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USA swimming propaganda….

April 8, 2014

My son does competitive swimming.  I am proud of how well he swims.  I love to watch him swim.  But to be honest, at 9 years of age, I can tell that he will never be an Olympic swimmer (or even an Olympic caliber swimmer….probably less than 1/10000 chance to be of the caliber, and not even an NCAA level swimmer….less than 1/14).    I am investing hours and hours of my time and money into making him the best swimmer he can be under the constraints that we live.   For USA swimming,  by claiming he won’t be of that caliber….it appears I am speaking parental heresy….and they call this belief I have a “downright lie”.  I call the USA swimming blog post on their website pure propaganda.

But understand….I love how my son is.  I love that he likes to swim.  I love that he comes over to me and asks, “how did I do Dad?”.  To which I’ll answer honestly….you beat your time by 2 seconds….or you didn’t beat your best time.  But I loved watching you try.


So let’s go over the BS posted on USA swimming.

1. You must be a fast 10-year-old to be a fast 18-year-old.  WRONG!

ME: just go back and look at some of the major names in swimming, and you will see they have very fast times for 10 yos.  I did a casual search on the junior Olympic swimmers 10 yo times, and I cannot find ANY who do not have at least a AA time in their concentrated event at 10 years of age.  For those who do not know, AA is damned fast.   I know very fast swimmers with A times, but know none with AA, AAA, or AAAA times.  In my sphere of 9-10yos, there is not one 10 years of age with an AA time, only one swimmer who might potentially make an AA time at 10 years of age.    Of course AA times may not be NAG record setting, but for junior Olympians, AA is par for the course.  AAA is the “birdie”, and many have an  AAAA time….in golf parlance, an eagle.

But here is the propaganda USA swimming posts:

USA Swimming: ” The truth is, many London Olympians were not NAG record-setting 10-year-olds.”

ME:  Let’s read the claim again.  “You must be a fast 10-year old to be a fast 18 year old.”  It doesn’t say you have to be a NAG record setting 10 year old to be a fast 18 yo.     Look at Michael Phelps swim times, Katie Ledecky, and Missy Franklin and tell me they have average times at 10 years of age.  They are typically, AAA or AAAA kind of times (which is faster than AA!).    This is propaganda by the USA swimming.   My son has very average times for a 9yo (37 second 50 Free, is a “B”, “B” times in the backstroke, just shy of “BB” for the 50 breast stroke (his best stroke) and “B” times for the IM).  He might have a chance at “swimming really fast at 18” if he was swimming 28-29 second 50 Frees at 9 years of age.  (notice, even with a 28 second free at 9 years of age,  I did not say the Olympics were a sure thing…but any swimmer in the 28-29 sec 10 year range is at least in the elite arena).  And I am willing to bet, as my son ages and matures, he will develop into a sub 24 second 50 yard free-style swimmer, and probably a very decent breast stroker.  But in no way will he ever be Olympic material.  I doubt he’ll be NCAA caliber.

2. You must be tall to be fast.

ME:  I don’t know why this hits number 2.  In general, it is better to be long and lean to be fast.  One of the fastest 14 year olds in the state is on my son’s swim team and she is over 6 feet tall already.  She has a twin sister of the same genetic makeup, but is at least 6 inches shorter and swims about 5 seconds slower in the 50 free.  You don’t see too many 5 footer gymnast body types swimming in the Olympics.  and you don’t see any NBA-tall freaks of natures doing gymnastics.  So this is another stupid piece of propaganda that USA swimming posts.  Yes there is Muggsy Bogues of the NBA, a bizarre freak exception of an already rare class of athletes, but the NBA is a team sport and not an individual sport.  USA swimming refers to Rebecca Soni (5’8″) of the breast stroke fame (probably a stroke that requires the least height, and fast stroke count, and more on grace and finess) as the anti-tall exception.  But you don’t see Rebecca Soni out there during the back stroke events, now do you?  And it isn’t as if she is a shrimp either even though USA swimming admits she is small compared to her competition….Oh, by the way….why is her competition so much bigger?…usa swimming admits, “Soni is dwarfed by taller specimens like Jessica Hardy(6′) and Breeja Larson(6′) “.   Its almost as if USA swimming embeds a self-defeating argument for its argument that you don’t really have to be tall to be fast….just ignore Jessica Hardy and Breeja Larson.  While you are at it, ignore Ian Thorpe (6’5″), Michael Phelps (6’4″), Pieter Van Den Hoogenband (6’4″), Missy Franklin (6’1″), Ceasar Cielo (6’5″), Paul Biedermann (6’4″), Yannick Agnel (6’8″), Allison Schmitt (6’1″), Conor Dwyer (6’5″), Matt Grevers (6’8″), Nathan Adrian (6’7″), Dara Torres (6’0″), Florent Manaudou (6’6″), and Jason Lezak (6’4″) , Micah Lawrence (6’0”).  In fact, Ryan Lochte, is short at 6’2″…but trust USA swimming… don’t have to be tall to be fast.

The reality is this:  If your child is a smallish dynamo at 10 yo and is unlikely to bloom into a 6’0+ freak with an “ape index” > 0, even through he is fast at 10, he probably will lose his elite status by the time 18 years of age rolls around.  He might make it to the NCAA level, but odds are strongly against him becoming an Olympian.  That is just a fact.  I was a very good basketball player in my youth, but always was aware the odds were against me even going to the NCAA level because I wasn’t going to grow more than 6’0″+.  Today, I stand about 5’11 and 1/2″.

