The Junior Competitive Swimmer

The Junior Competitive Swimmer – Article by Gary Barclay

There are many new skills that children will learn when they move into a junior squad.

Children will develop the ability to train and to race effectively. The focus will be on improving already established skills and developing excellence in racing and training skills like streamlining, turns, starts and race pace.

Children will also develop their aerobic capacity which will assist them in other sports. There are many swimmers who have the fitness to play other sports at a higher level because of the improvements they have made in their aerobic capacity through swimming.

A good junior squad program will teach swimmers the effectiveness of propulsion through the water and how to overcome fatigue. Swimmers will also cover a greater distance in each session leading to improvements in their fitness.

Out of the water, coaches will begin to work on goal setting strategies and assisting children to develop other necessary skills. Once again a priority for this age group is to develop their swimming skills and to enjoy the sport.

“How many sessions should my child do?” is the most commonly asked question for children in this age range. It is difficult to provide a blanket answer for this question as each child will have a different background and will be at a different stage of physical and mental development.

The number of sessions a child trains will vary for each individual. The number of sessions a child trains will also depend on what other activities a child is doing during the week and the degree of seriousness the child has with their swimming.

Ultimately, the number of sessions your child trains will depend on what is being offered by your club and what goals the club has for its swimmers. While swimming training is most beneficial, there are many swimmers who do not have the opportunity or pool availability to do all their sessions in the water and they will need to improvise with dryland training.

To swim with correct technique at this age is critical in the development of every young swimmer. To improve a swimmer’s technique, the swimmer must have the fitness and the ability to swim many laps comfortably so they can concentrate on technique, rather than just trying to make the distance!


If your child wishes to participate in other sports or activities as well as swimming, then let them. While swimming training will take up a fair bit of their time, it is important that they enjoy as many experiences as possible at this age. There are many swimmers aged 10 to 12 years who train between 4 to 8 sessions per week and still enjoy participating in other sports, musicals, drama and art.

It is important for your child’s well-being that they remain involved in other sports or activities at this age. Swimming can be a very individual sport with a lot of time spent with your head in the water, unable to talk with friends or communicate using body language.

For 10 to 13 year olds there are many competitions available to compete in each year. In most Clubs, the child’s swimming coach will recommend appropriate meets for the swimmers to compete in. Appropriate competition selection provides the opportunity for the novice swimmer to the National Champion to participate in swim meets appropriate to their level.

Gary Barclay is a frequent contributor to Swim Parents Newsletter and is the author of “Swimming for Parents – The Ultimate Education Guide for Swimming Parents.”

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6 Responses to The Junior Competitive Swimmer

  1. Jorge Oyewusi September 29, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Thank you for the excellent materials I have received from you so far.
    As a Nigerian swim instructor teaching in Nigeria we have enormous challenges in the area of swimming as a sport. At best swimming is seen as a recreational sport and hardly ever as a competitive one in Nigeria specifically and in Africa generally. Your articles gives me pointers to how I can introduce the competitive edge to my pupils and the parents. Ultimately I hope to place a swimmer on the podium at an international meet. Thank you for your insightful articles once again, they have been really helpful.

    • Gary March 29, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

      Hi Jorge, Thank you for your kind words. I am constantly updating with answers to questions provided by swimmers, parents, swim teachers and coaches and this will help you further.

  2. John Dunne March 11, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    Thanks Gary. once again an invaluable article. My son is 9 and he swims around 4-4 sessions a week plus karate and one session of athletics.

    i am trying out your fly session with my son. I am not a coach so can’t touch his technique but still go through it. I added in one element just for fun. on his first four strokes without kicks or breathing we tried to beat each others distance after the four. I hope this doesnt mess up the pattern.


    John Dunne

    • Gary March 29, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

      Hi John,
      That’s great that you are working with your son on his butterfly. It sounds like you are both having fun.

  3. Rosemary Rova August 19, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    Thank you so much Gary for the invaluable articles you share with all of us. I have three daughters who swim competitively which is why my life revolves around swimming. I have been around pool deck as a parent for almost 12 years, just watching, listening and learning at the same time. I am a club coach (just attained my bronze licence) two months ago but am still very excited when I see articles from you. I would like to try out new things and to learn something about swimming wherever and whenever possible. Thank you again for all that you’ve shared and hope to continue learning from you.


    • Gary August 19, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

      Thanks so much Rosemary for your feedback and support. Good luck with your parenting and coaching. 🙂

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