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Thread: The future of Men's Swimming in the US

  1. #1
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    The future of Men's Swimming in the US

    I think I'm going to have to disagree a bit with my Longhorn teamates Mr. Commings and The Raz on this subject. It's not good to rely on someone coming out of the woodwork in years to come or simply counting on cycles of ebb and flow over years in the sport.

    I have been to many age group meets with my kids the last 4 years. In Georgia, Colorado.... and my home the Great state of Ohio, and enrollment of young boys (ages 8-14) is down further than at any time I can remember in the sport. Gone are the days when I grew up and boys ALWAYS outnumber girls in the sport, and its not merely because more girls are swimming now. It's because boys are interested in other sports..... many of which are easier training sports in my opinion.

    This is NOT good for the future of men's swimming. I have a bad feeling the next Michael Phelps will be lured into Soccer or some other sport over the coming years... if not already. Swimming.... particularly the governing body USS.... does NOT do an adequate job marketing the sport to the general public during non Olympic years. We ride too heavily on the success of our Olympic performances in hopes of expanding enrollment, and then every 4 years it dies out quickly. With the added cuts of men's swimming programs in the NCAA Div. I level the growth and continued success of US mens swimming in my opinion is in jeopardy over the next 8-12 years. Michael Phelps is a lucky find for the US. I strongly suggest you take a look at some heat sheets for age group meets in your area. You will likely find that there are about 1/2 to 2/3rds the number of boys heats compared to girls heats in the younger age groups. It's shocking. You're looking at the future of our Olympic team in these reduced heats. You can't rely on a Rowdy Gaines to come into the sport late (like age 13) and dominate especially when the numbers are down so much.

    USS needs to find money for a larger national campaign with TV time. Why is it I have NEVER been contacted by USS swimming to donate money?! Why is there NO marketing campaign to solicit funds from ex US swimmers from the past 40 years ?!

    In my opinion, this is an all out war against soccer and the evil Big 3 sports. For example...... Australia is hurtin' if you take away their 2 big guns Hacket and Thorpe, there is virtually no one in the pipeline that will take over. The US is in a similar but lessor position. It was truly embarassing that the US had absolutely NO ONE in the 100 free at the Olympics. Let me say it again....

    IT WAS TRULY EMBARASSING THAT THE US HAD ABSOLUTELY NO ONE IN THE 100 FREE IN THE FINALS AT THE OLYMPICS !

    We should OWN that event ! The 100 free IS United States Swimming. It is our history! Our 400m free relay should NEVER lose at the Olympics or World Games as it is a reflection of depth and speed in our programs.

    Face it, our volume of great sprinters are pretty bad right now and thats a reflection of basic athleticism and talent by taking (stealing) "athletes" from other sports with raw speed. Gary Hall saved his butt and the US in the 50 free at Greece, but let's face it, he's an archeology find and not a reflection of up an coming talent. We're relying on someone that probably peaked 2 Olympics ago in the sprints.

    The picture is not good for the growth of US men's swimming, and we definitely need to do something about it.


    John Smith

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    Very Active Member justforfun's Avatar
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    I'm reposting here what I posted on the Duel in the Pool thread. It seems more appropriate on this new thread.

    I hope the more optimistic folks, like Ande, are correct. I'm sure there are a number of very talented youngsters out there. I'm encouraged by the young U.S. women already having success and also by guys like Weber-Gale, Wildman-Tobriner, Grevers, etc. who are just on the verge of breaking through internationally.

    What I'm most concerned about is the level of participation, esp. among boys, in the 8 & unders, 9 &10, 11&12 age groups at regional meets. I'm not sure how it compares to 5 or even 10 years ago, but I know it's much less than when I was a young swimmer. I wonder how much this has to do with the parents' perceptions about future opportunities for their boys. Other sports offer greater opportunity to make big money professionally or earn college scholarships.

    We all know the great benefits of swimming participation, but maybe we don't do the greatest job relating those benefits to non-swimming parents.

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    Just for fun

    Your concerns are warranted.

    We need to "sell" the sport better nationally to a younger crowd. Swimming is a VERY hard sport to train for and that can disuade young people these days.


    John Smith

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    Very Active Member scyfreestyler's Avatar
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    Re: Just for fun

    Originally posted by TheGoodSmith
    Your concerns are warranted.

    We need to "sell" the sport better nationally to a younger crowd. Swimming is a VERY hard sport to train for and that can disuade young people these days.


    John Smith
    It is difficult to train for and the monetary rewards are miniscule when compared to the big three of MLB, NFL, and NBA. You can count the swimmers who make big money on two hands whereas nearly every pro player in the big three makes well into a six digit salary, often times seven. What is USS going to say? Hey kid, come swim on one of our teams and you might get a shot at the Olympics. All the while the kid has visions of playing in the NBA and driving a new F430 Spider.

