Swimming Australia Launches New Competition Age Bands for Long Term Athlete Development

01 November 2018
Competition Age Bands for Long Term Athlete Development

Swimming Australia will launch the new format for 2019 Hancock Prospecting Australian Championships – an exciting new competition pathway - at the SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre in Adelaide from April 7-12, 2019.

The key focus of this competition will be the inclusion of:

  • All Australian Championship Events, including the new Olympic Events – Men’s 800m Freestyle, Women’s 1500m Freestyle and the Mixed Medley Relay.
  • The inclusion of two older age bands, in addition to the Open Events:
    • Females – 17/18yrs and 19/20yrs
    • Males – 18/19yrs and 20/21yrs 

“It’s an exciting time to be involved in our sport, Swimming Australia’s National Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren said today.
“With the global landscape of sport rapidly changing, we felt it essential to look closely at our sport ensuring we not only keep pace with other sports in Australia but the rest of the swimming world.” 
“As the age that swimmers make Olympic finals and international debut rises, it’s important to focus on extending the competitive careers of our athletes”, he said.
In line with the specific changes to the Australian Championships which feature the new older age groups, the 2019 Georgina Hope Foundation Australian Age Swimming Championships also will introduce key changes to its competition structure.

The Australian Age Swimming Championships, to be held at the SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre in Adelaide from April 15-22, 2019 will feature and promote: 

  • All Australian Championship Events, including the new Olympic Events – Men’s 800m Freestyle, Women’s 1500m Freestyle and the Mixed Medley Relay
  • Differing starting age bands for females and males due to the differences in maturation between genders.  The competition age bands will be:
    • Females – 13yrs, 14yrs, 15yrs and 16yrs
    • Males – 14yrs, 15yrs, 16yrs and 17yrs.

Jamie Salter, Swimming Australia’s High-Performance Pathway Manager said today that it had been well documented that growth and development of swimmers occur at different rates and times within age group swimming.

“We recently conducted a study with the University of Sydney looking at 6014 unique, male (3185) and female (2829), competitors (aged between 12-18yrs) who competed at the Age Nationals Championships from 2000-2014,” Salter said. 

“What was evident was a series of transient participation patterns, where, regardless of gender or stroke, the data collected clearly highlighted that of all swimmers who competed at Australian Age Swimming Championships at 13yrs, only 50-60% participated at the event a year later.

"And in conjunction with this finding, of all the swimmers participating at the event at 18 years of age, 60-70% also participated the previous year, reversing the trend observed at the younger ages."

Age Distribution Competition Framework

“The changes to Age Group bands at Australian Age Championships from 2019 is Swimming Australia’s solution to continue to support and develop the needs of both early and late developing swimmers and to improve the retention of swimmers in the competition pathway," Salter commented.

“These changes are fundamental in supporting clubs and coaches, creating the best competitive environment for swimmers to flourish, irrespective of their stage of maturation.”

Glenn Beringen, Swimming Australia’s National Youth Coach said today that swimming communities must ensure that the sport’s key focus is long-term athlete development to provide each and every competitive swimmer the best opportunity to reach their potential.
“The changes to age bands at the Australian Age Competition from 2019 recognises that skill development should be prioritised for our young swimmers, providing each and every athlete the best opportunity to achieve their best as their body physically develops,” he said.

Swimming Australia also undertook further consultation with coaches to gauge understanding of the changes and feedback was supportive.

Of the coaches surveyed, many believed that the decision to add older age bands at the Australian Championships and to delay the entry of boys at Australian Age Championships until they are 14, would lead to a higher level of sustained performances as they mature in future years.

The key changes in relationship to the Australian Swimming Framework (ASF):
The general principle applied during the ‘Foundation’ years of the ASF is that skill learning and training occurs more frequently than competition. At this stage competition, as well as training, must be interesting and ‘fun’ to engage young children.

The competition framework aims to connect State and National competitions, informed by a philosophy for junior swimmers that focusses on technical development and enjoyment.

What this means for swimmers…
The new framework provides a renewed focus for junior competition and will be advantageous to swimmers by providing a more equal platform to compete, in turn retaining swimmers in the sport longer and allow them to develop at a more suitable pace.

What this means for coaches…
The ASF seeks to outline the optimal pathway for emerging junior swimmer through to elite athletes. It details the areas of focus and the necessary support network for each step of a swimmers’ development.
The ASF already has heavily informed the Competition Framework, ensuring that we provide more opportunities for athletes to compete and have a renewed focus for our national competitions. Coaches can gain further insight into the effects of maturation on athlete development and recommended guidelines for appropriate development of training plans through the new Swimming Australia coach education program which now includes modules on this topic.

What this means for parents…
Swimming Australia is fully committed to providing competition structures appropriate to the development and maturation of children who participate in the sport. Most importantly, parents want their children to enjoy their involvement in the sport. These changes would provide long-term benefits for swimmers and the sport.

Peak Growth Age

For young swimmers, their age and the difference in their physical size and strength has a big impact on the times they can achieve in competition. This often results in some swimmers gaining an early competitive advantage while also discouraging late developers, purely based on the month of the year that they were born.
Swimming Australia has initiated these key competition changes with the support of its state partners and the Australian Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA).

More Information

  • Competition Framework
  • The Australian Dolphins Swimming Team is one of the Nation’s most reliable international performers and we have consistently delivered on the international stage over numerous Olympic and Paralympic cycles. Within Swimming, there is always a desire to improve, and in fact a necessity to do so if we are to remain at the forefront of the sport.

    Swimming Australia has embarked on a four-year strategy to Tokyo 2020. A key aspect of this strategy was to review the current competition structures with the aim of improving the competition pathway from entry into national level competition to the elite stage in the sport.

    Key drivers for the review included:

    • our conversion rate from our selection competitions to the major benchmark competition each season
    • perceived gaps in our competition structure for athlete development
    • the impact maturation has on our competition structure
    • keeping pace with changes that have already been implemented across the world from our competing nations

    With intended outcomes to achieve:

    • developing a framework that will serve our sport for at least the next cycle
    • a framework that focuses on optimal performances at key periods in a season
    • a philosophy on youth development for Senior performance
    • fostering alignment for competition structures across the States and Region

    Download Swimming Australia's Competition Framework: 


  • Australian Swimming Framework
  • Swimming Australia (SAL), in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has developed the Australian Swimming Framework (ASF).

    The ASF is our ‘guidebook’ to this journey and the purpose is to:

    • describe SAL’s athlete and coach pathway;
    • detail athlete characteristics and how they develop through each stage;
    • outline the developmental needs for athletes and coaches, environment and the aligned support services; and
    • to confirm how the sport is led and managed. 

    The Australian Swimming Framework can be viewed here.

  • Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport
  • Transient Relative Age Effects across annual age groups in National level Australian Swimming can be viewed here.

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