During the Spring months each year, many upper level/pre-competitive swimmers who are a part of the Excel program begin to explore the option of joining a swim team for the summer months. Obviously, here at Excel we are HUGE advocates of children making that next step, should they choose (topic for another blog post 🙂 ), but it is extremely important that the child and family find the right program for them. Here are 4 areas to research when exploring the potential of joining a swim team-
The coaches within a swim team will have a huge impact on your child. It is important that you as a parent are comfortable with the individuals who are going to be working with your athlete every practice. There are many different personalities out there, and many different coaching styles. When looking at a team, don’t be afraid to ask to observe a practice or two and see how the coaches engage and communicate the athletes. After the practices, ask questions to get the know the coach a bit better and see if they may be a good fit for your child.
One of the great things about the sport of swimming is that there are many different levels, not only with meets, but also with teams. Be honest with yourself and your swimmer when discussing how much of a commitment you both would like to make to the sport. There is no right or wrong answer, only what fits best for you! Some swim teams will have more relaxed policies (little no attendance or meet requirements with more of an emphasis on introducing the sport to newer athletes) to more strict policies that require a specific attendance percentage or meet requirements. This aspect of choosing a team comes down to what fits your family’s needs, and what you feel most comfortable doing for the upcoming season.
As the old saying goes….location, location, location! Depending on how you answer tip number 2 (what is your commitment level), location of your swim team will also play a large role in your decision. How far do you want to drive to and from practice each day? Are the swimmers on the team and the friendships your child develops going to carry over into school because most of the swimmers attend the same district? Again, like all tips, this is another preference based on what fits best for your family, but should absolutely be considered when looking into local programs.
Swim team culture and structure
Finally, looking into the culture and structure of a swim team will help give you an idea of the program’s overall goals for your child, and a basic idea of the driving forces behind the team. Is the team emphasizing fun, competition, or something in the middle? Does there appear to be a structured flow of levels within the program (8 year olds up through 18 year olds separated into different groups), or is the team more heavily weighted within a certain age group (ie many more 12 and unders than 13 and overs). Does the team appear to have sound leadership from the coaching staff and/or parent volunteers in terms of organization and communication? These are all factors that will play into both your child and your family’s experience with the team and are always worth looking into, for both the short term, and the long term.
One of the great parts of living in the Capital Region is there are many options in terms of swim teams in the Albany area for children looking to make the jump into the competitive world. From club programs to summer league, and even modified and varsity options during the school year, there is certainly a program for everyone who is interested in becoming more involved in the sport!