If you're a club swimmer, swimming parent or swimming club volunteer then chances are you'll be involved in the County Age Group Championships happening right now all over the country. County Champs usually kick off in mid-January and run to early-March, they're a great way to introduce kids of all different ages to the atmosphere of a competitive swimming event.
It's a time when the whole community of swimmers, parents, coaches and volunteers in each region comes together to share their love of the sport (with a bit of healthy competition thrown in). This can be the first step on the road to Olympic success for some swimmers. A win at counties can be a signifier that you may be able to go on and secure a spot at Nationals, and then who knows!?
New Development Plan For Competitive Swimming
Two years ago the ASA revised their development plan for young competitive swimmers. A domestic competition review process was initiated by British Swimming’s Head of Performance Pathway. The review stated a visionary goal for the sport of ensuring that all participating swimmers have an enjoyable and fulfilling experience in swimming, and those who aspire to achieve Olympic success are fully supported in doing so.
“I am pleased with the new competition plan. I think it will be good for the development of swimmers who are coming through the ranks and aiming to be future Olympic Champions. I can also see how this would have supported me when I was a club coach and looking to find appropriate levels of competition for all of the levels of swimmer in the programme.” - David McNulty, Head Coach, Bath National Centre, British Swimming
One example of a swimmer who has risen through the ranks, competed at counties and nationals, then went on to international success is UK swimmer Adam Peaty. In the last 3 years he has gone from being relatively unknown to being the most talked about British swimmer! He's out there competing against the very people who inspired him not so long ago, and putting them to shame! Peaty has won several gold medals and broken a couple of world records in the last couple of years and continues to make headlines regularly.
Russ Barber, Director of Swimming & Head Coach at the City of Sheffield Swim Squad had this advice to share on the subject of moving up the competitive swimming ladder:
“Focus, focus, focus! Step 1: focus on getting the skills right AND the conditioning to maintain them in the race arena. Step 2: focus on performing to the best of your ability at the right time in the Qualifying window, to gain the invitation to the Summer Champs. Step 3: Repeat all that at the Summer Champs. Learning to do this takes time and this new process within the Competition restructure will provide our future Olympians with a better chance of succeeding when it really matters.”
Motivation and Ambition
When it comes down to it, success in any sport requires high levels of self motivation and self-driven ambition. The really successful elite swimmers have a burning passion for the sport and the drive to push their limits to constantly improve themselves. The new competition framework from British Swimming and the ASA aims to support young swimmers as they progress their skills on the road to international elite-level swimming. If they have the commitment and dedication to achieve their goals all of the support is there.
So, we hope that everyone has fun at County Champs this year and remember to give a lot of support to all the enthusiastic young athletes that could be representing us internationally in years to come.