The Pool Pathway-More Problems Than It’s Worth


The Pool Pathway

By Wayne Goldsmith

Every national swimming association around the world has some sort of swimmer development pathway – what I call the pool pathway.

It’s a model and a system which has been around for more than 50 years in some form – and although it varies in detail, sophistication, structure and selection processes – the general concept of the pool pathway hasn’t changed much for over half a century.

The pool pathway principle is relatively simple to understand. In general terms it’s a little like this:

  1. Young swimmers go to their local pool.
  2. They join a swimming program and learn to swim.
  3. They transition into a strokes development squad or “mini-squad”.
  4. They then progress into a competitive training squad and start racing.
  5. They continue in the sport and get serious about training and racing entering the “high-performance” environment.
  6. They become an elite swimmer.

However, if you actually take a moment or two to think about it, this model doesn’t make any sense.

And if you needed any evidence as to the actual effectiveness of the pool pathway model, take a look at two things:

  1. The drop out rate of swimmers through their teenage years and;
  2. The huge decrease in the number of swimmers in competitive swimming across the world

The pool pathway model assumes that every kid who walks into a pool wants to be – and can be – an Olympic champion.

The reality is – very very few want to be – or can be – the best in the world.

And it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.

What matters is that every child in the world learns to swim – the one sporting skill they can learn which may one day save their life – or the life of someone they care about.

The second most important thing, is that every child who swims gets the opportunity, the environment, the support, the coaching and the experience which is so overwhelmingly positive and enjoyable that they “fall in love” with swimming and want to keep swimming for their rest of their lives.

After that – everything else is a bonus.


Wayne Goldsmith has been an influential figure in world swimming for more than 25 years.

He led Swimming Australia’s National sports science / sports medicine program for many years and has spoken at numerous national and international swimming conferences in the USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, The Philippines, New Zealand and Australia.

He has written more than 500 articles on swimming, swimming coaching, swimming science, triathlon and swimming performance which have been published in books, magazines and online all over the world.

Wayne has been a staff writer for Swimming World for the past ten years.

Wayne lives, writes and coaches on the Gold Coast, Australia.

Click here to contact Wayne.

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