What type of nutrition is good for a swimmer?

To access a nutrition tracker, log onto USA Swimming at http://www.usaswimming and create an account by clicking "sign in" at the top right of the screen.  Follow the directions, then go to the Parent Tab and go to click on "Parent Resources" on the left, then scroll down to "Nutrition".

When is a good time to start swimming?  Do you have to be a fast swimmer to make the team? Anytime!  The seasons begin in late August and mid-March so those would be the BEST times to begin.  But you are always welcome and can start up at any time!!

The Ags is open to anyone with an interest in swimming who can swim at least 25 yards of the pool unassisted.  Although some swimmers will go on to swim in college and at national meets, many others will simply have a lot of fun, get great exercise and compete against other swimmers at the same level as themselves!

At what age should swimmers start year-round swimming?  Can I join a club like AGS if I'm already swimming for my high school and/or neighborhood summer league team? Many athletes starting with the AGS have been exposed to swimming with Northwest Aquatic League (NWAL).  This is a great way to begin competitive swimming.  Most of the faster swimmers involved in NWAL are also training with a United States Swimming (USA) team.  This greatly enhances their stroke technique and endurance.

But this type of regimen is not for every swimmer.  When an athlete’s interest is strong enough to warrant training with a USA Team like the AGS, we suggest that they begin in either our Novice or Age Group Development programs.  This introduction to competitive training will ease the transition between the two different platforms.

Year-round swimming should generally be attempted only by athletes seven (7) years old and older.  Swimming should be fun, not a chore (they have enough chores to do outside of the pool!)

The high school and summer league seasons are too short for those that love to swim.  Our Gold, Juniors and Elite programs always have high school swimmers who train with AGS as well as their school during the year.  We even have programs, Senior and HS Auxiliary, specifically for the High School swimmer who wants additional training time to increase their chances of high school success.  Also, the majority of high school swimmers that advance to regional and state meets and the summer league swimmers who go to the top Invitationals are "year-round" swimmers.  Coaches are well aware that many swimmers are swimming for both teams.  They will work together to make your season as successful as possible. 

Swimmers from our age group program frequently do both Summer League and AGS at the same time during the summer. Only swimmers in the Junior and Senior groups (our top training groups) are asked to refrain from summer league swimming due to their training requirements

If you have any questions about what is best for your swimmer, please ask your coach about what they suggest.

How often should my swimmer attend practice? Each program has a maximum number of practices per week that your swimmer may attend.  Your coach will probably suggest that your swimmer attend the maximum number per week but might recommend that your athlete attend fewer practices depending on ability.  Younger and less experienced swimmers should probably not come to the maximum number of practices allowed each week so that they become acclimated to the regimen of the physical exercise.

The number of practices is established by the coaches to maximize the effectiveness of the program.  This also helps to maintain the level of development of each athlete.   By adhering to these guidelines, swimmers have a better chance of not only succeeding but continuing their interest in the sport of swimming.

If you have any questions about what is best for your swimmer, please ask your coach about what they suggest.

When will my swimmer be ready to move up to the next level in practices? Your swimmer's coach will look for various things in practice to determine when your swimmer is ready to move up to the next level.  To move from novice to the age group level, coaches will look for proficiency in all four strokes, moderate endurance and proper technique.  To move from the age group to senior development level a coach will look at a swimmer's meet times and for the ability to maintain their endurance for a longer period of time.

Swimmer's who start out with the novice group should be ready to move up within 6-12 months, depending upon the number of practices attended and swimmer's ability.

It is important not to move a swimmer up from one level to the next too quickly.  The swimmer must build their confidence and knowledge and be ready for the next level.  However, it is also important not to hold a swimmer back when he/she is ready for the next level.

Feel free to talk to your swimmer's coach to find out when your swimmer might be ready for the next level.

