Who’s up next? 

How to identify and develop a swim talent.

Training, lifestyle, and mindset. Three essential characteristics of each elite swimmer, or athlete whatsoever. All of these characteristics are dependent on the athlete him or herself. Yet, some other essential factors, like growth, aren’t controllable. How do these factors influence performance progression? And is this progression also affected by injuries during the growth spurt?

During a swimming race, multiple factors are of importance. Stroke frequency, stroke length and speed are all great contributors, alongside start and turn performances. Since body characteristics determine stroke length and frequency, it’s no surprise that InnoSportLab de Tongelreep is seeking to reveal all secrets regarding talent recognition and development. Can we find our future golden swimmers?

Growth spurt: growing up

The human body changes continuously. Some of those changes are (partly) attributable to training, like muscle growth and fat percentage. Others are almost solely a matter of genes. The biggest changes occur during the growth spurt during adolescence. Swimmers are often scouted early, whereas the growth spurt occurs somewhere between the age of 8 and 18. To keep track of the development of young swimmers, InnoSportLab de Tongelreep organizes a test-battery twice a year. Both, body composition, as well as performance aspects, are measured or filmed, analyzed and communicated back to the swimmers and coaches every time. This way, talent identification, development and training will be completely evidence-based and ready to lift our swimmers and coaches to a new level.

But what body composition characteristics and performance tests can predict performance progression? In other words: how do growth and development influence future athletic performance?  It’s often said that experience comes with age. Whereas experience might be crucial, age has a negative impact on performance progression. Strange? Not entirely! The older a person, the smaller the performance gains.  Besides age, upper-body length is a major determinant for performance progression in male swimmers. Improved performance is often accompanied by an increase in upper body length. In addition to body characteristics, start and turn performance progression seem to be of great importance in the development of a swimmer as well.

Injury susceptibility  

However, there is another side of this golden medal! During the growth spurt, young athletes are often very prone to injuries. Due to the development of the body, flexibility and balance control deteriorate. This might be destructive for an athlete’s career.
In other sports, like gymnastics, this injury susceptibility indeed might result in performance progression inhibition and perhaps even in early retirement. However, in swimming, there seems to be no relationship between injury, before or during the growth spurt, and performance progression.

Flexibility and balance are less important in swimming, while muscle strength and upper body coordination seem to be of more interest! Conclusion? Especially start and turn performance progression seem to be related to overall performance progression. On the other hand, age seems to have a negative effect on this progression. In the never-ending search for performance improvement, InnoSportLab de Tongelreep again took another step forward! 

Study by: Claudia Schutjes

Article by: Science2move

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