Squad Structure and Placement Considerations
The Middlesbrough ASC structure is designed with the Long Term Athlete Development Model (LTAD) in mind. This model has been developed by British Swimming. Middlesbrough ASC, swimmers such as Commonwealth Gold Medallist, Rio 2016 Olympic Finalist, London 2012 Olympian and European Medalist; Aimee Willmott, Perry Gardner (British Champion 2015 200m Backstroke 17/18yrs, Youth Commonwealth Games 2015 representative and British National Medalist), Jack Baister (GB International Meet 2013, 3rd place in the 10k Open Water), Liam Bollands (British Championship 2015 Finalist in the 100m Breaststroke) and Joshua Grob (European IPC Swimming Championships 2016) demonstrate the success of this programme. We use LTAD as a guideline for the content, quantity and quality of the training necessary to maintain the progress of athletes at every stage of their development in the sport. These guidelines recognise that in a Club like Middlesbrough there will be a broad variation of swimmers. Their age, physical strengths and weaknesses, motivation, inherent skill and future potential will determine the position an individual will occupy within our Squads. Consequently, when we consider which Squad a swimmer fits in to, we have taken into account the following:
Racing performance is the normal benchmark applied by swimmers and parents when making judgments with respect to their place in the squads, this is understandable. At face value this seems the best method but is not necessarily the most important, particularly at the early stages of development. For instance, some very naturally gifted swimmers are able to swim very fast in competition, but do not cope with the physical demands of the daily training regime.
We do recognise the motivational value in setting out some objective training and competitive performance standards for the swimmers to achieve. Once a swimmer is showing promise and the coaching team feel they are ready for the next stage in their development, the coaching team will make a decision based on the best interests of the swimmer
Training performance is paramount when considering swimmers for promotion. The coaches have to be satisfied that the swimmers have the necessary skills, physical strength, application and resolve to benefit from joining the next stage of the scheme and to be able to cope with the increase in demand. Promoting a swimmer when they are not ready or equipped for the demand can have a negative effect on both performance and motivation, and can lead to injury.
Maturational Age v Chronological Age
We have all observed instances where a swimmer is ahead of others in maturational age, allowing their racing performance and their ability to cope with the training demands in advance of their peers. These swimmers’ long term development may not be best served by promoting them as their social and emotional development will be quite normal for their age and from this perspective it is important that they are able to continue to engage and mix with swimmers of their own peer group and take part at a level they are comfortable with. There may also be instances when we promote younger swimmers ahead of older swimmers if we believe it would be in their interest and they show particular ability and potential. This is not a reflection on the older swimmers, but a recognition that all swimmers develop at different rates.
Whilst some swimmers may well be physically capable of taking part in a challenging training regime, these same swimmers may not have the required level of self discipline, application and resolve to cope with the training. We have to be certain that swimmers have the correct level of maturity in this respect for them to benefit from being promoted.
A Good Attitude
A good attitude is a characteristic common to all accomplished sportsmen and sportswomen. This intends to embrace concepts such as a positive outlook, an eager and energetic approach to training, a sound work ethic, good timekeeping, fair play, team work and a willingness to cooperate and engage with their team mates and the coaching staff. Having a good attitude will become an increasingly important consideration factor for promotion as they progress through the Squads.
Aptitude and Potential
Between them, the coaching staff of Middlesbrough ASC shares a wealth of experience and knowledge in the sport of swimming. This gives them a unique appreciation of the potential of swimmers that is based on the above variables and, most importantly, personal observations and instincts. From time to time, therefore, some swimmers may be fast- tracked in spite of the normal promotions protocol. This may seem unfair but is in the best interest of the individual.
Optimum Age Limits
Middlesbrough ASC is structured in such a way that each level of the LTAD is catered for and the membership of the Squads reflects this in terms of the variables explained previously. The Squad structure is also designed to be progressive where the standards, level of commitment and the demands of the training programme increase at every stage.
There is no doubt that the most influential variable on performance is attendance at sessions. It has been accepted for a long time that there is a high correlation between good swimming performance and a consistently high level of attendance at all prescribed training sessions. The LTAD model provides guidelines in terms of the required frequency each week and duration of workouts recommended to fulfill the potential of the athlete at every stage of their development. We have tried to ensure that these guidelines are followed by the Squad structure at Middlesbrough ASC. At the same time we have tried to make the sessions available as flexible as possible for each Squad. Whilst we recognise that it is inevitable that swimmers may, on occasion, miss sessions for one reason or another, our position is that everyone in every Squad must be aiming for 100% attendance of the sessions prescribed. We will prescribe training attendance on an individual basis, however, should the attendance fall below that which is considered acceptable on a regular basis, the swimmers will find themselves challenged and at the same time encouraged to improve in order to retain their place in the Squad