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Summer League Swimming: Bring it on!

Written By: Pam Swander


So how do you balance your child’s year-round team commitment with a summer league team?


Summer is right around the corner! School will be out before we know it and summer league teams are starting to round up their troops! Summer league teams are a fun and exciting experience for swimmers and families. So how do you balance your child’s year-round team commitment with a summer league team? Most year-round teams have expectations regarding participation in summer league programs. It is always best to understand and follow your team’s expectations. If your year-round team doesn’t offer their philosophy, I offer the following recommendations based on your child’s age and level of expertise.


10 and Under swimmers are highly encouraged to participate with their summer league teams. This is a great opportunity for them to show off the advances and improvement they’ve made throughout the year and build confidence. Having the full summer league experience may mean a lack of consistency in coaching and training which is important to maintaining technique. Consider having them swim with their summer league team and still practice with their year-round team once or twice a week


11–14-year-old beginner swimmers are also very much encouraged to participate with their summer league teams, and still practice with their year-round team 2-3 times per week. However, the ratio of year-round practices to summer league practices shifts as swimmers develop. More experienced swimmers representing their team at the championship meets will want to prioritize training with their year-round team to maintain technique and fitness. This will keep them on track to meet the demands of their championship races. If they must miss practice, it should be minimal, and they should understand the impact it might have on their own swimming.


Senior swimmers’ participation with summer league teams will vary in this group based on goals of the swimmer as well as their outside commitments. If they must miss practice, it should be minimal, and they should understand the impact it will have on their results. Sectional and above swimmers should always place a higher priority on year-round team commitments than on their outside commitments or summer league participation.


Summer League offers swimmers a beginning level of racing in a fun environment. The practices are fun-filled, short in duration and basic racing skills are taught. Meets are typically outside in the evenings with people all over the place cheering tor their team. Summer Leagues also tend to be the strongest feeder for year-round swim teams. Therefore, regardless of your son or daughter’s age or level of expertise, all year-round athletes should exhibit great work ethic and sportsmanship throughout the season.


Pam Swander is a veteran coach who has coached at every level of the sport from summer league to college. NCAA Division I coaching roles include Clemson University, Indiana University and University of South Carolina. Coach Swander has helped her teams and athletes achieve at the highest levels of the sport - Olympic Trials finalists, World and American world record holders, NCAA, SEC and Big10 Individual Champs and Big10 Championship team titles. Over her college coaching career, she has garnered international experience by accompanying many of her athletes to international meets and championships, including the 2008 Short Course World Championships in Manchester, England where Kate Zubkova won a silver medal while representing Ukraine and IU. At the club level while serving as South Carolina Swim Club’s Head Coach (2016-2018) the club achieved Bronze Medal recognition in the USA Swimming Club Excellence Program and won 2016 LCM and 2017 SCY State Championships. For six years as North Regional Manager and Senior 1 coach at SwimMAC Carolina she oversaw eight Junior National Championship team titles. She achieved club management recognition while serving on SwimMAC’s leadership team helping MAC earn Gold Medal top honors in the USA Swimming Club Excellence Program. She collaborated with MAC coaches to develop and implement SwimMAC’s high-performance initiative. The program produced Olympian Kathleen Baker, and eighteen, 18-Under Olympic Trials qualifiers who went on to have outstanding college careers. As a result, CEO & Head Coach of SwimMAC Carolina, David Marsh received 2012 Developmental Coach of the Year award from USA Swimming for having the most 18-Under Olympic Trials qualifiers in the Nation. In addition to her elite-level coaching experience, Swander has developed community swim lesson curricula, coached High School, served as both the Director of USA Swimming’s Select camp, and the Vice Chair of Hospitality on the U.S. Olympic Trials Committee, and represented Indiana Swimming as a Delegate at the USA Swimming National Convention. Pam is married to Jeff Swander and their two children, Laura and Kevin, became top swimmers at Auburn University and Indiana University, respectively.


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