Kids Wanted: Area Meets Designed For Youngsters

Kids Wanted: Area Meets Designed For Youngsters

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Curl-Burke Swim Club's youngest stars met North Baltimore Aquatic Club's youngest stars Sunday. (Mark Gail, The Washington Post)
Curl-Burke Swim Club's youngest stars met North Baltimore Aquatic Club's youngest stars Sunday. (Mark Gail, The Washington Post)

The kids — young ones — are coming to a pool near you.

(And local swimming officials want to keep them in the water.)

As something of a warm-up to a highly anticipated 14-and-under club clash in two weeks, Curl-Burke Swim Club’s best youngsters met North Baltimore Aquatic Club’s best 14-and-unders, going at it in a friendly but spirited competition at Loyola College in Baltimore Sunday.

The meet represented everything local coaches say they want more of: frequent competitions with a team-oriented focus that are tailored to youngsters — and thus won’t drag on all day, exhausting the kids and their parents.

More than 80 Curl-Burke athletes convened at 6 a.m. for a bus ride to Baltimore, swam against NBAC’s young swimmers (winning, 755 to 575), and returned to Northern Virginia by noon.

“It’s really something that a lot of clubs are going to, and I think it’s of great value,” said Curl-Burke Coach Rick Curl. “It’s user-friendly for sure. That’s one issue with our sport, we’re not as family friendly as we need to become.”

Indeed, attending a weekend swim meet, which might stretch all day over three days, isn’t necessarily attractive to beginning or younger swimmers. Local coaches are trying to create more — and better — competitive opportunities for 9-to-14-year-olds, while ensuring that they learn as much about playing for a team as athletes in more traditional team sports.

The Nov. 7-8 National Age Group Team Challenge Meet, directed by Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club Coach Dave Kraft, won’t offer as abbreviated a schedule as Sunday’s dual meet, but it will demand less of a time commitment than traditional swim meets while also providing what organizers believe will be unrivaled club competition for kids under 14.

Squads from Curl-Burke, Machine Aquatics, NOVA of Virginia Aquatics,  Rockville-Montgomery will face each other as well as teams from Long Island, Delaware and Maryland at the Germantown Indoor Swim Center. Though there will be individual events, the focus will be on team scoring and relays.

The idea behind the meet is, eventually, to get the top clubs in the nation to attend and duke it out to see who is best in a head-to-head event (RMSC and Curl-Burke finished ranked first and second in USA Swimming’s annual Virtual Club Championships for the past two years).

But for now, the meet merely offers a way for kids to race each other in an environment in which individual performances are de-emphasized in a fast-paced, excitement-oriented meet.

“It is the coolest meet in the world,” said Rockville-Montgomery Coach Dave Greene. “We’re putting almost the entire emphasis on team as opposed to individual, and they love it.”

Sunday’s meet between Curl-Burke and NBAC, the home club of Michael Phelps, wasn’t designed to showcase individual stars, but it did highlight two of the region’s top young swimmers — Curl-Burke’s Janet Hu, 13, and NBAC’s Willa Wang, 14.

Hu won four golds (two individual and two relay) and Wang won two individual golds, one individual silver and one relay silver. NBAC’s Alec Cosgarea, 14, the younger brother of USA Swimming National Youth Team member Drew Cosgarea; Curl-Burke’s Katie Ledecky, 12; Curl’s Brittany Creasy, 12, and Curl’s Robert Qian, 10, also stood out.

“For the younger ones, the more competition they get, the better,” Curl said. “It was really competitive. It was great to see.”

Complete results, click here.


  1. I am trying to figure out why 9- and 10-year-old children need highly competitive meets, and why, “For the younger ones, the more competition they get, the better.” This seems like a good way to reduce the sport to one with a “winning is everything” mentality.

  2. Fred,

    It’s not about winning, at least that is what I teach my swimmers all the time. It’s about having fun and doing your best. If they happen to win while doing that, then that’s just a direct outcome from thier efforts. They can’t control how fast anyone else is, they can only control what they do.

    Meets are a fundamental part of training. All the practice in the world will not teach them how to race in a meet, only racing in a meet will do that. I’ve seen the fastest swimmers in practice just not able to perform in a meet. So having more meets that are geared towards getting the younger swimmers more meet experience is a great thing.

