When it comes to the question of what age a child should be to start swimming competitively, there’s no simple answer. Several different variables will come into play in making the right choice for each kid. In this article and the next (Part 2), we’ll explore some of the factors involved so you can make the decision that will be best for your child’s unique circumstances.
What Age Are Most Swimmers When They Start to Compete?
Depending on which organization you go with, many children in the United States will begin competitive swimming when they are between the ages of 8 and 12. By this age, many children who have gone through swimming lessons will have a good enough grasp on the fundamentals of swimming to start competing.
What Types of Organizations Host Swim Meets for Kids?
The YMCA has an eight-years-old and younger competition category. The USA Swimming program hosts swim meets where swimmers ages 10 and under can compete. Some local organizations begin competitive swimming at even younger ages. If you feel like your child may be ready to get involved in a competitive swim meet, check around with the organizations in your area to see if you can find one for their age group. Many municipal pools have local swim teams for kids.
How Do I Know if My Child is Ready for Competitive Swimming?
There are three main factors that you should consider when you’re trying to determine if your kid is ready for swimming competitions:
- the child’s desire,
- ability, and
- level of maturity.
Taking a hard, honest look at all three of these areas should help you to make the choice that will be in your child’s best interests. Ignoring one or more of them could harm your child physically or emotionally. Don’t base your decision on what everyone around you seems to be doing. As a concerned parent, you know your child better than anyone else does. You have the insight to be able to figure out if and when they are ready to compete.
(1) So let’s take a look at the first of our determining factors: desire.
Try to Determine if Your Child has a Desire to Swim Competitively
Many kids love to swim as an enjoyable pastime. They look forward to lazy summer days splashing around in the pool with their friends. But not all of these kids who are enthusiastic little “fish” enjoy swimming competitively. This is true whether a child is a strong swimmer or just a beginner. Don’t assume that just because your child is good at swimming they also want to be on the swim team.
If you think your kid may be ready to start swimming competition, bring the topic up casually. Let them know that you aren’t pressuring them to get involved. Be completely up front with them about the number of practices, the types of activities they’ll have to engage in during practice, and the commitment level that will be required of them. If they seem to understand and they seem eager to join the team, they may be ready.
In our Part 2, we’ll look at the two other factors you’ll want to consider: (2) Ability and (3) Maturity Levels.