work done at the Fundamental and Developmental levels.
In these levels, swimmers are encouraged to participate in other activities and sports. Our coaches believe physical activity and the experience of other sports increases the kinesthetic awareness and general athletic development of the child. Sports such as gymnastics and soccer have excellent carryover value. Our belief is the better the athlete, the better the swimmer.
Basic Training Development – Ages 11 to 14: Intermediate and Advanced Groups
Somewhere between the ages of 11 and 14, swimmers move into the second level the swimming progression. These swimmers will be placed in either our Intermediate or Advanced group of our age group program. Swimmers in the Intermediate Group are able to swim all four strokes while maintaining proper technique during low intensity interval work. As swimmers move from the Intermediate Group to the Advanced Group, the emphasis in practice begins to shift from one focused on skill acquisition and technique work, to one based on conditioning and physiological adaptation. Even though the focus is shifting toward conditioning and physiological development these groups are still teaching and developing the foundations of proper technique in all four strokes.
Our coaches are preparing the swimmers in these groups to compete in the longer IM and freestyle races for their age groups. Swimmers will not be allowed to specialize in only certain events. The practices will still focus on low intensity Aerobic conditioning and the swimmers weekly volume of swimming yardage will increase but their sound foundation of stroke technique should not be compromised. The coaches will still insist that kicking in all four strokes remain a large part of the weekly training plan. In some practices, kicking may comprise up to 40% of the volume.
In the later stages of this level of development, increasing the number of training sessions attended per week becomes a crucial element of the training. Swimmer in the Intermediate group should be attending three of the five practices offered and swimmers in the Advanced Group should be attending 4 of 6 practices offered. Also, swimmers in these groups should be swimming with Delta Aquatics throughout the entire year to maintain a consistency in training and continue to make improvements in stroke technique.
Finally, some light dry-land training and limited calisthenics is implemented into the training program at this level of development.
Blue Group: Progressive Training – Ages 13 to 18
Most swimmers move into this level of development around the age of 13. In this level of development, the volume and intensity of the practices increases and for the first time, more time is dedicated to creating physiological adaptations than to teaching the fundamentals of all four strokes. In an effort to maximize the anaerobic capacity of the pre-pubescent athlete, weekly training volume or yardage becomes the largest component of the training. Some of the more advanced swimmers will begin doing more anaerobic threshold work. This will result in the swimmers swimming at or faster than race pace for a greater percentage of the practices. Throughout this increase in training volume and intensity, the foundations of good stroke technique should not be compromised.
All swimmers in this level of development are trained for the 400 IM and the middle distance freestyle events. While some swimmers will begin to show potential in certain events and distances, there will be very little specialization in which strokes the swimmers train and compete in.
Swimmers in this level should attend 4 or 5 of the 6 offered practices each week during the school year. During the summer, swimmers in this level should be attending the second practice provided in the afternoon. Swimmers who have reached this level should also be considering whether their involvement in other sports and activities is impacting their swimming performances.
Finally, more advanced dry-land training is introduced at this level. The focus of these activities is increasing cardio-vascular conditioning and core body strength.
White Group: Advanced Training – Ages 14 & Over
Swimmers who possess the appropriate dedication, desire, experience, and talent move to the final level of development around the age of 14 or 15. The training program in the last phase of development is very demanding with a heavy emphasis on distance-based physiological training and maximizing the anaerobic capacity via increased threshold training.
In this group swimmers will do more training within the various energy systems and they will begin training in stroke and distance specialties. However, they still will be training and competing in a wide variety of events and distances. Too often, swimmers around this age experience changes in their bodies which result in a change in stroke specialization.
The training volume and intensity continues to rise at this level as does the commitment level. Swimmers are expected to maintain an 85 percent attendance record for all practices. This includes morning and evening practices. Swimmers in this level will continue to refine their stroke technique by making individual changes specific to their own stroke deficiencies. Technical precision and self-awareness are key components to success at the elite level. These swimmers will have made swimming their highest athletic priority and will not choose to begin other activities which may limit their ability to fully commit to excellence in the sport of swimming
The dry-land program becomes more intense as well. Dry-land practices will be held for an hour each day focusing on improving strength via free weights and core exercises and improving cardio-vascular condition via running and elliptical training.