For swimmers 18 years old and under, the United States has a National Junior Team that competes nationally and internationally. The qualifying criteria are similar to the National Team. Swimmers must be members of USA Swimming in good standing, be a citizen of the United States, must not violate any rules or regulations, including doping violations, and meet the competitive qualifications established by FINA and USA Swimming.
The qualifications have changed, so to make the 2011-2012 US Junior National Team swimmers must have competed at the 2011 ConocoPhillips National Championships. The top six times from the preliminaries and the finals in each event, except relays, were considered for the team. If the swimmers also met FINA’s age requirements for the FINA World Junior Championships, then they made the team. FINA’s age requirements are: for males, 16-18 years old, and for girls, 15-17 years old. The swimmers cannot be college or university students (starting in the Fall 2011 semester is acceptable), and they cannot have been a member of any high-level USA Swimming National Team.
The Junior National Team is larger than the National Team. The senior team has 56 members, 26 men and 26 women. The Junior National Team has 102 members. Being on the Junior National Team provides younger swimmers with the experience of competing on the national and international stage. Many members of the Junior National Team continue on to the senior squad and go to the Olympic Games. Members of the Junior National Team get to attend special training events and get tips from well-known swimmers such as Michael Phelps.
In addition to the National Junior Team, the United States also has an Open Water Junior Team for open water swimmers. For swimmers 14 to 18, to make the 2011-2012 Open Water National Junior Team, swimmers had to have competed in the 2011 USA Swimming 10K National Championships. The top three place finishers qualified for the team as long as they finished within 15 minutes of the first-place overall finisher. Swimmers have to meet all of the other criteria established by USA Swimming and FINA to finally make the team.
Swimmers on the National Junior Team are the rising stars of swimming. Being on the Junior Team is an honor; members represent the country at international competitions. Junior swimmers must also follow all rules and regulations and the Code of Ethics; team members are also tested for performance-enhancing substances. By being held to the same standards as members of the senior squad, swimmers on the National Junior Team learn what is expected of them if they want to continue their careers as swimmers.