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Teams Separating Practice Groups By Skill, Not Age Group

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This resource stems from a question submitted to the Ask PCA blog. Responses come from our experts including PCA Trainers, who lead live group workshops for coaches, parents, administrators and student-athletes.

"Recently my swim team changed from an age based practice group policy (13-14, 15-18) to a skill based group. This has been a controversial change, with the argument against being that 8th graders are now practicing with Seniors in high school, and with age differences like this come very different maturity levels due to the social growth in those years of a student-athlete's life."

PCA Response by PCA Lead Trainer, Joe Terrasi

Thank you for the candid and thoughtful question. I can certainly understand why such a shift in policy would be challenging and raise important questions for parents. On the face of it, neither age-based groupings nor skill-based groupings is inherently better nor worse than the other. Each can offer advantages and challenges for the organization, the swimmers, and the their families.

Before discussing such a policy shift, it’s important for the organization to have a firm grasp on its culture and its mission. It must also fearlessly assess whether its operational culture – the way people truly say and do things – and its stated culture are truly aligned. We see some organizations that have mission statements that prioritize athlete development and well-being, but whose contests look and sound like they’re more focused on winning at all costs. Identifying how close the actual culture is to the intended culture is a worthwhile and important endeavor.

Download a printable version of this resource, including any additional commentary from PCA, by clicking the PDF below. To read more questions and answers like this, or to submit your own question to the Ask PCA blog, click here.

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