Age Group Swimming can be a lot of fun, but once you age up to 11-12, things can get depressing. Here is how you can deal with it, and what you should be doing for your swimmer.
Once boys hit the 11-12 age group, they suddenly find themselves the slowest kids at the meet. They went from A, AA, AAA or even AAAA times to barely A times if they are lucky. This time for boys is frustrating. Some kids hit puberty at age 10. We all remember those kids, who looked like minature bodybuilders at the meets, and won everything. And with that I will give a shoutout to Coley Stickles. Yeah you were one of those kids buddy! Coley today has gone far in the sport of swimming, now coaching his own PRO team down in Texas. Happy for the guy. But myself not being a swimmer like Coley, also made me realize how the majority of other swimmers felt. I spent most of my 11-12 swimming career trying to break 30 seconds in the 50Y Free. Once I hit puberty, I smashed through that barrier. Swimming is fun as long as you are getting results. Even dropping hundreths of a second was worth celebrating. That is why 11-12 is not much fun for most kids, as you tend to plateua. Some of this is just genetics, some of this is caused by other factors such as Diet, Sleep, Training.
Swimming is not a sport where the only times you are focused on swimming is when you drop the kids off for practice or for meets. This is a round the clock sport. This is something I have come to realize from my own experiences, and talking with other parents in multiple sports. The common thing with kids performing at the highest level of their sports is the lifestyle they live.
10+ hours of sleep a night. Sleep is when your body recovers both physically and mentally. If you don't get enough sleep your body and mind will not be ready for the next day's swim practice, or Meet. This is one place where I messed up bad as a kid. I usually wouldn't fall asleep til sometime after 11PM, then up a little before 7PM. When I say up, I don't mean gracefully rising to take on the day. I mean parent having to practically tear my groggy head out of bed. That is no way to take on the day. This is something I have been very strict on with my son. Head on pillow by 8PM, No electronics or Phones in bed. Up by 6:30AM.
This was one of the places I neglected the most growing up. It was the 80s and 90s. McDonalds was considered fine. Processed foods. Lots of Sugar. Soda... Ect... Grociery store visits and purchases were based on what the kids wanted which usually revolved around taste, and cost. This is no way to feed a swimmer. The thought that swimmers just need lots of carbs and calories is not correct. They need Carbs yes, but not a ton of sugar. They also need plenty of protien, and fat to support growth. I have seen some kids that look like sticks. Sure they are like 2% body fat, Abs, ect.. but they have very little muscle. If you are not eating enough to get a little soft, then I can promise you are not eating enough to grow. Remember your kid is likely swimming 3K - 5K yards every day, and at high intensity. This alone increases their metabolism, resulting in them burning even more calories out of the pool than in the pool. There is reason Michael Phelps ate 12K calories per day. Here is what I my son does for his Diet.
Off to School
Pickup from School
Arrive at Home
Time before Dinner
Back Home before bed
As you can see the focus is on getting plenty of complex carbs, and Protein. If we think he needs some extra fat in his diet we will add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to his eatmeal. The addition of Creme of Wheat is mainly for the Iron. Iron helps increase your blood's ability to carry oxygen. I personally have an iron deficiency, so in case he got that genetic gift from me I make sure to include foods rich in iron. Hydration is also very important. Not just water, by hydration which means plenty of electrolytes. That is where the Liquid IV packet comes in. Its got way more electrolytes than other sports drinks and just enough sugar to help transport it into the cells. Your body will not hydrate optimally drinking 0 Calories artifically sweetened sports drinks.
Some people argue that this is an expensive way to feed a kid, and the benefits are not worth it.
No Soy - We do what we can to eliminate any products with Soy in our diets. Soy converts to estrogen in the body, which does nothing for altheletic performance, and actually hurts it. Look at the ingredients and look for Soy or Soy Lecithin. Those are very common. Non GMO Organic products are preferred, but sometimes buying Organic is just not worth the premium. Some things like Bananas we always buy Organic ( Walmart ), but things like Cow Milk we tend to stick to regular. The Chicken we buy is the No Added Hormones or Nitrates kind which is healthier. Another thing is my son drinks absolutely No Sodas, carbonated beverages, and no Caffiene. The only time he gets Caffiene is for Swim Meets. I make him an ice coffee drink in a thermal bottle. He takes to the meet and drinks a little bit before each event. As a result the coffee hits him pretty hard and gives him a huge mental edge since its the only time his body gets any stimulants.
Creatine and BCAAs are the only two supplements we use. 5 grams of BCAA upon waking up, before practice, and before bed. 5 grams of creatine before practice. Creatine is found in red meat. It helps your body retain water directly in the muscle cells giving you more power and endurance. BCAA are amino acids. You body normally breaks down protein into amino acids before it can be absorbed. BCAAs get absorbed faster than eating meat. Plus 5 grams of BCAA has the same amount of aminos as eating a 5oz serving of steak or chicken. Some kids, girls especially don't like eating meat. Taking BCAAs will greatly accelerate their recovery.
If you wanted to try just one thing. I would say over hydration is key. Get the liquid IV Packets, and try to get your kid to drink them throughout the day. The goal is 1.5 Gallons of fluids from the time they wake up til practice time. They will notice a huge difference in their energy levels during sets. The more confidient they are during sets, the harder they will train, and faster they will perform in meets. If you want to get faster you have to start living a lifestyle that will help you.