3. You need huge muscles

Well, this is where USA swimming and I agree.  It’s better to be a gazelle than an Arnold Schwarzenegger in the pool.  So what?  You don’t want to drag 250lbs of dense muscle through the water?  Michael Phelps at 6’4″ weighs 194lbs.  There is probably some diminishing returns on the amount of muscle you want to pack on vs the amount of mass you want to drag in the water.  What the magic number is, I haven’t a clue, but at 6’4″, and 194lbs,Phelps is probably close to optimal….Ryan Lochte, is two inches shorter, and weighs about the same.  Its somewhere in that ballpark for male swimmers.

4. You must be trained by a Hall of Fame coach.

Well, again….just how many “Hall of Fame” coaches are there anyway?  Was Bob Bowman a hall of fame coach before Michael Phelps?  You at least need a coach who will teach sound fundamentals and is knowledgeable about physiology, sports psychology, optimal training methods for athletic performance, hydrodynamics and the like.  My son is on a team with a coach who by any swim coach standard is very sub-average.  But I like her.  She cares, loves to coach,  and watches the kids closely to make sure they are behaving, and she keeps the practices on task.  So I am satisfied.  Plus,  I know my son is not going to the Olympics.   If I felt my son had an inkling of a chance, I would find a better coach.   I do enroll my son in swim camps to get some of the best swim coaching in the nation.  In fact, I’ll be at Stanford’s Nike swim camp this summer at some point with my son.

skipping ahead:

7. You must start swimming at age 6 or age 8 to be good.

Well, in general this sort of propaganda that is supposedly backed up by examples from USA swimming:

USA: “Many elite swimmers started “late.” Look at Ed Moses, 2000 Olympic silver medalist. He didn’t swim year-round until his senior year of high school.”

Watch the sleight of hand USA swimming pulls.  The claim is You must start swimming at age 6 or age 8 to be good.  USA swimming infers that Ed Moses started swimming “year round” not until as a senior in high school  The reality, Ed Moses was a swimmer who gave it up at 10 years of age.  So he was swimming before 10…perhaps 8.   The facts are loose with USA swimming because they are more interested in promoting their sport than telling the truth.   And who knows how much Ed Moses was swimming during the “non-swimming” years.  Plus,  I believe that those years at 8-10 are critical for building sound foundation in swimming.  Most if not all with rare exceptions of the Olympic or junior Olympic caliber, were swimming around 6 to 8 years of age.   USA swimming again, is lying.  USA swimming may find an unusual exception to the rule, but the rule by an large is not a myth or a lie, as usaswimming claims.  Basically, if you want to reach elite caliber, you better be in competitive mode by 8 years of age.

The later you start, the more you have to play catch-up.  My general observation of being a student in the sport (and an engineer by profession)   is that the earlier the start, the better the swimmer.  On two swim teams my son has swam for, those who started competitive swimming at 6 were better than those who started at 7, were better than those who started at 8, etc.  My son routinely beats 10-12yos in some events.  It just takes me a minute to go on USA swimming’s website to see that the 12 yos my son beats have less time in competitive swimming compared to my son.  And many of the kids who are faster than my son have more laps logged than my son.  And yes, it is possible (and certain) to get different rates of swim speed development….some kids are gifted in swimming and “get it”, but in general, my observation holds.   Starting late means you have a lot of catch-up to do.  And unless you are really athletic, physically strong, in peak fitness, and have a good body type for the sport, the hill will be steep.

I played competitive soccer from 7 years of age through high school.  In that sport, the later you started, you basically never caught up.  There were guys who played on my team who started in 6th grade (~12years), and they were never the caliber of soccer player as those who started at 7 years of age.   I’ve seen some late starters develop into fine soccer players, but it was obvious the difference between those who had always played from a young age  vs the late comers where were delayed by 3-4 years.

What goes into being a good swimmer, (most of these would apply to any sport)?  A combination of incredible personal motivation is primary,  hard work (second), competitive drive(third), good physical attributes (fourth) like being long and lean , God-given athleticism(5th),   a love for the sport (6th),  knowledgeable coaching(7th), peak physical fitness(8th), good facilities and equipment (9th) .  If you lack any of this, you will be handicapped into developing into Olympic caliber swimmer.

But you know, 99.999% of the population isn’t, and there is nothing wrong with it.    I am actually dismayed that USA swimming has to be so dishonest.

Why do they do it?  To discourage giving up early, and the squashing of dreams, I guess.  $$ is the lifeblood of the sport and USA feeds off of swim team and membership…ever notice its USA swimming….and not governed by a local body….do you think they have $$ motivation (national money at stake of huge number of swimmers…?  So they hire some propaganda BS artist to write an article in an attempt to give hope.

I mean really;…… do you put your child into a sport at a young age hoping they’ll be in the top .001% of their field at 18-22 years of age?  It was never my consideration because it is so unlikely to start….99.999% must be on the bottom….that is just a mathematical fact.  Maybe in some deranged equalitarian world will everyone swim world record times ever singe time they get into a pool.   My top motivations for my son is not so much that he swims fast (a secondary motivation for me, actually).  I want him to be a beautiful, elegant swimmer.  One who glides effortlessly across the water in any of the four strokes….that is my primary motivation for my son.    Since my son lacks the motivation, mental and competitive drive, the physical attributes needed for being a powerful swimmer, I rather he strives to swim beautifully.


But USA swimming has to post 8 lies about being fast which are mostly not myths or lies  at all….there is more truth to most of them than falsehood.

To be really fast, you better be fast at 10, you should be tall, you better make sacrifices by training hard,  the earlier you start swimming the more likelihood of success, you should go to an elite swim college with an elite program…notice Lochte was at Florida.  Missy Franklin is at Berkeley, Soni at USC.


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