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My daughter is 7. She loves swimming and joined a proper club about 6 months ago. She has also continued taking lessons with her brother who is a little behind her, just because she enjoys it.

She can swim 50m freestyle in around 38secs and breastroke in around 47 secs and she's noticeably faster than the other children in her club of a similar age. She has never actually competed in a gala/meet, because the minimum age is 8, so these are times recorded by the club coaches.

Currently she trains 3 days a week for an hour each time, plus a half hour "lesson".

The coach from the regional development squad came recently and invited her there to train. It means training 6 days a week in the pool (1.5 hours each) some of which are 5:00am starts, plus 2 days of evening dryland training (1 hour each)

Personally I think this is too much for a 7-year-old so I have been asking around for advice and there seems to be 2 competing views: 1. Train as often as possible (ie. do this new training she's been invited for) because the 3 major elements that hold a young swimming back are strength, general fitness, and technique all of which are worked on intensively in this program. 2. Stick with the 3 days per week swim training, which will also work on the 3 elements just mentioned, but take up another sport/activity which complement swimming. Ones that have been suggested are synchronised swimming and gymnastics. She already does gymnastics once a week for an hour, and she also plays football (soccer) for another hour. Either of these could possibly be expanded as she enjoys them both. She is vaguely interested in synchro, but this is a little inconvenient for us, as it's not done at a centre near us. The argument for this approach seems to be that it won't burn her out as far as swimming is concerned, while at the same time it will develop her strength and fitness in ways that will complement swimming.

She seems quite keen to do this regional swim squad training, but she's also keen on doing a bit more football or gymnastics. She is OK at both, but not particularly good (so therefore room for a lot of improvement)

Basically I worry that the kind of training they have in mind for her is just too much for a 7-year-old and she will get fed up of swimming altogether, which would be a great shame. On the other hand, if she really has potential to do well in swimming, and this is the route that is required, then it also seems a shame not to give it a try.

Any advice/comment would be most welcome.

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That sounds like too much swim training to me for a 7-year-old. My kids do competitive swim training and I can't imagine getting them up for a 5AM start ! For one thing, what time will she to bed at night ? Getting enough sleep is just as important, if not more so, than the 3 elements you mentioned. It seems that young swimmers are pushed very hard at an early age. I think that a more gradual increase in training intensity is called for. If she trains for swimming 8 times per week at 7 years old, what will she be doing at age 8,9,10 and onwards, assuming she sticks with it ? 3 times a week at age 7 seems logical to me. Maybe at 9 she can go on to the more intense training program, then step it up again at 12 etc.

By the way, I am not a swim coach, just an interested parent.

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+1 for mentioning sleep - hadn't thought about that ! – P Sellaz Mar 2 '14 at 13:34
super early swim practice is pretty normal. I have some pretty clear memories of shivering on an outdoor pool deck somewhere around sunrise during summers growing up. – wax eagle Mar 3 '14 at 14:38

I will take the other approach. I support the new training. 1.5 hours is less than the 2 to 3 hours she'll be swimming in high school. If she is elite enough, then it will be even more time.

Burnout is always a concern. Something comforting is that Missy Franklin apparently had a very similar workout regimen to the one you're considering for your daughter. She swam a couple hours for 5 or 6 days a week and had two dryland days. And I knew a great swimmer who stopped club swimming a couple times. She always went back to it though.

I'm admittedly biased in the burnout realm. I favor the extra work instead. I was like your daughter - faster than all the swimmers my age. I only swam summers before high school though. I could beat anyone who swam only summers. But a lot of club swimmers blew me away. I watched so many swimmers join club, bulk up, fix their technique, and slowly catch and surpass me. I hated it, but my parents would never put me in year round. I still really wish I'd given it a try. Technique and bulk were everything I was missing. If she really wants to do it, I wouldn't try to hold her back. If she gets tired of the extra workout, she can always drop back to her current club for a while.

5 am is very early for a 7 year old. You will have to see if you can put her to bed early enough.

28.59 is the 10 and under girls record for 50 meters in USA Swimming. That means that for a national record, she would need to shave 10 seconds in 3 years. If breaking a national record wasn't so hard, I'd be inclined to think your daughter could get very close to that with the right training work.

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