View Full Version : changes in swimming

December 22nd, 2004, 09:31 PM
So I just saw a poll at the US Swimming web site that asked:

In the last twenty years, who do you think has changed more in the sport of swimming?

The choices were swimmers or coaches.

Thought it would be a good thread to talk about. Should we also throw in swimming equipment for good measure?

Talk amongst yourselves...

Paul Smith
December 22nd, 2004, 09:52 PM
Simple; money

We are now a sport that athletes can continue on post college/high school......ala track & field.

With more swimmers staying in the sport for longer periods we are seeing a transformation beyond anything a single swimmer or coach has contributed in the last 20 years.

December 23rd, 2004, 01:12 AM
Well, I agree with Paul on that one. On the other hand, swimmers can become top swimmers at younger ages than track and field men or women. Not too many 19 year olds in track and field or no 15 year olds. So, a women swmmer like Jenny Thompson can be at the top of the sport from age 14 to 31.

December 23rd, 2004, 02:03 PM
Wouldn't it be great for the sport if there was a 'professional circuit' like golf? Our athletes could turn professional and win purses. That might do more for our sport than any Michael Phelps or Jenny Thompson. Any philanthropist out there wanna offer the first prize????????????

December 23rd, 2004, 03:10 PM
There are pros in swimming, as in all sports. That's why Phelps can't compete in the NCAAs.

Paul Smith
December 23rd, 2004, 07:23 PM
There are actually quite a few "circuits" the primary one being the Fina World Cup races (check out www.fina.org/swimming), which also includes open water races.

The most recent "money meet" here in the US was the Kerr McGee elite meet (www.kmsc.org). At least one masters swimmer was in attendence as well (Karlyn).

The problem isn't that we don't have money, pro's or circuits, it's that we can;t get interest from the media to cover it. The exception being the Indy meet this fall.

December 23rd, 2004, 07:54 PM
I dare say the money isn't anything like golf. If the prizes were big enough the media would cover it because of the size of the prize.

December 23rd, 2004, 11:49 PM
Well, money is money. Its hard if you are not in Tennis or Golf or Boxing. Our sister sport water polo has some pro- leagues in Europe. Actually, Amanda Beard wasn't doing too bad but not great she earn about a year a go around 75,000. Granted, a lot of master swimmers are in professionals where they make a 100,000 a year, so swimmers making between 75,000 to 200,000 isn't that appealing to people that can entered professionals at 6 figures. Only Michael has made the million mark a year.

December 24th, 2004, 08:34 AM
There's not much media coverage because there isn't much of an audience for the sport. The only reason swimming gets so much coverage in an Olympic year is because of the medal count. Perhaps if the swimmers had to eat something really disgusting in between races (a la Fear Factor) or the women competed in bikinis there would be more interest. Or just add Donald Trump's name somewhere (voice over asking, "What if you could swim it all?")

December 24th, 2004, 01:35 PM
Originally posted by laineybug
I dare say the money isn't anything like golf. If the prizes were big enough the media would cover it because of the size of the prize.

Bug - you have it backwards, money follows a sport that is interesting and can attract advertisers, not vice versa. I can't imagine anyone in their right mind spending a full Thursday - Saturday watching a swim meet for 4-8 hours a day, like we do in golf. You could make a swimming meet grand prize a million dollars and folks aren't going to watch 32 hours of coverage of it. Let's face it, swim meets are BORING.

December 24th, 2004, 05:12 PM
People are going to watch sports that they find interesting. I think they would broadcast swim meets if the market was big enough, regardless of whether are boring or not. Golf, in my opinion, is the most boring sport to watch ever, but since there are a lot of people in the US that play golf, then you can get away with showing it for hours a day. Unfortunatly, most advertisers and market buyers don't see broadcasting swimming as a good way to spend money. It's all about the cost per thousand and if that number is too high, then it's not worth buying the media time to show it because you're never gonna get your money back.


December 24th, 2004, 05:19 PM
Originally posted by Seagurl51
Golf, in my opinion, is the most boring sport to watch ever, but since there are a lot of people in the US that play golf, then you can get away with showing it for hours a day.

I, for one, would be very upset if they stopped televising golf. There is nothing more relaxing than turning on a golf tournament, stretching out on the sofa, and taking a long nap. After a swim workout, of course.

