why and when a swimmer gets moved up

There isn’t much that is more exciting than improving for swimmers. And with young swimmers, this improvement is happening like crazy.

Personal best times tumble fast and furious thanks to a whirlwind combination of new skills, increased conditioning, and the natural strengthening and size that comes with sprouting like a weed. 

Each Squad should be seen as a Spring Board (rather than a ceiling) for each swimmer to develop, grow and improve upon. 

Use the training and experience of the coaches to your maximum, there is no limit to what you can achieve within each squad with the right attitude.

This rush to progress is often felt by the swimmer who feels they have outgrown their group. They look at the faster swimmers in the next group and know that they can compete and take on the enhanced demands of a more senior group. But just because a swimmer thinks they should be moved up doesn’t mean it oughta happen. 

For the swim parent who is curious as to why their kid isn’t zooming along to the next level on the team, here is a breakdown of what you need to know about your swimmer moving up a group.

Why and when a swimmer gets moved up

There are a few different reasons that a swimmer graduates to the next group. Some are critical like attendance, while others, like meet times, aren’t as important as one might think.

Here’s a breakdown of our squad standard that our coaches use when considering to move a swimmer up:


Developmentally, it greatly benefits your swimmer to train (and socialize) with swimmers their own age. Swimmers of a particularly young age, 8 years old, for example, should be kept together.

As swimmers get older, age gets a little tricky, because a 17-year old who comes late to the sport will benefit more from training with people his own age than swimming with fast 12-and-unders.

But generally, it’s important to remember that coaches will coach for age, and not for ability.


This is about as basic a requirement as you can think of. Is the swimmer attending all sessions regularly?

Of course, shoddy attendance can sometimes be explained by factors outside of the pool (they have a bike race, or were playing in a concert), but when they miss for the sake of not wanting to be there or poor time management that is a different story.

Attendance is an easy and subjective way to measure commitment. Senior groups require more commitment, so you could say that this is a biggie factor in determining whether a swimmer should advance groups.


Does the swimmer do the sets properly? Follows directions when instructed? Shows up on time and is a positive influence on the group?

How coachable is your little swimmer?

Ability and talent don’t count for squat if the swimmer is spoiling team culture or disrupting practices.

Coaches will be very resistant to reward a swimmer that resists instruction and negatively impacts the training environment by moving them up.

Keep in mind that the next group will require more from the athlete, which sets the uncoachable swimmer on a collision course with failure.


Proper stroke mechanics and understanding of the rules of the sport are important, but not a deal breaker when it comes to group advancement. But it is still a consideration.

Has the swimmer progressed technically to the point that they are where they need to be? Are they completing races and practices with technique, starts and turns that will not get them DQ’d?

Meet times

Although the scoreboard and medals might tell you otherwise, meet times are not really as important a factor as most swim parents would think.

The results and what happens on race day acts as a limited snapshot of how your swimmer is doing in the water, but it doesn’t always reflect what kind of attitude and commitment the swimmer is showing at practice.

Where meet times can start to influence decision-making is when it comes to qualifying for higher-level meets. For example, athletes that have JO cuts or Olympic Trials cuts are more likely to train together, regardless of age.

Compatibility with group

Can the swimmer keep up with the next group? Will they be able to compete a little bit with the other swimmers in their new group?

Coaches operate at their best when the swimmers they coach are largely similar in ability and speed.

If one swimmer is far behind, in terms of skill or conditioning, this swimmer will require specialised training apart from the rest of the group, cutting instruction time for the other swimmers.

Time of the season

It’s rare that a swimmer will be moved up a new group mid-season. Most common are the end of the season, because a swimmer has qualified for an advanced meet their group-mates have not qualified for, the beginning of a new season, or after a championship meet.

Make sure they are earning the reward

Ultimately, moving up a group is a reward and not an entitlement.

It’s an acknowledgement that the swimmer has excelled where they are at and are ready to level up.

It’s recognition that they can take on more.

Movement Policy

Coaches will formalise any movements with a starting date. Parents and swimmers will be informed of any changes as and when they happen. When the Coach feels that a move between squads is appropriate, they will discuss the situation with the swimmer and parents. However, if at any time you feel you want to talk to the Coaches about the squad you/your child can make arrangements to do so. The Head Coach of Penrith Swimming Club reserves the right to move swimmers at any time from any squad. Movement between squads is not a given right.