Are You a Path A or Path B Swimmer?

At all of our Race Club camps, we discuss with swimmers and their parents the importance of knowing what path the swimmer is on. Surprisingly, many don’t really know.

When young swimmers begin their competitive careers, they are, for the most part, on the same path. In other words, at their swimming clubs, they all go to about the same number of workouts per week for about the same duration and prepare fairly equally for competition. When they reach the ages of around 13 to 15 years, that all changes. From that point forward, there is a split in the road and swimmers can go on either path, which I refer to as Path A or Path B.

The two paths are very different, yet neither is right or wrong. What is important is that the swimmer, parents, and coaches all agree on which path the swimmer is on. It is also important that teams welcome and have a place and a program for swimmers that are on either path.

Path A swimmers are all in. They push all the chips to the center of the table and decide that they are going for it. They want to be as fast a swimmer as they can possibly be and are willing to do anything (legally and ethically) to get there. They have big dreams and goals and no interest in another sport. Swimming is their sport. Their lives are pretty much train, sleep, study, and eat. They also know and understand what it takes to become a world class swimmer. To the Path A swimmers, they are not making sacrifices. They are just passionate about swimming and doing what it takes to reach their full potential.

Path B swimmers are swimmers who love the sport, love the camaraderie of being on a team, love the health benefits that swimming delivers and in many cases, are important contributors to the team’s success. They’re not setting out to make the Olympic team. Swimming is not the only thing in their lives. They may have three other hobbies that they enjoy, or other sports they want to participate in, or they are just happy to be swimming and swimming well.

In the past, in many USA Swimming Clubs or YMCAs across America, there has been no place for the Path B swimmer. The rules were: if the swimmer didn’t make x number of practices per week, or took more than a few weeks off per year, or missed too many meets, they were off the team. I am not sure those rules ever helped our sport or many swimmers. Fortunately, I believe that the trend is changing.

Today, more and more swimming clubs are welcoming and creating programs for both the Path A and the Path B swimmers. Perhaps if all clubs were to do that, we might have 2 million registered swimmers in the USA, rather than the roughly 500,000. A two-hour meet format wouldn’t hurt, either. Further, there is no rule that states a swimmer must remain on the same path. I have seen many Path B swimmers that suddenly decided to go all in and jump over to Path A, achieving great success. Path A swimmers can also become Path B swimmers, yet still find great joy and love for the sport.

At The Race Club, we say that life is worth swimming. We love this sport and want to see everyone swim for life. For those who are on Path A, we will try to help you achieve your swimming goals and be the best swimmer you can be, using our vast knowledge in the five disciplines of swimming; swim and strength training, mental training, nutrition, and recovery. We will improve your technique with the best swimming technology and experience available. For those on Path B, we can help you swim faster and also reach your goals, whatever they might be.

We are blessed in America to have many pools, many great coaches and fine swimming programs. Let us welcome all swimmers who want to swim on Path A or Path B, and encourage them to swim for life.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

10 Responses to Are You a Path A or Path B Swimmer?

  1. Ali Meeks

    Hear hear, Gary!! This is so true and I am such a fan of the fact that this is changing in USA Swimming to make room for these Path B athletes. What a wonderful sport swimming is and it’s worth making it available to as many as are willing. Thanks for making Race Club a part of this!! -Ali

    • garyhallsr

      You are welcome, Ali! Thanks for being a part of The Race Club.

  2. Linda Jones

    As a USA, YMCA, and high school swim coach I agree so much with this article. Got a plan B boy on my HS team this year. After spring and summer of baseball and fall soccer season he was “not all in and didn’t really like swimming” but was going to do it to stay in shape. Asked him to give me 3 months of effort and he agreed. 59.00 100 breast, 21.60 50 free, 46.69!100 free! (-: now… Going to swim and play baseball this summer! Who knows as he has found a love for the sport that wasn’t there before.

    • garyhallsr

      Sounds like you have an athlete! Sometimes, they find the passion for swimming later…which is why we want to keep them in the sport.

  3. susan huber

    thanks so much for the comments, I feel better because I am defo a path B swimmer. I am an artist since I started at the same time when 8 competing in swimming for USA. I always had a camera around my neck. I decided as a young sprout that I would not consider going for Junior Olympics program because academics and art were a big part of who I am and still am. However, as a now Master’s swimmer initially pushed unwillingly back into the pool after 50 year layoff, I am happy to swim two meets a year nearest me. My coach is happy to know when I will show up- she never sees me but for twice a year. When learning and at practise, I am a plan A swimmer, I learn voraciously but my attitude is more upon the social aspects ( typical sprinter) and no one sees the hard work I do everyday to be prepared to swim for my team who is far away from me.. I am proud to say, I have revamped all my strokes because of the good folks at the Race Club post videos and aqua notes. Thank You! It is
    hard to swim un coached. You people make it possible to learn visually!

    • garyhallsr

      So nice to hear, Susan! It is comments like yours that keep us highly motivated. Keep it going!!

  4. Allison Kryszon

    I am a parent and USA swim coach in a club in ATL ; our club offers both , we have a group called Technique and Fitness to serve those swimmers who are looking for just that , I am also a parent to 4 path A swimmers … they love swimming ! Wish you guys had camps closer to ATL , I know they would love to attend ; love your videos !! 🏊🏻🏊🏻

    • garyhallsr

      Kudos to you and your club in ATL!! I bet you have lots of swimmers on your team. Please come visit us in Islamorada…just an easy flight to Miami..then a beautiful drive to the Keys!

  5. Coach Hatz

    Hey Gary.

    Really like your work and a very keen follower. We’re all striving as coaches to bring the best to our swimmers wherever we are in the world and I totally agree with you.

    The biggest challenge we face sometimes is balancing our observation of how a swimmer is doing and their likely pathway with their or their parents’ thoughts. It is a touchy subject but if Pathway B always gives a swimmer the opportunity to reach Pathway A if the commitment and determination is there then we’re at a win win. It’s all about inclusion.

    Would be great to get your guidance at some point about an initiative I’m working on so please do let me know if you have a little time to have a chat.

    Cheers Coach

    Coach Hatz

    • garyhallsr

      Thanks, Coach. The path a swimmer elects to get on doesn’t necessarily correlate with his or her ability or potential. It is more about expectations, goals and attitude. Those can all change in having both paths available is key. The coach needs to make sure that the swimmer’s goals are commensurate with the path they are on.
      Would love to hear about your initiative. Send your thoughts and contact info to I am sure to see it then.


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