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    330man

    Agreed.

    Swimming sucks in terms of financial rewards compared to other sports. All the more reason to implement heavy duty marketing tactics and recruit even harder.

    John Smith

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    Distance Man tjrpatt's Avatar
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    You are right that there is no national campaign for getting involved in swimming like they do for other sports.

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    Very Active Member justforfun's Avatar
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    It seems to me that one problem is the few chances to showcase great swimmers. Traditionally, the best athletes only try to swim their best two, maybe three, times per year. Many of those events aren't very exciting, either. Over the years, U.S. National Championships have rarely been picked up by any network for TV coverage. Somehow, we've got to get a consistent swimming presence on TV!!!

    As Craig suggested on the other thread, perhaps the World Cup circuit could be a partial remedy. These are shorter, more exciting meets than we typically have. There is international competition with points standings and cash rewards. Unfortunately, there's not a great deal of participation by U.S. swimmers because of conflicts with the NCAA season. But, there is potential for post-grad athletes.

    Also, maybe the kind of head-to-head, mano a mano matchups Gary Hall tries to promote (and that Biondi, Jager, Spitz et al did a number of years ago) could be helpful. It doesn't seem as though this format has gained much momentum so far.

    What do you think?

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    Very Active Member Peter Cruise's Avatar
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    Need I point out that it remains a fairly expensive sport to participate in? Yes, I know there are worse, but our sport recently took a quantum jump up for suit costs, not for workouts but for any significant champs kids expect to wear the lastest & slickest suit available. Come to think of it, it is the mens' suits that have increased the greater percentage as the suits gain more fabric compared to what used to be a racing suit.
    I'm sure there's a lot more to it; it can't help that every time I come across the border I read that some public pool is under threat of closing, though I realize that shouldn't affect boys more than girls. Maybe the trend is related to one our teachers are noticing in schools up here: that girls are by far the dominant group of achievers these days in school- better grades, more participatory, more scholarships.

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    Very Active Member Blue Horn's Avatar
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    Unfortunately, our entertainment shock jock world is becoming less interested in the subtle nuances of a sport such as swimming. Now, if the swimmers were naked and the pool was filled with sharks we would have excellent viewership. With the way our society has become addicted to becoming famous we would probably have a lot of contestants too. Hard work and patience is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

    Hook'em
    Blue

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Peter Cruise
    Need I point out that it remains a fairly expensive sport to participate in?
    Actually I've always thought swimming was one of the cheaper sports. It certainly isn't gear intensive like a lot of other sports.

    I think one of swimming's problems is that it isn't a team sport. I think this is much more a factor than that there isn't money in it at the elite levels. I doubt most parents initially get there kids involved in a specific sport based on how much money the kid could end up making in it!

    I think USA Swimming should concentrate on how much fun it is to be part of a team. The sport will always be highly individual, but kids can have a lot of fun with their teammates.

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    Very Active Member Peter Cruise's Avatar
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    Au contraire, Kirk. I have a fair number of parents of the local swim teams who shop at my store (& know of my swimming habit) & all I hear is how expensive it is becoming (both of money & parental time) esp. the new suits. Now Nanaimo is hardly an affluent area, so maybe that contrasts with your experience.

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    Very Active Member scyfreestyler's Avatar
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    I agree about the expense of suits, I went the cheap way and just bought an Aquablade Jammer(50.00) as opposed to the FSII (150.00). Just the same, it is still cheaper than many other popular sports such as cycling, surfing, snowskiing, snowboarding, water skiing, etc..

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Peter Cruise
    Au contraire, Kirk. I have a fair number of parents of the local swim teams who shop at my store (& know of my swimming habit) & all I hear is how expensive it is becoming (both of money & parental time) esp. the new suits. Now Nanaimo is hardly an affluent area, so maybe that contrasts with your experience.
    I guess most of my experience is from my own age group experience and it was fairly cheap in those days. Perhaps things have changed. However, kids certainly don't need to wear the expensive suits and parents who are concerned about the price shouldn't buy them.

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    Very Active Member valhallan's Avatar
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    Better television coverage would help draw in more potential future swimmers by more exposure to the sport. The problem is that swimming isn't as widely viewed as most people would think...Bob Costas stated that not many people want to watch it other than swimmers themselves.

    Sponsorship is the fuel to getting exposure and air time...which in turn lures in the kids at a younger age. Back in the seventies, ABC's Wide World of Sports had swimming events televised almost every other weekend. Interestingly enough...people like Gary Hall have the right idea in getting sponsors by all means possible. That Everlast robe of his at the 50 free last summer is good example.

  15. #15
    Very Active Member scyfreestyler's Avatar
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    Originally posted by valhallan
    Better television coverage would help draw in more potential future swimmers by more exposure to the sport. The problem is that swimming isn't as widely viewed as most people would think...Bob Costas stated that not many people want to watch it other than swimmers themselves.

