As a sport it can take 10 years to produce a champion so in most cases a youngster will be 'spotted' within their club environment and nurtured within their club.
Clubs with swim21 accreditation (the ASA's quality mark) follow a Long Term Athlete Development plan to provide the template for every swimmer to achieve their full potential.
The ASA is developing Beacon Programmes to support the regional swim21 networks of clubs. The aim is for every sub-region to have a Performance club within its catchment where the clubs can access the athlete support services and workforce development programmes provided by a Beacon Programme.
Every Beacon Programme will provide regular access for a regionally selected group of swimmers to long course training, sports science support services and educational programmes as an enhancement to their club programmes.
The ASA also has a specific Talent Development programme that takes youngsters who have already shown promise and gives them access to quality coaching, athlete educational schemes and physiotherapy screening within a training camp environment that will prepare them for future international competition. The ASA has three levels of talent development:
Level 1 is for 12 and 13-year-olds and is known as an ‘Age’ programme. It includes 192 athletes in eight regions.
Level 2 is for 14 and 15-year-olds and is known as the ‘Youth’ programme. It includes 160 athletes in eight regions. There is also an English Development programme for Open Water swimmers at level 2 that includes 80 athletes in eight regions.
Level 3 is the ‘National’ development squad and includes 36 athletes aged 13 years or over.
Swimmers must achieve certain qualifying times for their age group at certain specified competitions to be selected onto the development programmes. They then receive varying support depending on their level but this will include training camps, anthropological measurements and lifestyle management. Swimmers who excel at the National level may progress to being selected by British Swimming to join their World Class development programme. The Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence Athletes can also access the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE), a NVQ programme that is aimed at developing professional sportsmen and women in a number of identified sport including Aquatics, Football, Rugby Union and Golf. It is aimed at young people between the ages of 16 and 19 years, AASE offers young people in all the aquatics discipline the chance to pursue their sport whilst continuing with their education.