What is USA Swimming? USA Swimming is the National Governing Body for the sport of swimming.  They administer competitive swimming in accordance with the Amateur Sports Act and provide programs and services for our members, supporters, affiliates and the interested public.  They value these members of the swimming community, and the staff and volunteers who serve them.  They are committed to excellence and the improvement of our sport.  Additional information can be found on their website.
Why is stroke technique so important? Stroke technique is the basis of efficient and productive strokes.  By continually updating and introducing new stroke drills, athletes are more apt to perform better strokes which will result in faster times at swim meets.

Another thing to consider is that most young adults are growing quickly and the brain sometimes has a problem with "updating" the knowledge that the body is bigger, the arms are longer, and the muscles are stronger.  By continually doing the drills and helping the child to adapt to their ever changing body, they are able to maintain speed and endurance needed for their races at meets.

Coaches also use the strategy of changing the drills as often as possible so that the athlete has to make a continuous effort to do the new stroke drill correctly.  This insures that they are actually thinking when doing the drills.   When the same drills are repeated over and over, the swimmer loses interest and does not perform the drill adequately even though it is a good drill that enhances the attributes for fast swimming.

What are realistic goals and how can my parents help me achieve these goals?

Goals are specific to each swimmer.  Goals for the season can be outlined at the beginning of the season with the expectation of altering those goals if the process either becomes more stagnant or more elevated.  Goals should be carefully thought out by the swimmer and coach.  Each swimmer (usually 11 years old and older) should write down these goals and discuss them with the coach to get their input.

These goals are usually planned for the end of the season swims but interim goals are also a consideration.  By planning steps to be achieved through the season, the athlete becomes more confident of their end-of-the-season goals.  And again, these can also be adjusted during the season to accommodate changes in training, physical conditioning, swimmer's mental intensity, etc.

Parents should support the swimmer in their acquisition of these projected accomplishments.   Athletes are more likely to achieve goals if they feel that their parents believe in what they are doing and that they can do what they set out to do.  Coaches have a lot of experience in helping to direct swimmers toward goals.  This is why it is important that the athlete and coach agree on goals and that the parents support those decisions.

If for some reason the parents do not agree with the goals, they should address these concerns with the coach without the swimmer being present.  This way, the coach can explain the reasoning behind the decisions and illuminate the parent as to their athlete's frame of mind while forging these goals.  The coach/swimmer relationship can therefore be maintained.

If you have any specific questions about goals and your swimmer, please contact your coach and set up a time to discuss your concerns.

How do I know what my potentials are as a swimmer? Every child has their own potential.  The most amazing part is that children change so much over the years that it is almost impossible to predict what their potential will be.

A child's current potential has very little to do with their future potential.  The biggest influencing factor for a child is how much fun and enjoyment they get out of their activity.  If they are not happy with what they are doing, it doesn't matter how much "potential" they have if they quit the sport.

Youngsters come to swimming because they feel needed and wanted; they have a special bond with their teammates and coach; they enjoy swimming for the fun of it; and they are willing to give up their time to do this activity.

If these basic ingredients are achieved, the "potential" of a swimmer is greatly enhanced because they believe in themselves.  This attribute in itself is a very powerful motivator.  When a child is empowered to direct their own future, they become very self-confident and mature young adults.       

How can I stay focused on continuing to do well when I have had a disappointing season? Every swimmer will endure a moment in their development where they will have a period of time where they don't seem to be improving.  There are many factors involved that can cause an athlete to have a "slump" in their performance.

When youngsters enter the swimming program, they are inundated with new information to help them swim faster.   This information is directly transferred to their times which drop dramatically over a period of time as they develop their stroke technique.

As a child grows older, they will notice that they do not do their best time every time that they swim an event.   The most experienced swimmers will only see drops in time once or twice a year when they are at their physical perfection and at a championship meet. 

Seasons that do not produce better times are usually ones where there have been a lot of changes.  These changes include: changes in training routine; changes in body composition (i.e. weight gain, weight loss, height increase, etc.); changes in stress levels (i.e. home life, school grades, etc.); or change in personal goals or evaluations.

