YOUNGSTERS NEED |
by George E.
The danger in age-group swimming where youngsters still in lower
elementary school grades drill 20 to 25 hours a week is mental, not
physical, coaching experts in Michigan agree.
Boys and girls as young as eight will be included in the field of
more than 200 in the 10th annual American-Canadian dual meet at Patton
Pool this weekend. Competition begins at 2 p.m.
Most of the youngsters are products of a remarkably successful
program known as interval training. The device is credited with turning
swimming into one world record performance after another.
In many cases, swimmers do 50 timed sprints a day with only 30
seconds rest in between. They are told to go fast, but not all out. As
youngsters will, however, most swim each 50-yard sprint at top speed.
Does this seemingly punishing program burn up our swimmers at an
early age? Is it harmful?
Coaches Charles McCaffree of Michigan State, Gus Stager, of
Michigan, Rex Aubrey, of the Detroit Athletic Club, and Harry Hauck of
Patton Pool, agree young swimmers can't hurt themselves in the water --
under reasonable supervision.
"But youngsters can't swim in three of four events a week and still
have incentive," said McCaffree in pointing out what coaches consider a
real danger in age-group swimming.
"We should be careful to keep their interest. We shouldn't take
them too far too early.
"And we should be concerned about the rewards of these programs. A
hard working youngster gets so much attention sometimes there's nothing
left for him to shoot at later. Is it good to lose the desire to win at
the age of 17 or 18?"
Hauck, who has developed more young swimming stars in the past two
years at Patton Pool than any coach in the sport here, believes his boys
and girls need goals to aim at to maintain high levels of interest.
"They need something -- a goal -- to keep them going," Hauck said.
"Even a trip to Pontiac, Flint or Toledo for a meet. A coach must keep the
swimmer from having a mental lag."
"I don't worry about burning up a swimmer, whatever that is. I've
seen kids get out of the pool with hearts and lung pumping and their eyes
burning. Ten minutes later they're all over the pool.
"Some of the older boys look dead after a hard swim. Next thing
they are wrestling in the locker room."
Stager thinks the age-group programs tend to develop swimmers who
stick to the sport longer than those who begin competition at the high
"They seem to adjust themselves better to training," said the coach
of the 1960 U.S. men's Olympic team. "They have a longer span and seem to
do better in college than the others."
Aubrey, the DAC coach who represented Australia in the 1952 Olympic
games, offers and outside slant on the U.S. age-group program.
"It means Americans have world swimming by the tail," he said. "And
it looks as if the United States will be on top for another 10 years at
"Swimmers only burn out mentally. There are a myriad of things to
keep up incentive -- and that's a coach's job."