2017 Swim season is ahead of us. The time has come to take a moment to look back at 2016. We realize that it is still one of the most challenging swimming years we have had to date as Monica, aged 9, competed in the 10 & under, 12 & under and 14 & under age groups.
In 2017 she will continue to swim these events but at least be closer to her 10th birthday, therefore a bit stronger.
Our swimming seasons start in May of every year with pre-season racing taking place until September. September to March is the official swimming season. We are at the moment 3 months away from the flagship event – the 2017 SSA L2 Championships.
Our best swim in 2016 remains the unexpected meet record in the 200 LCM freestyle during Action swim champs. We admire the ease and control Monica maintained during this swim. The Seagulls 200 SC IM where Monica swam sub 3 minutes takes second place in our top races for the year. It is a tough choice but third place goes to the TYR hat-trick in the 200 LCM IM. Great swimming in a year which is supposed to be an offseason.
Competitive swimming in 2016-2017:
Towards the end of 2016, younger swimmers emerged challenging Monica in her races. We are delighted to see these swimmers come through the ranks due to three reasons:
It is good for female swimming to see young age group swimmers raising the standard, working hard and smart resulting in faster times.
The competition is good for Monica – we find it interesting to see how much harder she is willing to push herself during competitive races.
Commitment – Monica demonstrated a new level of commitment to swimming and training. She wants to be fit and strong to meet any challenge that comes her way. She is willing to do the work.
We are, as a result of this renewed commitment, entering the last 3 months of the 2016-2017 swim season with a stronger, highly motivated, committed and healthier than ever, age group swimmer.
Health and dealing with asthma as a swimmer:
February 2016 saw Monica achieve 6 x 8 & U Provincial records ad 2 x 10 & Under Provincial meet records, despite a battle with asthma during the event.
February and March of every year is a bumpy ride for our family. We are working closely with our doctors to keep Monica as healthy as possible. The heat, humidity and season changes, do, however, present us with a relentless challenge.
We trust that this year will be different due to a couple of reasons. Monica has 8/10 possible level 3 qualifying times. She is, therefore, not allowed to swim the Provincial championships in February where she battled with asthma last year.
We hope that she would avoid any asthmatic incidents by not having to compete in February, leaving her stronger and healthier for the SSA champs in March 2017. It is still a challenge every year but we are learning every step of the way.
We would like to end our family’s New Year message with the following quote from a Michael Phelps motivation video. Our hearts are filled with pride and immense gratefulness for the coaches, friends, family, and fans that believe in Monica’s ability, the work she puts in and her love for the sport with this quote:
To me, being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship to yourself and your family and your friends.
Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down, because you told them the truth. And that truth is that you did everything that you could. There wasn’t one more thing that you could’ve done. ~ football Coach Gary Gaines.
SSA Rankings for the 2015-2016 season: Swimmer: Monica Botha
Swimming South Africa rankings are divided into the short course (25-meter pool) and long course (50-meter pool) results, Men and Women categories. Age group swimming ranges from 10 & Under, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and Open categories. There is nothing more exciting than working hard for the whole year and then wait in anticipation for the Swimming South Africa rankings to be updated.
How do the SSA rankings work?
In South Africa, all age group swimmers registers with a club and Swimming South Africa through their local representative offices. A clear distinction is made between competitive club swimming and school swimming.
In our province, Kwa-Zulu Natal, we register with KZN Aquatics who administer, manage and promote all aquatic sports as the official swimming governing body. KZN Aquatics is affiliated to Swimming South Africa and provides swim coaching courses and keeps the database updated with the latest swimming results. Age group galas, KZN junior champs, provincial and regional championships are the official swimming events organized and run by KZN Aquatics.
Each region has its own governing body which is affiliated to Swimming South Africa. Regional championships takes place in each region during March of that year. These results indicate the swimmers’ ranking in the particular age group in the country. These results are released every year at the start of the new season (May).
What do the SSA rankings mean to swimmers and coaches?
SSA rankings simply indicate where a swimmer rank in their age group in the country. It serves as a tool to measure performance and most likely indicates a swimmers’ strengths and weaknesses in swimming. It most likely would serve as a motivation for older swimmers as they can see how they progress to reach the top 4 or top 10 rankings in the country.