    Sponsorship is the fuel to getting exposure and air time...which in turn lures in the kids at a younger age. Back in the seventies, ABC's Wide World of Sports had swimming events televised almost every other weekend. Interestingly enough...people like Gary Hall have the right idea in getting sponsors by all means possible. That Everlast robe of his at the 50 free last summer is good example.
    I hear what you are saying about sponsorship and Gary Hall. I guess it boils down to whether or not that is the image that USS wants to portray.

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    Very Active Member dorothyrde's Avatar
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    Originally posted by knelson
    Actually I've always thought swimming was one of the cheaper sports. It certainly isn't gear intensive like a lot of other sports.

    I think one of swimming's problems is that it isn't a team sport. I think this is much more a factor than that there isn't money in it at the elite levels. I doubt most parents initially get there kids involved in a specific sport based on how much money the kid could end up making in it!

    I think USA Swimming should concentrate on how much fun it is to be part of a team. The sport will always be highly individual, but kids can have a lot of fun with their teammates.
    Cheap, right.

    55.00 a year to be a member of USA swimming
    126.00 to be a member of the Y(my kids team is a Y team).
    125.00 per month training fees for the Senior swimmer
    95.00 per month training fees for the 12 year old

    Every swim meet has fees of 2.50-5.00 per event. 3-day meets, 4-5 events per day, gets costly.

    Most meets are too far away to drive back and forth, so a meet weekend cost up to 300 in hotel and food costs(and I have packed a microwave before and done all meals in the room!).

    And to address boys, there isn't a lot of places for them to go and swim because of the cut in boys teams. Having a 17 year old boy who quit last year.
    1. he said he was burned out, tired of swimming every day, and the time the meets took from his weekends and friends.
    2. What could he do with it after HS, hard to find scholarships.
    3. Band and band related activities were taking his time.
    4. He is old enough to know the cost of it was a source of stress.
    5. His HS has no swim team, so it was not even a HS sport for him.

    Now, he is thinking of coming back this fall, but it will be his decision if he does, and his decision if he wants to train in the National team, or stay at a lower level just for fitness.

    Ironicly, the 12 year old is not near as good of a swimmer, but because she is a girl, the sholarship oppurtunities are much better.

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    John, I hope I'm wrong when I talk about a cycle that will end in three years.

    And I'm in total agreement about marketing. They have these Olympians going EVERYWHERE to the point that they say it affects their training. But where exactly are they going? Yes, there was the Disney World tour, but that didn't reach lots of people. Photo shoots and small camps aren't going to help, either. They have to be doing national commercials equivalent to what basketball and football players are doing. And do them so training is not affected.

    It's a difficult solution, but USA Swimming has people on their payroll to help out with this. There's supposed to be a campaign that they're starting this weekend with the TV broadcast of Duel in the Pool, but will it be a good start? We'll see.

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    Very Active Member justforfun's Avatar
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    I think Blue Horn is onto something. Has anyone watched Fear Factor? They have scantily-clad young people doing all manner of stupid things in the water and somehow lots of people watch! I think we have the wrong idea going for more body coverage with full body suits (and not just because it's expensive).

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    Very Active Member SwiminONandON's Avatar
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    haha ... I have a friend that called me during the Olympics to ask me where the skimpy speedos went ...

    I would have thought swimming was cheap too ... but it's really not ... championship suits are a good $200 and up ... then you have your meet suit about $70 (if you are a girl) ... warmups, caps, goggles, etc. It might not seem like a lot but it adds up ... A local age group team pays close to $200/mo (if I remember correctly) ... then you have meet costs ... and the time factor ...

    There aren't many sports that require getting out of bed at 5am to practice then going to practice again after school ... you have to love it ... and the kids that are talented swimmers are probably talented at other sports, too ... I had a friend in high school that played football, basketball, and water polo ... he could have jumped into the pool at any point and qualified for the high school state meet, too ... he went to Michigan and played football there ... he probably could have swum there if he wanted to ... he was that talented ...

    The sport needs to be marketed better ... it needs more TV time ... the stars need to be in the spotlight more ... I've read all about all these sponsors they all have but other than Speedo ads I never see any of them ...

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    Very Active Member Leonard Jansen's Avatar
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    Even the "inexpensive" sports aren't getting the kids. How many kids want to do distance running? All you need is the odd pair of shoes 2-3 x's a year and some basic shorts/t-shirts. Even so, it's not the $$ (although that doesn't help), it's the fact that the difficult sports are tough sells to an inactive population.

    All together now: "You kids don't know what hard is: When I was a kid, we used to run 53 miles to school - each way and it snowed every day and the mountain lions would kill 10% of the class each month. But we were happy to do it." Etc.

    -LBJ

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