2013 AGE GROUP Streamline Study
Scott Colby, Club Development Sport Performance Consultant
In 2013, USA Swimming did a casual study of age group swimmers’ ability to streamline effectively. Approximately 300 top swimmers age 12-17 were measured in two protocols:
1) 5-Meter Streamline Time
2)15-Meter Dolphin Kick Time
This “study” is meant to give “ballpark” parameters that successful swimmers at the ages tested are performing. The results show that there is a wide range of proficiency at the elite age group level. The tests were conducted using protocols that all coaches can easily duplicate at their own practice facility and motivate their athletes of similar age to meet or surpass the results gathered.
Camp Selection Process:
Swimmers must be a US citizen and can only attend the camp once. Only long course times from the previous season are considered. The athlete may not have attended any higher level camp or team.
Zone Select Camp Selection Criteria
USA Swimming annually conducts four Zone Select Camps (ZSC) in the May-June time frame. One camp is held in each zone (Eastern, Southern, Western, and Central). Each Zone’s invitees include 28 male and 28 female athletes. Selected girls must be age 12-13 at the time of performance. Selected boys must be age 13-14 at the time of performance. The selection process is:
1) First, 15 athletes of each gender are selected based IMX scores from the previous long course meters season according to the following:
a) Eight girls age 12 and eight boys age 13
b) Seven girls age 13 and seven boys age 14
2) Then, the fastest swimmer in each Zone in each Long Course Meters (LCM) Olympic event (excluding the 50 free, including the 800 and 1500 for both sexes) is invited for a total of 13 additional male and 13 additional female athletes. If a swimmer was already selected based on IMX score, the next fastest swimmer is selected in that event.
National Select Camp Selection Criteria
USA Swimming annually conducts one National Select Camp (NSC) in late October at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. (In Olympic years, the camp is conducted in January due to the USOC’s quadrennial pool closing for updates to the USOC pool. The results in this article come from the “2012” NSC held in January 2013. The National Select Camp invites 30 male and 30 female athletes. Selected girls must be age 14-16
at the time of performance.Selected boys must be age 16 or younger at the time of performance. The selection process follows.
1) First, the fastest two eligible qualifiers in each event are selected including the 800 and 1500 free for both genders and excluding the 50 freestyle.
2) Next, four athletes of each gender are selected based IMX scores from the previous long course meters season
according to the following:
a) Four girls age 14-15 at time of performance
b) Four boys age 15-16 at time of performance
The following tests were conducted to provide educational tools for home coaches. What a swimmer at this age does will not necessarily reflect future potential, but may indicate a need to work on the skills tested. The tests are clearly flawed with human use of stopwatches and no touchpads. However, this will closely approximate what most
coaches can do at their home pools with just a stopwatch.
1. 5-Meter Streamline Time
a. Swimmer begins in ready position (two feet and one hand on wall)
b. Upon a "Ready, Go" from the coach, the athlete will submerge, and streamline.
c. The manager/coach starts a watch when the feet leave the wall and stops the watch when the feet (toes) pass the flags. Flags should be set at 5 meters for long course. If possible a marker (orange cone) should be placed on the bottom of the pool at approximately the 8 meter mark so when the swimmer's face is over the cone, their feet will have passed the flags. (Note: 5 meters equals 5 yards plus 16¾ inches)
d. There are no pulls and no kicks allowed. Pulls/kicks result in a "DQ" and the trial is not recorded. The swimmer is given another chance. If the swimmer's feet do not make it to the flags, the trial is also not recorded and the swimmer is given another chance.
e. Swimmer may push off in any position (side, front, or back)
f. Each athlete’s two trials are recorded, with the fastest being used for the study.
2.15-Meter Dolphin Kick Time
a. Swimmer begins in ready position (two feet and one hand on wall)
b. Upon a "Ready, Go" from the coach, the athlete submerges, and pushes off the wall.
c. The manager/coach starts a watch when the feet leave the wall and stops the watch when the hands (fingertips) pass the 15 meter mark. If possible a marker (Ex: orange cone) should be placed on the bottom of the pool at 16 meters to ensure the athlete travels 15 meters.
d. Swimmer may push off in any position (side, front, diagonal, or back)
e. Each athlete’s two trials are recorded, with the fastest being used for the study.
