The American Development Model (ADM) is a concerted effort between the United States Olympic Committee and its National Governing Bodies of sport to apply long-term athlete development principles in a way that resonates with the culture of sport in the United States.
The model utilizes long-term athlete development concepts to promote sustained physical activity, participation in sport, and Olympic and Paralympic success. These concepts have been tailored to create a framework for developing American youth through sport. (From "Rebuilding Athletes in America", USOC 2015)
USA Swimming had previously created an ADM type document called the Progressions for Athlete Development. This document went through an extensive two-year review process led by USA Swimming's National Age Group Development Committee and a number of prominent age group coaches and clubs throughout the country.
The American Development Model for Swimming comprises six levels of development, which encompass four critical areas to help a coach guide the journey for each and every athlete. When an athlete has "graduated" from the sixth level they should be competing at USA Swimming's Sectional swim meets. The four areas are:
- Biomechanical Progressions
- Physiological Progressions
- Character Development & Life Skills
- Psychological Skills
In addition to the four critical areas above, there are suggested training and competitive performance areas to help guide a coach.
When reading through the ADM, there may be some specific questions about the development of particular athletes. This is meant to be a tool or a yardstick to evaluate the overall development and progress of swimmers. The “how” of getting athletes to each and every milestone is completely up to the coach. Helping athletes reach these accomplishments will be the result of balancing the art and science of coaching.
ADM is not meant to create clone coaching. Will every athlete progress to level 6? No. Will every athlete excel at the same pace? No. Can an athlete make it to the upper levels by virtue of his or her talent and achievements? Yes, but only in the categories of training parameters and competitive performance. The athlete could be at level 4 in character development for his or her entire life. In other cases, just the opposite is true. There are kids who are head and shoulders above others when it comes to life skills such as making a commitment and having a work ethic, but unfortunately, some of these athletes will never make a junior championship cut. These athletes may be level 6 in the character development category, but they may never achieve higher than level 3 or 4 in the competitive performance area. We hope that the progressions will help you address the full development of each one of your swimmers.
It is important to keep in mind that all aspects of development do not occur at an exact rate and at the same time. We know that physical development occurs in spurts. An athlete may experience a big improvement in the training or the competitive components, but he or she may still lag behind in the psychological area. Each swimmer’s journey proceeds at an individual pace, with many different levels of success. These progressions can be helpful in creating a career plan for the development of swimmers.In the future, there will be more information available on each of the items with hyperlinks to specific examples of how a coach would accomplish many of the items in the document.