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Swimming level and GAW swim squads

In some sports athletes decide upon their specialist areas quite early. For example gymnastics. However, swimming is a sport in which children are given the opportunity to continually practice a wide range of disciplines and only specialise when they reach a high level of competition. Gateshead and Whickham’s squad structure is built around this concept with the provision of lots of opportunities for fun and competition, but all geared in the long term toward competitive swimming. Within this structure we loosely follow the six stages of the Amateur Swimming Associations (“ASA”) swimmer pathway: In this Pathway, the 6 stages are classified as

1.            The FUNdamentals

2.            Swim Skills – Pre Competition

3.            Swim Skills – Skill Development

4.            Training 2 Train

5.            Training 2 Compete

6.            Training 2 Win

Below are two ASA produced documents which provide more information about the pathway plus a extremely important guide as to what parents can do to support their child.

ASA – A shorter guide to Long Term Athlete Development

ASA – LTDA related to the journey through swimming

50 Things to help your child achieve

What follows is a full description of each squad and how we apply this pathway.

Learner Squad swimmers are in the FUNdamental stage of swimming, where learning new skills and activities should be both FUN and challenging. We also recommend that youngsters are given the opportunity to take part in a variety of sports to give them a greater vocabulary of physical skills. This also benefits their swimming as it will enhance their specific performance over the longer term.

In the Learner Squad our focus is on teaching our swimmers all 4 swimming strokes to ASA standards.

Academy swimmers are still primarily having FUN in the FUNdamental stage of swimming.

In Academy, swimmers will continue to focus on learning all 4 strokes and the basic laws of swimming.

We start to encourage our Academy swimmers to enter competitions. We do this by running a number of internal development competitions. Some of the swimmers in Academy Squad will be ready to represent our club in League competitions. For example, the Durham and District League (“Diddy League”). We also run a number of invitation galas where those with appropriate skills will be encouraged to enter.

Development has a very similar focus to Academy, still on having FUN and learning new Swim Skills. However, in Development we also start to build strength in all 4 strokes with starts and turns.

At Development level we start to introduce a minimum training criterion per week.

In addition to the competitions attended at Academy, our Development members starts to enter Gateshead and Whickham run Level 4 Meets, if they have appropriate skill.

Potential – Youth/Senior and Age Group is all about on Skill Development. The swimmers time in Potential generally coincides with the time in their life when they are physically at their peak for developing their motor skills. At this stage they learn and adapt physical skills quite quickly.

One point for parents to note: You should not be alarmed to see that girls are generally more advanced than boys at this stage.

In addition to competitions attended at Potential level some swimmers will also achieve qualifying times for County and Regional level competitions. We stress that chasing these qualifying times is not our objective and nor should it be the swimmers main aim. Not achieving this level is not a failure!! Swimmers will advance at different paces and parents must continue to support their children and help to keep swimming a fun activity.

Performance – Age Group fits well with the ‘Training 2 Train’ level of the swimmer pathway. It focuses on developing the swimmer’s aerobic capacity while at the same time maintaining technique. Good technique always improves the swimmers chance of overall success. Skill acquisition and building stamina should go hand in hand.

Performance – Age Group competition focus is on County, Regional and National level competitions. Qualifying times for these levels of competition have to be achieved while swimming qualifying times in local licensed competitions such as our own Level 4 Meet.

We like to see as many podium places as possible at this level of swimming, but our focus always remains on our overall objectives which are to allow athletes to achieve success over the longer term.

When selected, Performance – Age Group swimmers also start to compete in senior league competitions.

Performance – Youth/Senior equates to the ‘Training 2 Compete’ level of the swimmer pathway.

Performance – Youth/Senior is aimed at competitive and physical development. Land training starts to become an integral part of the swimmers training programme as does morning training. In order to fit in the number of sessions required for the Performance – Youth/Senior programme swimmers will be expected to attend a minimum number of sessions and some of those will occur early in the morning.

Competition Focus is on achieving qualifying times for County, Regional and National level competitions, with an aim to achieve podium places at these events.

On selection Performance – Youth/Senior swimmers will regularly compete in the National Swimming League sponsored by Arena. We aspire to reach even higher levels of competitive swimming performance.

Masters Squad – For swimmers aged 17 to 90+. A squad designed to allow ex age group competitors and fitness swimmers to keep swimming, training and competing. Masters can swim for fun or compete seriously at all levels up to Masters World Championship.

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