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Raising a Swimmer – Part II: 11-12 Years

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In my first post about raising young swimmers (10 & under), I discussed possible swim meet & swim practice time commitments. I also outlined the basics your child would be learning and what experiences they might be learning from.

Now I’ll continue with the next age bracket, pre-high school, 11-14 year olds.

This age range encompasses two age groups that have very significant differences; so I’ll start with 11-12 age group (and save 13-14 year olds for my next post).

Swim Practice Frequency For 11-12 Age Group

Practices will likely be longer but not more frequent. One a day, six days of the week will likely be offered. Instead of being 60 to 75 minutes long, practices may last 75 to 100 minutes with added dryland activities. Dryland might include stretching, abdominal exercises, shoulder exercises, or running.

I firmly stand by my previous statement of never planning a missed workout. Do not plan on taking every Wednesday off- like as not something else will come up during the week at some point to cause another miss.

At this age kids are still trying to do everything. If your child is involved with swimming and an additional sport, make sure they honor their commitments. If Suzie has Tuesday violin lessons, can she attend a partial practice before or after? Ultimately, fitness is not the primary concern for this age – communicating and making good on their activity schedules should be the primary focus.

Swim Meets For 11-12 Age Group

At this level, dual session meets, preliminaries, and finals are possible. Preliminaries (prelims) take place in the morning, while finals take place after a break from competition in the afternoon. Not all swimmers make finals – finals qualification is a selection process of the morning’s top times. Sometimes only the 8 fastest will swim again, sometimes it is the top 16. I’ve seen finals are 32 swimmers deep – but not often more than that.

If your swimmer doesn’t make finals, consider having them attend anyway. They can learn about what happens during a finals session so they aren’t overwhelmed their first time out. Socialization and cheering for teammates makes for excellent team building, and builds athlete character to boot.

What lessons are learned?

Your swimmer is learning to honor commitments. They want to be at practices and meets because their friends are as well. They want to get better together, compete together, and have fun together. They are learning to make lifelong friends.

They begin to see results – the returns of their effort and commitment. They’re learning that if they work hard – good things happen! Coach is proud, my teammates are congratulating me, I earned a ribbon, achieved a personal best time- building confidence all the while.

Competitions and practices are teaching them how to be team players. They are learning how to be aggressive when exerting effort and being compassionate when a teammate fails to meet a goal.

Time is precious; swimming does demand a great deal of it. I hope you can see the trade value as we move through the ages and the lasting character it will bring your committed athlete.

Thank You Swim Parents!

Please let me know if you have any questions and watch for my next post on swim parenting for 13-14 year age group!

About Emily Milak

Emily Milak is a lifetime competitive swimmer living in Southeastern Wisconsin. Emily is a US National Team champion, NCAA champion, and USMS champion with extensive coaching experience. She is a product development consultant at Kiefer.

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