Since many factors are involved in these disappointing seasons, it is usually difficult for a coach or parent to effectively speculate as to the "cause" of the season results.  Athletes who have been involved in a sport for longer periods of time will learn that these "slumps" are normal (undesirable, none the less) in their development.  If they are able to continue with the positive attitude that got them to the point at which they are now, then they will have a much better probability of continuing their success in future seasons.

Should I swim when I am sick? Swimmers are faced with illness during the year.  Sometimes it is acceptable to come to practice when you are not feeling in the best of health.  Here are some guidelines to follow:
  1. Whenever you have a fever, don't come to practice.
  2. If you are only affected by a cold that does not involve either an elevated temperature or a cough, it is acceptable to come to practice.


The general rule is that if it is neck up - it's OK to come to practice.  If it involves neck down, don't come to practice.


Warning signs of getting ill:

  1. Bad breath (yes, it's true)
  2. Headache
  3. Body aches


Here are some tips on how to prevent yourself from getting sick:

  1. Wash your hands regularly during the day (very important)
  2. Don't put your fingers in you eyes, mouth or nose
  3. Drink plenty of fluids
  4. Get enough sleep
How do I get noticed by colleges if I swim both high school and USA?

Times that are posted at major swim meets that include both high school state and USA competition (such as Sectionals) in both Swimming World Magazine and on internet sites such as United States Swimming homepage.  College coaches and their assistants constantly review these times and may sometimes contact the coach of a swimmer to find out about how the team trains and prepares.  They are not allowed to contact the swimmer or ask about certain swimmers because of NCAA (the governing body of college athletics) rules.


Sometimes coaches of swimmers will inform college coaches by calling or writing a letter to let them know of potential swimmer's abilities.  This is usually done when a swimmer is interested in a smaller college or university.  These colleges have fewer resources and rely on tips like these to recruit swimmers who may not be at the national level.


If an athlete is interested in finding out about what is available to them, the best thing to do is to start looking into many resources and gather as much information about colleges that they may be interested in attending.  After compiling this list, contact the coach at the college of their top choices and find out what is available.  Athletes who do not have national time standards may want to start at smaller colleges and find out what is available at those schools first.

It is a good idea to start looking when a swimmer is a junior in high school.  This will help them make better choices when they are a senior because they have more information and are prepared in their selection.

About USA Meets:

