Becoming a Champion: Talent Development

Adopted from the US Tennis Association, used with permission


There are three phases of talent development: 


  • Phase 1 : Introduction/Foundation
    • Approximate years in phase = 5
    • Age of athlete: 4.5-9.6 years
  • Phase 2: Refinement/Transitional
    • Approximate years in phase = 4
    • Age of athlete: 10.6-14.6
  • Phase 3: Elite Performance
    • Approximate years in phase = NA
    • Age of athlete: 15.4 +

Our focus will be on the final 2 phases and how it pertains to you as an athlete.


In the Refinement/Transitional Phase it’s important that you are still enjoying the sport. What are the things about swimming you love? Why do you come to practice every day? Being able to answer those questions and continually remind yourself of why you enjoy the sport will help keep you motivated as you progress through.


Don’t be afraid to want to win and strive for those goals, BUT what’s even more important than that is to give your best, consistent effort in practice and in competition. This is the phase where you start to understand the process of performing; just showing up to practice isn’t enough, but being focused, working hard, eating right and enough sleep are also major factors.


Having other activities outside of the pool is important so don’t forget to also keep your focus on school work, home responsibilities or possibly other sports you are good at. As you mature through this phase, take initiative to be more involved in decision making and your training.


In the final phase, remember who you are as a person and that you’re not just an athlete/swimmer. This is the phase where you are the main motivator and have control of your own destiny. Your equipment, knowing when meets are and the events you’re swimming, and being where you’re supposed to be is primarily your responsibility.


Remember that sports are a game of highs and lows and to work to stay emotionally even. What’s important to remember that many of the same themes will resurface from phase to phase. Be consistent, know your role as the athlete and continue to work on life skills and good sportsmanship throughout all phases.

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