December 25th, 2004, 11:47 AM
Just a frivolous thought:
Swimming would be a lot more interesting to watch if it was viewed in "Matrix time". Imagine being able to see the dives at a slowed down rate where you could actually see the differences between the swimmer's diving styles, actually make out who got furthest, watch the water splash etc. Be able to watch two swimmers, one doing a track start the other a grab start and actually see the differences in timing, speed and distance. During the Olympics watching the diving events only in real time would not have been nearly as interesting, it just happens too fast, at least for an untrained eye like mine. Especially in the syncronized diving the slow motion gave you a much better appreciation and ability to critique. For the 50m free, imagine being able to actually perceive who broke out first and ahead etc., to be able to watch one swimmer continuing under water while another surfaces, and at the finish, being able to see who had the wall timed right, who was gliding, etc., etc. If the viewer could actually see what was going on at a rate that they could absorb I think it would be really interesting viewing. People would love to be able to pick out flaws or just differences in technique. The slow motion would allow the individualization of the swimmers and there would be room for viewers to become "knowledgeable" about the sport and the individual competitors, which is largely opaque when viewed in real time. You get a tiny fraction of this in the replays but even then all the potential suspense is lost by having already seen the result in real time. And to do it right you would need to use a lot more cameras than they did at the Olympics.

December 26th, 2004, 02:59 PM
I disagree with you. Amanda Beard and Ed Moses often earned $75,000 a swim meet. Remember there is a huge bonus for setting a world record. I would bet that there was appearance money offered. Also high point awards per meet and for the series. It is at World Cup races that the rest of the world learned to do faster turns than what we do. Money really brings out the competitor in people.

In France, Germany and Australia, there are many swimmers who earn over a MILLION dollars per year. Only in England and the USA are swimmers lucky to make some ad money.

I agree with Tall Paul, and I don't think there is a big difference in TV cameras. Remember Spitz vs Matt Biondi. We were able to analyze the start, the dive into the water, the first stroke up, the strokes (butterfly) and the finish. Spitz actually had a faster reaction time, but landed pretty flat. Biondi did a perfect bubble free dive and came up nearly half a body length ahead of Spitz. That was a dozen years ago.

The perfect meet for TV would be similiar to our CalTech Pentathlon (http://www.spma.net/meetforms.htm) meet. This is not a boring meet at all. Stanley Fujimoto has won the animal heat of the mens 50 free for 3 out of the last 4 years. Dan Wegner won it 3 years ago, but Dan is 11 years younger than Stan the Man. Dan Wegner is one of our Masters swimmers who have competed in World Cup races.

A fifty of fly, back, breast, free and a 100 IM. Just the fastest 4 swimmers for TV finals, could be shown in a half hour show, complete with slow motion results. Short course meters meets are much better for TV than long course.

Television has a huge opportunity to add to the Olympic Trials, the Olympics and to the Indianapolis World Championships. Swimmers were being treated like Rock stars! How cool to be recognised for what you do. The Dual in the Pool will be in Southern Kalifornia next year, so they will televise that. But they should do more in off years.

December 27th, 2004, 04:38 AM
I don't think that that many swimmers here in Germany earn so much money. At least they don't tell us if they do.
But if you believe what most swimmers here tell most of them don't earn enough from swimming to make a living on that.

Bob McAdams
December 28th, 2004, 03:09 AM
Originally posted by gull80
There's not much media coverage because there isn't much of an audience for the sport. The only reason swimming gets so much coverage in an Olympic year is because of the medal count.

The question is how anybody in the media would know that. Unless you've tried televising something you have no way of knowing how much audience it would get if you did.

Dennis Tesch
December 28th, 2004, 12:02 PM
Interesting thread.... to answer the original question- I think that coaches have changed the most over the past 20 years. Athletes really haven't changed only how they are trained.
The equipment swimmers use haven't changed all that much(outside of videoing and computers). Which leaves coaching for my choice... I'm going to think on this a while longer...

-Getting back to the discussion-
I think it is great that our top swimmers are making enough money to make swimming a short term career. Will it ever grow to the level of the NFL, NBA, etc. and provide retirement and other benefits? We shall see. All things take time. Swimmings biggest struggle, like any individual sport, is that the entertainment level is low and fans have a hard time relating to the individualism of the sport.

* Lets be honest, swimming is like watching paint dry to the general public. It is great to watch the USA team win, but ask anyone who won the 100 breaststroke at the Olympics.. most people wouldn't be able to answer.

* Everyone knows "Michael Phelps", but can they name the events he won medals in? I doubt it. (A large portion of the population can relate to basketball and football and what the athletes do... swimming doesn't come close).