  3. And Fred, you seem to be confusing the concept of competition with the result of winning. And that’s just not healthy. It promotes the idea of ‘well if I can’t win, then why bother trying’ and swimming is so much more than just winning.

  4. Swim Coach:

    I have no idea how you could interpret my brief comments in the way you have. I merely questioned why 9 and 10 year olds need “highly competitive” meets. That certainly suggests to me that the important thing is learning how to beat other swimmers. You echo that sentiment by talking about how crucial learning how to perform well in meets is. Why do pre-pubescent swimmers need to learn that?

    There is definitely a winning is everything attitude among many (and probably most) PVS clubs. That is why so many of the top PVS swimmers wore shiny body suits at their NVSL and other summer league meets. It was their PVS club coaches who taught them that winning trumps everything. My 3 children have been swimming competitively for many years, with the oldest having started in 2001. So, I think I know what I am talking about.

    My sense is that since swim clubs are businesses, they want to get as many swimmers as possible registering. The more success their swimmers have, the more registrants they get. Therefore, a lot of pressure is placed on swimmers of all ages — including very young ones — to win, set records, etc. Of course, parents should be preventing this, but, as is the case with all kids sports, many parents get caught up in their children’s early “success.”

  5. “I am trying to figure out why 9- and 10-year-old children need highly competitive meets, and why, “For the younger ones, the more competition they get, the better.” This seems like a good way to reduce the sport to one with a “winning is everything” mentality.”

    For me it is not about winning or losing, it is about working hard to perform at your personal best. This I believe is an important life skill that can be learned at a young age. What competition brings to the picture in an external motivator to get better than you currently are. For example, if you are already the top swimmer in your club at your age, you may become complacent and not develop fully to your potential. By attending competitive meets you learn that it takes continued hard work to rise above the level you are currently performing at. So to sum it all up for me it is not so much about winning or losing as it is to encourage all of our young athletes to train hard to perform at their best.

  6. This article is great in my opinion. I have competed at both these meets before and it was a really cool experience. Not just because of the competition but because the meet is not focused on how you individually swim but how your team does. They have a summer league or high school meet feel to them which in its self motivates the swimmer to do well.

  7. If I misinterpreted your statements, then you have my appologies. While I am in favor of more meets that favor the younger swimmers, I am not in favor of creating pressure cooker ‘highly competitve’ ones.

    If there are coaches that are teaching that winning is the most important thing and winning is defined as finishing first, then I feel sorry for them and thier program because that is just setting the swimmers up for failure because there can be only a single winner in any race. I, and the program I work with, try _extremely_ hard to take order of finish out of the equation and instead focus improvement as _the_ gauge of success. For us, a swimmer is a winner when they push themselves to try new events or take on new challenges.

    Winning without hard work teaches nothing, working hard and as a result of that hard work, winning, now that’s a positive lesson. If a program and/or coach places such a huge emphasis on winning, then maybe that’s just the wrong program and/or coach for those swimmers.

    As for performing well in meets, please don’t confuse that with ‘winning’, when I say perform well in meets, I mean perform well according to that swimmer’s current ability, no more no less.

    But as I spend my time on deck at various meets from mini’s to Sr Champs, I don’t hear much emphasis on winning when I overhear coaches talking to swimmers before and after races. I hear emphasis on level of effort, maintaining solid technique, focus, execution, etc. Granted, this is at a meet and I don’t have a clue what goes on during the other 98% of the time.

  8. If you have ever competed in this meet, it’s the coolest meet of all time. It is not based on winning, but by how fast you swim. You can get second or even third place in a particular race and if you swum a certain time you can score as many points as the first place finisher. What a great concept, telling your kids that it doesn;t matter what place you get but how fast you swim,. The faster you swim the more points you score. The relay session is really fun and it brings out the best of our sport. We are the only sport that has all ages and genders competing at the same event for their team. One of our relays is an all age crescendo relay. It is awesome to see the older swimmers preparing and supporting the little ones. The meet in only it’s third year has produced some an incrediblt fast times. My swimmers love this meet and work very, very hard to qualify to be a part of the team that competes. Good luck to all of the participants and we look forward to another great meet.

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