The way your child progresses through the synchro teams can sometimes be a bit confusing. There is structure in it all though, so here is some guidance for parents and swimmers to help you monitor your progress.
Before you can start synchro, all children should have a good level of swimming ability and be confident in the water, ideally have completed stages level 5-7 of the NPTS (or equivalent) or be able to swim 50m in 3 different strokes.
Aquafun stage 8
Everyone will start at Bristol Central with Aquafun Level 8 which is a course of 12 weeks. If you pass then you will receive an NPTS Synchronised Swimming Level 8.
Aquafun stage 9
This is another Aquafun course of 12 weeks, for which you would be awarded an NPTS Synchronised Swimming Level 9. Once you have achieved this stage, you will be invited to join the club.You will now have the necessary skill to start in your first squad, the novices squad. This squad is open to all ages.
Due to the large number of swimmers, we have decided to create 2 different groups for the next stage: Synchro Stars Red and Synchro Stars Blue. The groups will swim at different times but will learn similar skills and the same routine. During their time in the synchro stars, they will receive the highest NPTS level (Synchronised Swimming stage 10) where you will continue to strive towards perfecting the basic synchro moves. The next step up is where you move into either a development or competitive team (see Squads). Swimmers usually move into squads at the beginning of the year, but at different times of the year, we review their progress and needs and might shuffle them around.
Skills levels 1 - 5
After stages 8, 9 and 10, the next grading system is 'skills'. The lowest skill level is grade 1 (although NPTS Level 10 is sometimes called skills level 0) and the highest is grade 6. It takes roughly one year to prepare for a skill level so it will be many years before you reach level 6! When your coach feels you're ready you will be invited to attend a test at a test center (for us, that is usually Burnham-on-Sea) during a National Assessment day (there are multiple throughout the year, see calendar) by a team of external assessors.
Next, swimmers are selected into squads depending on age and ability. Synchro is quite unique as it has 2 strands called 'development' and 'competitive'. Bristol Central caters for all levels as we have both squads in all age groups and compete in all levels of competitions during the year. Not all the training is done in the pool. Land-work sessions include working on flexibility, core strength, learning routines and walking through routines.
The more relaxed development strand is ideal for those who wish synchro to be a hobby and only wish to attend 1-3 times a week. Swimmers are not required to hold any skill level to be in a development team and can compete at competitions throughout the year. Even though no skill levels are required, you will continue to work towards your next skill level. We have a number of development teams depending on age (12 and under, 13/14 and 15 and over). A maximum of 10 swimmers can compete per team.
The competitive strand is suitable for those who aspire to be our elite swimmers. Competitive teams are based on age categories and we have a team for every official age category at Bristol Central (12 and under, 13/14 and 15 and over). Swimmers can only be considered for a competitive team if they hold the appropriate skill level:
- Grade 3, bronze is needed to compete in the 12 and under competitive team.
- Grade 4, bronze is needed to compete in the 13-15 competitive team
- Grade 5, bronze is needed to compete in the 15-18 competitive team
Competition events for competitive teams
Athletes perform routines to music that can be anything from 2.5 to 5 minutes long, depending on whether they perform alone or as part of a team.
There are four main routine types:
- Solos - an individual swimmer will synchronise with the music. For the 12 and under age group, you need to hold at least grade 3 silver. For the 13-14 age group, you need to hold at least grade 4 silver. For the 15-17 age group, you need to hold at least grade 5 silver.
- Duets - two swimmers perform the same movements in time with the music. Necessary skill levels are the same as for solos
- Teams - where up to eight athletes co-ordinate their movements in time to the music. The minimum number of athletes for a team is four. Teams lose marks for every swimmer they have under the full complement. Up to two athletes can be entered as reserve.
- Combination - a team routine where up to ten swimmers perform in one continuous routine. Within a combo routine there must be a solo, duet and another moment where not all 10 swimmers swim once.
In competitions, there is also an event called 'figures'. Figures are specific synchro movements which are internationally recognised and these are produced by FINA, the sport's world-wide governing body. There is no music in this event and the individual performs 4 different movements in front of a panel of judges. The points awarded count towards the end result of the team events. Note that the reserves can participate in figures even if they don't perform in the team event.