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Swimmers Development Swimming Questions Questions
If you have a swimming development related question that you would like answered please email us and our swimming experts will answer it.

My husband is 5ft 8 and I am 5ft 4. Realistically our son is not going to be tall. At best 6ft. He is strong....but is this enough? how far do you think he can compete before his height becomes an issue?

There have been many good Olympians from many countries who are under 6ft. 

It’s hard to say at what age height will be the difference to the performance between two athletes…if at all for some.  So long as an athlete has the right mind-set and has done the preparation in training and competitions…they can do just about anything.

Australian Swimming Clubs

Australian Swimming Clubs  

My daughter just turned 13 years.  She is tall for her age, 5’ 8” with very long legs and a medium torso.  She has long arms and broad shoulders but does not seem to be getting the benefit of this.  Despite constant reminders from her coach she seems unable to “complete her stroke”, but always brings her hands out of the water just below her waist.  She also has a very weak flutter kick, except in the 50m sprint.  She hardly kicks at all in any race over 100m and insists that when she kicks she goes more slowly!  Yet, she loves to swim and compete.  Despite training 8-9 times per week her times have shown little improvement over the past year - long course:  50m free 31sec; 100m free 1.09; 200m free 2.26; 400m free 5.05; 800m free 10.25.  

What could possibly be wrong? 
Also, my second question, what are the best kind of fins to buy for such a child?

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for your email and support of

From my coaching experience, I have often found that children who grow quickly and are quite tall and have long limbs around 12 to 15 years also have a relative lack of strength relative to their size. 

In regards to completing her stroke – often when children who have long limbs and a good feel of the water want to swim many laps at a solid pace, they will pull out short to enable them to turn their arms over fast enough and move forward.  If your daughter did push back further, she would feel like she is going slower because her underwater stroke is taking longer than normal.  What is also happening is that if she pushes back further, her body will be moving forward through the water for an increased distance on every stroke, meaning that she will take less strokes per lap and become more efficient.  If she can practice pushing back further every day in every lap she swims she will gradually get stronger, become more comfortable using a longer stroke and will more than likely swim faster in the end.  It will take time, and a lot of concentration and focus on her behalf.

Often children with long legs will struggle with any kick until their muscle development catches up to the bone growth.  This will take time and is different for every person.  I encourage your daughter to keep practicing her kick as it does give you 20-30% of your forward propulsion in freestyle. 

Often children will plateau somewhere between 13 years and 15 years.  This is very normal and usually comes at a time when the body is either growing or there are changes taking place.  If she has plateaued for about a year, now would be a really good time for your daughter to really focus in training, especially in the quality sets and aim to swim faster than she ever has before in these sets.  By doing this she will not only train her body to swim fast, she will gain confidence each day she swims well in training and this will lead to confidence and improved performances in races.

In regards to fins, coaches seem to have different thoughts.  I lean towards short blade fins as they assist the swimmer to do a natural kick like they do without fins, however it gives them the extra propulsion and speed swimmers like when using fins.

Australian Swimming Clubs

Australian Swimming Clubs

My daughter loves her swimming. Although is a skillful swimmer she is smaller and skinnier than girls her age. This seems to disadvantage her.

What can I do to help her be stronger in the pool? I also wanted to know how many land and water sessions she should be doing at her age and what sort of break between sessions?


Hi Louise,
Every child will develop at a different rate and those who develop earlier will often achieve better results at a young age. As each child gets older, the rate of improvement from growth and development reduces and their improvement becomes more based on natural ability, frequency, duration, concentration and motivation or the athletes desire to achieve.

Without knowing your daughter’s age it is hard to be exact however it is often difficult to increase the size of a child if they are naturally skinny.

Dryland exercises using stretch cords may be an option and body weight exercises are also useful (sit ups, push ups, chin ups, burpees…).

As far as the number of sessions goes, I would need to know your daughters age and ability to guide you. I am currently writing a book to assist parents with young swimmers and below is an extract from a section that discusses the number of training sessions. These are of course my thoughts, however they may assist you.

“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 development. Ten year olds should be doing a minimum three sessions per week for one to 1 ½ hours each and many complete four. Strong 11 year old and 12 year old swimmers should be training 5 to 7 sessions per week if they wish to have the background to perform in competitive swimming in the short and long term future. Strong 13 year old swimmers should be completing 5 to 8 sessions each week.

The number of sessions a child trains will vary for each individual and the numbers provided above should be used as a guide only. 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 about swimming”.

If you are interested in knowing when the new book will be released
please register for updates.

Australian Swimming Clubs

What can I do to help her be stronger in the pool? I also wanted to know how many land and water sessions she should be doing at her age and what sort of break between sessions?

I have two sons who both train at least 6 times a week in swimming. One son, Mitchell, trains extremely hard and seems to be able to do everything that is asked of him, whereas my other son Thomas is unable to do everything that Mitchell does. Their coach is happy for Thomas to train a little bit less than Mitchell for the time being, however we are concerned that the gap between the two of them might widen.

Brian, Scarborough, WA

Dear Brian,
It is important for us to understand that there is great physical and psychological diversity in the human race. This diversity or variability is carried through to each individual's capability to train. Some people are able to train hard for long periods, whereas others are not as resilient.

Coaches are skilled at recognising a persons training capabilities and under the ideal condition will subject them to the appropriate routine. It is important that the parent has confidence in the coach’s judgement on these matters. Too much training or not enough training can end lead to the same result - poor performance.

It sounds like their coach is on the ball and looking after the needs of both your sons. I have no doubt that the coach will increase Mitchell’s training load when he can cope with it again.

Australian Swimming Clubs

Coaches are skilled at recognising a persons training capabilities

A book for competitive swimmers by Gary Barclay - A Great Resource for Swimmers, Parents and Coaches in Australia
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