Science of Performance: How to Get the Most Out of Summer Swim Camps

By Swimming World correspondent Dr. G. John Mullen, DPT, PT, CSCS of Swimming Science and Center of Optimal Restoration , Creator of Swimmer's Shoulder System, Monthly Swimming Research Review

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SANTA CLARA, California, May 28. AS summer approaches, many age-group parents are searching for summer programs to improve their young swimmers.

It is important to find a specific summer training program that focuses on athleticism, education, and health. Athleticism and health used to be filled with playing with friends and running around the neighborhood, but increasing screen time have removed these aspects.

Education is being filled adequately with summer school, but many active children do not tolerate confinement (some argue kids aren't meant for extended sitting).

An ideal summer program should focus on athleticism, education, and health. Try to find a camp that enforces:

1. Motivation Training: Kids nowadays seem to lack motivation and drive. Instead of being active, many seek the world of video games. This world of cyber-bullying is detrimental for success! Instead, helping each athlete understand the variables essential for motivation are essential and teaching them methods to stay motivated and motivate those around them is key.

2. Self-Evaluation: People of every age have difficulties evaluating their own performance. However, younger populations have an even harder time judging their own performance, as many feel everyone is interested with their grand accomplishments (i.e. Twitter feeds and Facebook updates). Self-evaluation is essential in swimming, as many coaches have a tough time providing evaluation to each swimmer in their group. Moreover, self-evaluation can facilitate internal motivation, a frequent variable in long-term success.

3. Education: Connecting the dots between swimming and education can enlighten the world of many fields of education in a practical manner. In swimming, biomechanics, physiology, medicine, nutrition, psychology, and much more play a role! Teaching the building blocks of each of these courses can spark interest in the youth and help improve their minds and sports performance.

4. Injury Prevention: With earlier specialization in sport, it is key to prevent injuries at a younger age. Muscular imbalances have been seen in 14-year old swimmers, but I have seen them as early as 12-year-olds (Batalha 2012)! This makes it important to teach each swimmer the difference between pain and injury, a difficult but essential topic.

5. Motor Control Training: Another problem with early specialization is the absence of various movement skills. If an athlete only swims from ages 4 to 14, it is likely they can only … swim! This sounds fine, but if they only swim during maturation, they likely can't alter their stroke as they mature. This difficult transition hits many young swimmers and is perpetuated by a lack of motor control and diversity of movement. Instead, it is necessary to teach different skills, giving the swimmers a tool to perform a variety of movements and the ability to correct their strokes as their bodies change.

6. General Strength: Another area preventing biomechanic adjustments is a general lack of strength. It isn't important for each swimmer to be a myostatin-resistance, muscle bound athlete, but a certain amount of strength is necessary for skill manipulation. Lastly, improving strength in every plane of motion is necessary, as swimming is a multi-planar sport. Don't just do endless crunches!

7. Games: Providing fun, applicable “games” is also important for young athletes. These games don't mean “duck, duck, goose,” but games with oneself, pushing them to perform better at each individual session. For example, having a swimmer perform a specific movement at the beginning of a summer and at the end of a summer camp is an internal game allowing them to push themselves to beat their previous time. This doesn't sound like a typical game, but can build the internal motivation within each swimmer for improved performance.

Clubs can set up such programs with the help of a strength coach, physical therapist, and/or psychologist on staff (or even by parent volunteers). Or they can look for programs outside the club. One program targeted for soccer players is CATZ or for swimming, COR's Kid's Athletic Development Program. Make sure as the summer approaches, your young swimmers have the opportunity to heighten their swimming career, as well as their education and health!

1. Troup, J. International Center for Aquatic Research annual – Studies by the International Center for Aquatic Research, 1990-91. United States Swimming Press, 1750 East Boulder Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA 80909- 5770. 1991.

Check Out Swimming World's 2013 Camp Directory

Dr. G. John Mullen, DPT, PT, CSCS is the owner of of the Center of Optimal Restoration and creator of Swimming Science. He received his doctorate in Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California. G. John has been featured in Swimming World Magazine, Swimmer Magazine, and the International Society of Swim Coaches Journal.