Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Facts about Senior Swimming in America

For the last few months I have been espousing a very critical point of view regarding senior swimming in America.  I believe that USA Swimming dropped the ball when, in 2001, they changed the progression of senior swimming. Please see my earlier entries:

To sum it up, I believe that the USA Swimming Senior Development Committee has made it more difficult for an LSC level senior swimmer to progress to the National ranks.  Please read those earlier blog entries for the total breakdown of the former and current progressions and why I dislike the current progression.

One of the effects of the current progression is that it holds back our younger senior swimmers.  It may even cause attrition within our sport.  "But Cliff", you say,  "what facts do you have to back up your thesis?"

Well, I have crunched the numbers for each of the following USA Swimming National Teams (these are the only lists I could find within the time period of the current progression):
Over the years, National Team has aged.  The Women seem to be relatively unaffected ranging from an average age of 21.6 to 21.9 (actually dipping to 19.8 in the 2006 Pan Pacs).  On the other hand, the average age of the men has risen dramatically, from 21.3 to 24.8.....whoa!!!

Now, in all fairness, I believe that Title IX may be affecting our men's numbers.  Having said that, with the popularity of heros like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, you would think that it might balance out Title IX.  I really think that our progression of championship meets is playing a significant roll in the aging of our team.  Assuming Phelps and Lochte are nearly done, we are going to be in big trouble by the time the 2016 Rio games come along.

The time to act is now!  Bring back the Region Championships....bring back the three tiered Junior National format!  We can keep Sectionals, but we need to bring back those smaller steps in the progression.  Without those steps we create an atmosphere in which only the early bloomers thrive.

We need the USA Swimming Senior Development Committee stop just thinking about collegiate age swimmers and the super talented early developers.  We need to cultivate senior swimming holistically...bring along every level of senior swimming in our country.


  1. Cliff,

    It turna our you and I are seeing some of the same trends. Did I see you on deck in Palo Alto? We should have talked while we were both out there but it seems we've just discovered one another.

    You are hitting the nail on the head here. We went to the Southern Sectional in Athens this year and if you were a sectional cut swimmer it wasn't the right meet for you. You needed LCM junior cuts to make it back, which defeats the purpose of the meet.

  2. I actually sent my assistant to Nationals this summer (we had one swimmer, and HS seasons starts today and I had some things to get ready), but I would have loved to chat. I did get to watch online.

    I took two swimmers to our Sectional meet in Portland, OR this summer, and even with a D final, it took a lot to come fact my National qualifier only made it back to the D final in her event (she was not rested, but still!). In the women's 100 back, 1st-7th got their OT cuts and 8th place got hers during prelims.

    Kids do not want to travel to a meet that they only a small chance of qualifying and little if any chance of getting a second swim. The current format is really affecting us up here in Alaska, and I have to believe that we are like the canary in the coal mine.

    I just discovered you over at the Swim Brief, and I plan on reading your postings. See you online...and maybe at a meet in the near future.