* The only time swimming is popular is the Olympics - reason being is that the American public feels like they are apart of the USA team during the Olympics. They cheer and pull for the USA team... no matter what sport. We just happen to dominate swimming, which brings us more attention. For a few weeks after the Olympics, John Doe, can talk around the water fountain that "WE" dominated swimming. He may even be able to mention a few events and names. It is the only time the general public feels like they are apart of the US Swimming Team. WHEN DOES THIS EVERY HAPPEN AFTER THE OLYMPICS? NEVER!

* Fans being apart of the team??? You go to any team sport, at any level, and you can hear the fans, parents, etc use inclusive phrases like we won, we made a great effort, and so on. They also know each of the team members names and positions. They praise and criticize each team member for their ability or lack of ability at their position within the team. This just doesn't happen as often with individual sports. Most fans and parents talk about the individual, using phrases that use the words "you" and "they". There is no ownerships or team feeling in sports like ours.

We have an uphill battle to get the media and corporations to spend "their" money on something that is very difficult to be included or feel like they are apart of the team....

I wish I had answers to this problem (very frustrating). People love to be entertained and feel like they were apart of the process. How is swimming going to do this?????

December 28th, 2004, 12:10 PM
1) Not efvery one knows Michael Phelps. I was at a Christmas party . There were people who had been both college & high school swimmers. Many "outsiders" had never heard of him. Also, almost no one knew about his arrest. Swimming is very outside fo the flow of American sports, especially in parts of the country where there are not many out door pools.

2) The pro ban in USA & England has a lot to do with the disticntion between -In England- nobibilty, military, and commoners in ahteletics. Many of the early swimm cliubs in England banned commoners from competing if they had received any money. It was a way for Nobility & University educated people to dominate the Olympics. We in the US tried very hard to copy this.

3) Have you heard of TIVO.

December 28th, 2004, 12:12 PM
I forgot 4)

In the early 1960's, swimming was one of the mostly college sports to be televised. In 1964, I believe, the highest rated college sporting event was the Army/Navy football game. The second was a swim meet.

December 28th, 2004, 12:50 PM
I think if you want more people to swim then go to portable pools. They can manufacture pools on more of a mass basis and have some pools that are ok for practice like 20 yard pools with 4 lanes but not competition. Yes, in the 19th century, the philosophy of doing sport for improving oneself rather than making money was popular in the upper classes. As for popularity it depends if the local population likes the other sports. Indianapolis Indiana is not in a warm climate but from what can be observed at worlds a lot of kids there were interested in swimming probably because the placed has had a history of being interested in swimming.

December 31st, 2004, 03:57 PM
If we are to look at other countries and the differences in popularity could we not investigate why swimming is the "professional sport" of Australia? --my interpretation only...

The sport of swimming is comparable to our professional sports in the USA. What is the hook that is so strong there and not in the USA?

A long term marketing campaign by Wall Street types? There is availability of pools/bodies of water in the USA (considering open water swimming as well here) in the country, subberbs, as well as the city. Most everyone tends to enjoy themselves when they cool off for a swim/goof off in the water. (Does pounding out miles of yardage along a black line lose the magic for some?)

Lets ebb back to why Australia is such a huge outlier/swimming superpower. I remember elite athletes training on Australia and representing the country Alex Popov, Michael Klim are two examples who have trained in Australia and or represented the country. Heck Tracy Caukins lives there with her family and manages a swimming complex!

What does Australia got that we don't? How do we, as a country, keep swimming in the mainstream and keep it there?

January 2nd, 2005, 02:22 PM
Marketing is a big part of spectator and televised sports. Successful individual sports in the U.S. have well marketed stars, which attracts viewers, which attracts advertisers and news coverage, which allows there to be big monetary awards for the stars, etc. A "virtuous circle" is formed. Golf and tennis have been relatively successful.

Look at motor sports, which has some similarity to swimming ... individuals racing. Just watching cars going around a track for 500 miles can be quite boring, but when there are well marketed stars of the sport with all the sports marketing paraphenalia, they build a culture and dedicated fan base. The fans are well educated in the details of the sport even if they never drive a race car. The televised races spend lots of money to make the races visually exciting, and the fans have an attachment to their favorite drivers which makes them sit for hours watching cars go in circles, with the occasional crash to spice things up.

Swimming hasn't built that kind of "virtuous circle". I got the impression that Phelps was attempting to build more interest in swimming outside of the Olympics. It will take a significant investment in money and marketing to build a big fan base, and other well established sports are competing for the same money and fans. I think that soccer in the U.S. is suffering from similar problems as swimming.