Developmental Squad: The first stage of swim team.
By: Signe Linville, Head Age Group Coach and ASCA Level 2
I am writing to tell you a little about what we are doing during practice with the younger squads. I hope this helps you understand more about what goes on in the pool.
In the Developmental Squad, the children are not only learning about competitive swimming technique, but also about their teammates, the sport, their kinesthetic abilities and swim-specific lingo. Most of all they are learning to feel confident in the pool and proud of the work that they do each day.
We begin each practice with a team meeting, during which we ask swimmers to say their name and shares their favorite “something”. Each day we choose a new topic for our “favorites”, ranging from our favorite book to our favorite type of apple. By the way, I was amazed by how many UVAC Developmental kids could name several different types of apples. This team-building activity is a very important exercise, and I am very proud to say we have encouraged every child, shy or not, to be comfortable standing up tall saying his or her name and favorite “something”. Once we are finished with our meeting, the children head to their lanes. Each practice is written carefully with a specific goal in mind. For the benefit of our swimmers, we have divided the Developmental Squad into three different workout groups. Each child is carefully placed in a group according to his or her technical ability and developmental level.
During the fall, we started with two weeks of Freestyle and two weeks of Backstroke. The coaches look to see who has natural body balance and feel for the water. After the initial four weeks, swimmers who demonstrate some proficiency in the two long-axis strokes then begin to learn the short-axis strokes: Breaststroke and Butterfly. Each stroke is taught in a progressive manner, allowing swimmers to build new skills on those previously learned. This is why it might look like we are doing a lot of the same thing. We give priority to teaching foundational skills and developing excellent stroke technique not to swimming “garbage” yardage (yards for the sake of yards). We are firm believers that it is very important to have a strong stroke foundation upon which to build fast, happy swimmers. Our goal is that each child swims each stroke correctly. This will give them confidence in practice and races and will help lower the rate of injuries; especially as they get older and start to add substantial yardage.
Swimming is an extremely difficult sport to master. To optimize the learning environment, we try to minimize distractions. During Developmental practices we turn the radio off to minimize external noise and our group swims at the far side of the pool, away from the leisure pool which is so interesting and WAY too much fun. Another benefit of practicing on the far side is that parents may now watch their swimmers from the stands. It is common practice in many swim clubs throughout the country to not allow parents to watch practice because Moms and Dads can potentially be a significant visual distraction. We welcome you to enjoy watching your kids move through the water and we ask that you allow them to put all their focus on us during practice. We have your kids, at most, for 45 minutes, 3 times a week after a long day at school. We want to use every bit of time with them for learning this wonderful sport. We are not trying to just create fast swimmers; we are helping to develop outstanding young people with great self-confidence, strong values and ZEST for life.