Where are the meets held? Most meets are in the Houston area.  Occasionally, the club travels to an out of town meet in Texas or even other states. The best way to get an idea of exactly where meets are held during a typical season is to look over the schedules on the Meet Schedule page.
When are the meets held and how long do they last? They are usually scheduled for Friday night (6:30-9), Saturday and Sunday (9am-1pm).  These times are approximate.  Sometimes the meets are only Saturday and Sunday.  The events scheduled for Friday night are usually longer distances for older kids. (500 Free, 400 IM, etc.) Although the start times are pretty consistent the finish times vary widely depending on the number of swimmers entered.  Timelines for meets are posted the Wednesday before the start of each meet and will tell you when your swimmer's events are and how long the meet will last.
Can I use my best summer league times when I enter a meet? No, you can only use times from a sanctioned USA meet.  You are allowed to enter a meet without an entry time if you've never swum the event at a USA meet.  It's referred to as entering with a "no time" (NT).
How much does it cost to enter a meet? Typical costs for a Gulf hosted meet is about $5.25 per individual event if you enter ahead of time. If you wait until the day of the meet and "enter on deck" you will be charged double.  Fees are typically higher for championship meets (TAGS, Nationals, etc.)  Also, prices for heat sheets are usually about $5.  ($10 for championships and big invitationals)
Where do my seed times come from that are in the heat sheet? The team keeps a database of all times swam by each swimmer.  When the events you've chosen for a meet are entered into the computer it selects your best time for that stroke and distance to use as your seed time.
What does it mean to "circle in". At meets, the host team will post a list of all swimmers who have entered each event.  You must find your name on the list for each event that you intend to swim and circle the number next to it. This tells the host team that you are there and you still intend to swim the event.  If you do not want to swim a particular event then do NOT circle in for that event.  The list for each event will be taken to the scoring computer about 45 minutes prior to the expected start time.  If the number next to your name is not circled then you will be scratched from the event.  If you DO circle in and then do NOT show up when your heat is called to the blocks you will be penalized by being fined $5 by the Gulf Board.
What is meant by "Short Course" and "Long Course"? These terms generally refer to the length of a pool.  Short Course is a 25 yard (or meter) pool and Long Course is a 50 meter pool.  However, the names are also used for the two seasons in USA Swimming.  September to March is the Short Course season when meets are held in 25 yard pools.  April to August is the Long Course season as meets are held in 50 meter pools.  Most 50 meter pools can be configured as either long course or short course by running lane ropes length-wise or width-wise or by inserting a bulkhead in the middle of the pool.
I've heard people refer to "B & Under" and "A & Up" meets. What does that mean? USA Swimming publishes time standards for boys and girls by age group that can be used as a scale to gauge a swimmer's level of achievement in each event.  They are, from slowest to fastest, B, BB, A, AA, AAA & AAAA.  Trying to reach the next level in a particular event can be motivational to swimmers.  Meets are often restricted to swimmers above or below a certain level to limit the number of entries.  For example, to enter an event at an A & Up meet you must have an A time or better in that event.  Other times age is used to limit entries to a manageable number. (11 & Up, 10 & Under)

For Parents

Why can't I go on the deck during practice?
Your athlete is totally involved with their training as soon as they get in the pool.  Your swimmer's coach is actively communicating with all of the children in the pool.  The coach's attention is directed toward organized instruction of each practice. 
Each coach is focused on performing their function correcting stroke and directing training.  Distractions must be minimized for the coach to maintain their attention on your athlete and all of the other swimmers in the pool. 
The coaches are certified in safety and are responsible for the security of the swimmers in the pool and on the deck.  Not only is there a safety issue but the distractions deter from every child in the program from getting their coach's total attention.
Please consider this when you need to confer with your coach.   Coaches should only be contacted before or after practices on the pool deck.   If you want to have a more private conversation, we suggest that both of you agree to an alternate site or time to talk on the telephone.
Why are they doing
all those funny
looking drills?
Each of the four competitive strokes is a very complex combination of muscle movements.  The athlete must master the correct movements in the stroke to not only conform to the rules of each stroke but be efficient as well.
Stroke drills are to separate specific movements in a stroke so that the athlete can master that movement without having to concentrate on the entire stroke at one time.  By repetitively mastering each movement through drills, the swimmer is able to put together these mastered movements into a more efficient stroke.
Drills are also a way to help diversify the practice.  They are used in conjunction to normal training as a "warm-down," or active recovery.   It also reminds the swimmers how to do their strokes correctly when they become fatigued.  By mastering these drills, they are helping to insure that they continue to improve in form and efficiency.
Is my swimmer progressing normally?
As outlined above, every child has their own schedule of improvement.  It is dependant on not only physiological and psychological factors but also on outside influences. 
These outside conditions include most prominently their coach and their parents.  If all factors are positive then, yes, your child is progressing normally.  If some parts of their development is not being met, then no.  There are so many factors to consider that it is difficult to accurately give any parent (or swimmer for that matter) an absolute answer.
Coaches do their best to enrich the athletes in their program to the best of their ability.  Some programs prosper better than others because those coaches who understand that the more positives that can be included in a swimmer's agenda, then more positive results will ensue.
As parents, if you are the greatest supporter and comforter of your child, you are giving them the solid footing to stand on their own and become self-confident.  We all learn the most when we are open to change and feel confident in whatever we are doing.

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