Hi everyone. I have been getting more and more questions lately about prerequisite standards, what they are and when they are required. To complicate matters, Swim Ontario just announced a retraction of prerequisite standards in certain circumstances which I, myself, didn't understand until Saturday. The intent of this entry is to clarify some misconceptions about the prerequisite standards and to explain their purpose.
- Before I answer those questions, if anyone has any questions about swimming related issues, please email them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will answer them in this blog as best I can. You'll be helping others because I usually get the same questions more than once (if you do not want your question to show up in the blog, just say that in the email).
Q. What are prerequisite standards?
A. Prerequisite standards were put into place about 5 or 6 years ago as the 1st step towards Swim Canada's Long Term Athlete Development Plan. The idea is that it is very easy to get an 11 or 12 year old (sometimes a 13 or 14 year old) to swim VERY fast because they are still growing. Their muscles and bones are used to recovering and occasionally you'll get a very tall 12 year old who can swim an amazingly fast 50FR by training once/week and not be able to do much else. The Long Term Athlete Development Plan (known as LTAD going forward) were intended to combat that.
All athletes are required to complete a distance FR event (400 or 800 by age) and an IM event (200 or 400 by age) in order to be eligible for provincial championships and regional championships. After obtaining these prerequisite standards, they still must qualify in an event (50FR, 200BK, etc). The idea behind this was to create better rounded athletes who could do more than 50FR. Athletes below the age of 13 have the ability to make massive gains in aerobic capacity, thus, coaches are forced to train their athletes for a distance FR events. Now the athletes have developed a great attribute going forward. Same holds true the the IM standards.
Q. How does Coach Mike feel about Prerequisite Standards?
A. I'm on the fence. I started out not liking them at all, mostly because no one at Swim Ontario understood why they existed and were just doing what Swim Canada asked them to do. Now that I understand the purpose I understand that they are there for a reason... basically to force coaches to coach a certain way. I feel that they could save kids a LOT of heartache and coaches a lot of headaches simply by educating coaches better and raising the standards.
Aside from this, it doesn't account for kids who cannot make those gains due to knee injuries, asthma or poor coordination. Even if an 12 year old can go 25.99 for a 50FR and cannot do much more because of asthma, they will not be able to go to a championship meet because they can't obtain the prerequisites. This athlete is likely to leave the sport and try something else as a result and Canada loses a GREAT 50 Freestyler. Trust me, Gary Hall Jr (American Olympian and multi gold medalist) NEVER did an 800FR or a 400IM.
Q. Whats with the new announcement on Swim Ontario's website about repealing the prerequisites?
A. In May, Swim Ontario posted the following on their website...
Pre-requisites are no longer required to be included in sanctioned meets other than Provincial Championships, as stated below from our LTAD’s policy:
“IN ADDITION TO MAKING THE JR. PROVINCIAL AA STANDARD IN AT LEAST ONE EVENT, ALL 10 & UNDER GIRLS AND 11 & UNDER BOYS MUST MEET A PRE-REQUISITE STANDARD IN THE 200 IM/400FR, ALL 11 YEAR OLD GIRLS AND 12 YEAR OLD BOYS MUST MEET A PRE-REQUISITE STANDARD IN THE 200IM/800FR, AND ALL GIRLS AGED 12-13-14 AND ALL BOYS AGED 13-14-15 MUST MEET A PRE-REQUISITE STANDARD IN THE 400IM/800FR AT A SANCTIONED MEET OR A PROVINCIALLY SANCTIONED TIME TRIAL.”
In September of 2009, Swim Ontario created a rule that stated ALL sanctioned meets in Ontario had to have prerequisite standards in order to further the LTAD. The problem was that there was no idea what those standards should be. For example, the standards for our meet in May were like 16min for 400FR and 8min for 200IM. This obviously serves no purpose, as I don't believe that there is a human being alive that would fail to make those standards... they do not challenge anything. Swim Ontario now recognizes this and repealed this rule.
Q. This references Provincial Meets only... what about Central Regions? Do we still need prerequisite standards for that meet?
A. This season yes because they submitted their prerequisite standards before this decision was made. Next season, not likely because the standards are being used as crowd control rather than for LTAD... in other words, Central Region has little interest in LTAD and more interest in getting less people into the meet without raising the standards.
Hopefully that answers most questions that people have regarding prerequisite standards. Those are the most frequent questions that I am asked. If anyone would like more of an explanation about any of the above, please email. And email ALL questions to me so that I can answer them in this type of forum.