Transition from age group swimming to university swimming
One of the keys to success for any strong swimmer is being able to transition from one age group to another. Since most swimmers stay in the same youth organisation, the transitions between youth age groups is not that difficult. Young swimmers move from group to group with their friends and often, their coaches follow them, too. Many times, the coaches are team parents, so they know most of the kids in the organisation. Even if they switch organisations, they are still in their local swimming community so the transitions are still easy to make.
Moving Away from the Local Support System
The difficulty for swimmers is moving from their younger age groups to a college swimming team. The biggest changes come from the fact that college swimmers no longer have the same support system that they had in their high school and younger years. Instead, they have the pressures of college and the pressures of ultra-competitive swimming. These pressures intensify for collegiate swimmers who are far from home, away from their families and local friends.
Sleep Becomes an Issue
Along with missing family and friends, new college swimmers often have issues with sleep. Most competitive swimmers are used to getting up early to get into the pool, but they are not used to being away from home with plenty of fun opportunities available every night of the week. High school offered a predictable schedule and parents were able to get their children to bed at a reasonable time, especially when they knew that morning practice was coming. But, college kids do not have curfews. They often have roommates who are not swimmers, so the impact of less sleep can create problems in the pool. The problems can be both physical and mental.
Nutritional Challenges Arise
Another issue for collegiate swimmers is nutrition. When high school swimmers are at home, their parents have control over what they eat (at least at home). But, this changes when the swimmer reaches college. The collegiate food options are not always the best for young athletes and not every collegiate swimming program has enough coaches to help swimmers work on their diets. Often, collegiate swimmers turn to nutritional supplements rather than eating healthy fruits, vegetables, proteins, and carbohydrates. When this is paired with lack of sleep, swimmers’ skills can decline.
Working with New Training Programs
Training is another issue that swimmers have to deal with when they move from youth swimming to collegiate programs. When high school kids begin looking for the perfect swimming programs, they will look for coaches who have training programs that they like. So, many high school kids will select programs that are similar to what they experienced in their youth swimming groups. Despite the similarities in programs, many swimmers need to get used to the training programs and the college pool. Add the issues that can come from lack of sleep and less-than-ideal nutrition and the trifecta can create some difficulties for transitioning swimmers.
Learning the Ins and Outs of College Athletics
The first year of college is a big change for most students, let alone students who are also athletes. While colleges do everything that they can to help their new student-athletes get acclimated to the new environment, no one knows now each student will react. It can be difficult for kids who were big stars in their local programs to move to a large university where there are plenty of big stars. It can also be challenging for students to swim against and with some of the best swimmers in the world. While many students do make a positive transition, it can take time. Some do not succeed and they stop swimming. Others excel and take in the opportunity to work with the best.
Participating in college athletics can be one of the most rewarding programs for young adults. Coaches, swimmers, and their trainers need to work together to ensure that the athletes get what they need to be successful.