The average of the top 5 swimmers’ time was used to determine the “Top” category. A simple “mean” average was calculated, and the range is simply the fastest and slowest.
1.The accuracy of these measurements needs to be taken into account. Hand held watches were used in lieu of electronic timing systems with touchpads, yielding some human error.
2.The athletes’ body build was not considered. Height and girth, as well as flexibility, power, and coordination have a profound effect on streamline ability and efficiency. These factors were not considered for simplicity’s sake. The bottom line of speed to measuring point was the only thing measured.
3.Testing the tempo of the kick as the athlete moves forward would provide significant data for the coach. Is the athlete kicking fast enough and do they slow the kick tempo as they approach 15 meters?
The wide ranges of times in each category show that even these advanced athletes have much room for improvement. The number of subjects sampled was very low for a study of this type. However, some general idea of how fast age group swimmers are traveling is now recorded.
In general, one would expect the swimmers’ times to decrease with age. While generally this is true, there were some anomalies in the data. One possible explanation is the variance in biological ages of the athletes. There can be up to a five year difference in biological age between two athletes of the same chronological age!
The boys improved from age 14 to 15, but got slower for the ages 16 and 17. This could be due to the smaller number of subjects for ages 16 and 17.
As one may expect, butterfly specialists seem to do the best on the 15 meter streamline with dolphin kick. Similarly, the distance (400/800/1500 freestyle) are the weakest. One may also assume that many programs have not allowed too much specialization at these younger ages, and most swimmers can do these skills relatively well.
One would expect the National Select Camp (NSC) swimmers’ skills to be superior to the Zone Select Camp (ZSC) swimmers’ skills as the athletes are older and typically more experienced. This held true for all categories except girls 5-Meter Streamline Time, where both camps tied in the average of the top times (2.6). They also shared about the same in the range for the 15-Meter Dolphin Kick Time. On the boys’ side, the Zone Select Campers top 5 were faster to the 15-meter mark than the National Select Campers.
It is difficult to make any conclusions off such a small sample group, but it is possible that coaches are increasingly emphasizing the underwater kick, leaving the top ZSC athletes to edge out the top NSC athletes.
Again, this “pseudo-study” is not intended to be the end-all authoritative study on the subject. Rather, we were after reasonable “ballpark” results that swimmers of a similar age can shoot for and surpass. The data provides approximate levels of measureable proficiency that coaches can duplicate in their practice facility and motivate their athletes of similar age.
The bottom line for coaches is; can athletes in your program keep up or streamline better than the fastest swimmers of a similar age? What is your team average for each age group? Use the arbitrary “Sample Streamline Ratings” chart included in this article to rate your swimmers skills, or make up your own!
Sample Streamline Ratings:
What follows below is a completely arbitrary rating system for motivating athletes to work on their streamlines. The Gold standard is loosely based on the average of the “Top” of each age. The Silver standard is loosely based on the average of all swimmers tested at each age and gender. Finally, the Bronze standards was selected simply by equaling the difference between Gold and Silver (If Gold 3.4, Silver 4.2, difference is .8, Therefore add .8 to Silver to get 5.0 for Bronze.)
For More Information on Elite Underwater Dolphin Kicking Technique
Watch the free webinar on demand: “Dolphin Kicking” by Russell Mark (April 12, 2012)
Go here: http://www.usaswimming.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabId=1920&Alias=Rainbow&Lang=en
Or navigate to:
Home / Member Resources / Coaches / Clinics & Workshops / Online Coach Clinics
Scroll down to: April 12, 2012 “Dolphin Kicking” by Russell Mark
Russell Mark, (USA Swimming National Team Division, High Performance Consultant), discusses the differences in Male/Female dolphin kicking, as the differences for 100m back/fly. He also discusses things the world’s best do to perform an efficient kick (Tempo, Time, Number of Kicks). Find out the best tempo and the importance of maintaining that tempo until breakout.
For a PDF of this article click here.