When swimmers reach the open age group or swim qualifying times to compete at the South African National swimming championships, their rankings will indicate where they place in the country. National swimmers compete at Senior Nationals.
Young swimmer Monica Botha
Our swimmer is still very young. Monica swims in the Women 10 & Under age group. The 2015-2016 season was, however, her second, so we do have the 2014-2015 results to compare her growth as a swimmer.
In the SSA rankings summary at the top, you will notice a slight difference in events and ranking / times. During the 2014-2015 season, work was done on the indoor pool at Kings Park Stadium. All swimming events were held at the short course pool (25-meter) outside the stadium. We, therefore, have a nice baseline of short course swimming times in most events as per results showed (2014/2015 season).
During the 2015-2016 season, however, the flood lights at the outdoor pools were under repair. Most events took place in the long course (50-meter) pool inside the stadium. In our second season, Monica established a baseline in the long course (50-meter) pool.
What do the results mean to a young swimmer?
Our aim this year is to work on the butterfly and breaststroke technique and speed.
Looking at the results and times you would notice quite an improvement, except for the 100-meter butterfly event. These results are typical for a young swimmer. There are events and distances which she excels in and some strokes and events which we constantly have to work on in order to improve times.
Her overall ranking and times are however pretty good for such a young swimmer, taking the amount of experience into account. As parents and her coaches, we are very pleased and proud of her rankings.
There are other 9-year-old swimmers that perform better than Monica and it is a bonus for us to see the times the other swimmers swim in her age group. To us, it is an indication of the competitive level of swimming in the country and competition is always a good thing. One should always set your aim to improve what you do and that comes with time and growth as well as aging as a swimmer.
It is also important for swimmers not to specialize in a particular stroke or distance at a young age. For that reason, SSA set qualifying times for the Individual medley and made it a requirement to swim any provincial or regional championships.
Interpreting the results:
It is clear when we look at Monica’s SSA rankings, that she excelled in Freestyle and backstroke during the 2015-2016 season as she placed in the top 20 in her age group on a National basis.
Monica also swam 3 Freestyle level 2 qualifying times and one backstroke (200-meter) qualifying time during the 2015/2016 season.
Based on the KZN Aquatics rules, she has to swim the KZN Premier championships in December and would not be allowed to compete at another Level 1 regional championships (February), despite the fact that she still needs a Level 1 qualifying time in the 50-meter breaststroke and 100-meter butterfly. The rule states that swimmers with two Level 2 qualifying times have to compete in the December Premier champs irrespective of age.
Should the swimmer move on to the next level or stay at their current level in swimming?
Swimming South Africa has a clear set of guidelines as far for 10 & Under swimmers:
Swimmers 10 years and younger are encouraged to swim Level 1 even if they have qualified for a higher level. The choice however is left to the individual and their advisors.
There are some parents and coaches that register their swimmers for level 2 once they swim two level 2 qualifying times. In our case, Monica swam level 2 qualifying times at the age of 8. We debated the question for quite some time.
We based our decision on Monica’s emotional growth and how she handles competition. She loves to race and loves swimming for her team in relays. It is great fun and she looks forward to these events very much. We, therefore, enter Monica for another Level 1 season as it is so important that she enjoys swimming and has fun competing.
(Note Monica’s reaction at the end of the race in the background when she realized their team won)
Regarding level 3 swimming: The SSA level 3 rule states:
Swimmers 11 years with Level 3 times are encouraged to swim at Level 2. The choice, however is left to the individual and their advisors.
In the same fashion, as discussed above we will register Monica for level 2 once she turns 10 (i.e. 2017/2018 season) and try to keep her at that level as long as possible. We are in no rush as the minimum age for most of the FINA events and Commonwealth is 14.
We decided to use the 2016-2017 season to refine Monica as a swimmer from a technical point of view, work on her speed and technique in butterfly & breaststroke. In the meantime, she can grow emotionally without too much pressure from a competitive point of view.
Monica will write down her goals again this year with an action plan to achieve these goals. This works well for us as a team. Monica puts her goals up on the white board in her room to remind herself on a daily basis of her road ahead. It is going to be an interesting year for us. Our target is to aim for better health. This will, hopefully, help Monica to improve her times and SSA rankings in the year to come.