O.K. It's been a busy quarter for me so far, but when I started this
thread, I promised to organize my own thoughts on the subject and post
them eventually. I don't know how organized they'll be but here goes.
First of all, I think there is a need for a new time standard system of
Based on what I personally use the current motivational times for, I like
the new percentage times for a couple of reasons. First of all, instead
of just telling the swimmer they achieved a certain predetermined goal, it
gives them some sort of feeling for where they stand in relationship to
the rest of the country. I think this is going to be a good motivator for
the younger kids who aren't necessarily getting out of state (or LSC)
meets very often.
Secondly, everyone will know how the time standards are established and
they will be flexible and dynamic, always representing the state of age
group swimming in our country as a whole.
I will qualify this support however on two points. The first is that as
with an statistical process, accuracy and completeness are big concerns.
I trust the USS national staff to be accurate in computing and posting the
percentages. Completeness however is something over which they will have
little control. Several people have raised concerns here that the data
may be skewed towards the more advanced swimmers as it is going to be the
more competitive meets that are going to be most likely to be reported.
The second is the coaches ability to understand, interpret, and
communicate the meaning of these standards to their swimmers. Again, the
point has been raised by several people that these standards have the
potential to be discouraging. It is going to be up to the coaches to take
responsibility for guiding their swimmers in the proper use and
interpretation of these standards (as with any standards). This brings us
to the next point that I want to make.
As a general practice, I completely the B and below times now. With my
better swimmers, I use the A, AA, AAA, etc. times to help motivate them
and assist them in setting goals. However, if a swimmer is not within
reasonable striking distance of at least an A time, we don't even talk
about motivational times. The focus with these swimmers in my program is
simply on swimming personal bests as often as possible. The main reason I
don't use the B and below times for these swimmers is twofold. First of
all, someone advised against adding D, E, and F times for obvious reasons
of negative conotation. Personally, I believe that if you use "A's" to
denote the upper levels, anything less than an A has some measure of this
problem. Secondly, in our LSC, we have three championship meets at the
end of the season (B, A, AA). Basically a AA time or above gets you into
AA's in that event. A time between A and AA gets you into A's and
anything less than an A you enter the B championship (even if it is a CC
time). So you see, in our area, there is very little importance in the
swimmers eyes in a time less than an A.
Now, usually, I try not to criticize something without offering at least a
suggestion of some sort. My suggestion would be to go with the current
plan for percentage times (if it can be done properly). In addition to
this I thought it might be useful to implement some kind of national
standard based on personal bests instead of times. For example, if you
swim four consecutive personal bests in an event then you are a "four star
swimmer." This can be carried as far as you need it. If a swimmer is
consistently improving like this, their learning will level out and is is
unlikely that kids will be achieving "25 star staus", etc. so the program
does not get out of hand. It would then be up to the coach to decide
which motivational program is most appropriate for each of their swimmers.
In this plan, most beginning swimmers, with consistent coaching, show
consistent improvement at the beginnings of their careers and will be
succsful in a program that focuses on personal bests. When they reach the
level that they are no longer consistenlty dropping time every single time
they swim, hopefully they will be in one of two categories. First of all,
they will be approaching what are now A, AA times etc. and can move on to
using the percentage standards. Or secondly, they will be in that small
minority that will just never excel at swimming. These people shouldn't
be discouraged from participating, but represent a small enough minority
that I feel it is up to individual coaches to decide how to motivate these
special cases, especially since the reasons for not excelling will
probablly vary greatly from instance to instance.
O.K., I'm done. I started this thread a while ago taling about the
current USS plan. I think we've all discussed it and now how we each feel
about it. Now I would like to reccomend that we push this discussion in a
different direction. I've begun it here. I challenge each of you coaches
(parents, swimmers and others too) to be creative and post your own ideas
for what a better system would be.
By the way, someone mentioned they were forwarding this info to someone at
USS. Has there been any response from USS about this discussion and if so
what was it?
In closing, I've noticed in the past that on occasion, when I've posted
long winded responses (what can I say, I like to hear myself type) like
this one threads have tended to die. This is an important subject for the
future of our sport. Please don't let that happen here. Let's hear your
Michael Lee Barnes - also know as - the original Iridescent Mouse