$23,000 USAS Funded Review of Literature on USRPT, Other Training Methods, Completed

A $23,000 project funded by USA Swiming, through managing partner the American Swim Coaches’ Association (ASCA), has been completed and is undergoing peer review. The study was undertaken by the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming at Indiana University, led by Joel Stager.

A full version of the report was available on the ASCA website in May, but has since been removed. An email to USA Swimming about when the full report would be released was not immediately returned.

Internet caching technology, however, allows us to view the first page of the report, which summarizes its two conclusions.

One conclusion describes the challenge of reviewing studies involving the physical training of children. The report concludes that while there are frequent studies on exercise (because it’s easier to study), the long-term effects of training on children and adolescents are relatively more difficult to come by,

The second conclusion says that “the current training paradigms employed with children in the USA are, from the perspective of performance, in fact, seemingly successful.” The second conclusion refers to USA Swimming, the funders of the study, as “the premier swimming program in the world.”

News of this study was first reported by Concussion Inc, who obtained an email from ASCA director John Leonard.

Read that email and report here.

While the first page of Stager’s report did not refer specifically to the Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT) that has been employed most famously, though not exclusively, by National Age Group Record-breaking phenom Michael Andrew, an email to several high profile people in swimming indicates that this training was the precise reason why Leonard asked for the study.

The first paragraph of Leonard’s email reads:

6 weeks ago, I explained to (Wielgus) that the USRPT nonsense had no coherent background in terms of training young athletes (as 98% of USA Swimming athlete members are…) but that it had a lot of appeal to young coaches (and athletes) who are not knowledgeable about the history of training in the world and were being hoodwinked into thinking this is something NEW and of course young coaches are easily seduced by anything they perceive as “new” and especially if it means less work and is touted as the reason for the success of the latest Phenom.

According to the letter by Leonard, the purpose of the study was not to investigate whether or not USRPT was successful, rather to review the literature (presumably including that drafted by the methods chief scientific promoter, Dr. Brent Rushall) and make a judgement on whether the science used in that research was sound or not.

Stager’s full conclusions will be clearer once the full report is released, but his summary conclusions did not appear prepared to make a strong judgement on any specific training style to its support or contrary.

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8 years ago

As I know that he is pretty open minded person. Its good to be aware of swimmer.

8 years ago

It appears even the cached page is gone, anybody have a copy or more info?

8 years ago


we did 10 weeks of 100% USRPT. (age 14-22)
It was fun and there was a lot of good quality swimming. (never seen so many good turns)
after 6 weeks the usrpt results declined and the swimmers became bored. (or other way round :))
i go with bob bowman: it has to be a mix but i defintely will keep 100% usrpt weeks in my program.
because of usrpt i rethought all of my training approaches and sets for which i am thankful. i really like
dr. rushalls papers (i.e drag vs. lift…) but as bob bowman said: u can’t eat spinach all day.

i encountered a severe problem with usrpt: particularly for the… Read more »

8 years ago

To set a few things straight from the e mails above, John Leonard is not the President of ASCA, he is the Executive Director. The president is elected, JL is a hired employee. He did not start ASCA, it was founded in the late 1950’s by some of the great coaches of the time, Doc Councilman, Phil Hansel, Peter Daland and others. The first executive director was Bob Ousley, JL is the third, hired in the mid 1980’s. Under his watch the ASCA created the first Code of Conduct for coaches in sport. Also developed the first educational system which helped coaches show their development and proficiency allowing more coaches to develop full time careers within our sport. With the… Read more »

8 years ago

John Leonard and ASCA have very little to offer the swimming community. If anything at all.

Glad to see USA Swimming is still spending our dues well.

8 years ago

Having read everything that I could find from Dr. Rushall, and having bought the USRPT DVD series, I decided to give it an honest initial try last year. Although my trial period of 6 weeks does not a swimmer make, I felt like it was a long enough trial period to give me some good information as to whether I wanted to continue with it in an “I’m all in” fashion, use parts of it, or scrap it altogether.
I followed the protocol completely in order to get a good evaluation. Here’s what I found…
1)The protocol does not allow for technique learned at a slow pace, so as it states, it is for accomplished swimmers who only… Read more »

Reply to  coachdk
8 years ago

I don’t understand how you can read what you did, buy the DVDs and think that 6 weeks is enough time to make an honest assessment? I damn near had anarchy after the first few weeks, as I dropped away other work and begun going exclusively with USRPT water training after 2 months of “hybrid”. We have diverged on 50 FR work and some very short/intense kick sets so we are not a USRPT group/team in the strict sense.

It takes quite a bit of time to acclimate to this mentally more so than physically. We have now just started our 3rd full year for the two groups in our program that use it. You are right in the all… Read more »

Reply to  coachdk
8 years ago

“it doesn’t allow for the broad training that I feel I need to give an age group program to give them the tools to find out what they could be best at when they’re 20-25 years old.”

I’d like you to honestly research this and tell me what % of your team was swimming from 20-25 years old. Many collegiate swimmers end at 21/22… and it sounds like a lot of your kids are the types that will swim in college. But post college?

Also- how many of those college swimmers are giving it the full year, 100% buy in after their second year?

Most kids start transitioning to post college life and taking internships and therefore phasing… Read more »

Reply to  coachdk
8 years ago

“the real distance swimmers … they hated it. And I’m talking tears and frustration everywhere, because they could not swim at the speeds they needed to.”

I want to elaborate a bit on what CoachErik said, because I’ve encountered this particular mental block as well. My team isn’t a USRPT team, but race pace is essentially the core of our training approach. We do a ton of it, particularly with 200’s and below, but our distance sets involve a lot of pace as well.

The first example that comes to mind was during a 500 pace set. We had a number of 100’s at 500 pace and one of our girls couldn’t make the pace she had held just two… Read more »

8 years ago

Oh and I am only pretty sure there are 23 teams out there that would have loved a $1000 grant to use towards something far more important that proving Rushall wrong. Money poorly spent, USA Swimming.

Michael W
8 years ago

Regardless of whether science proves or disproves this…or any new style in the future, for that matter….

I’m concerned when the face of the American Swim Coaches Association, the company that’s responsible for educating and developing all our coaches, is so dismissive and closed-minded when it comes to any opinion that isn’t his own.

Just as education styles & stroke techniques change, there’s always the option that something newer and better may be out there. If he’s going to dismiss all of that personally, that means it’s certainly never going to be in one of the handy $60 binders that coaches need to buy to achieve their next ASCA Coaching level.

Reply to  Michael W
8 years ago

I wish I could give more up votes to this. THIS IS THE ISSUE. ASCA is a money maker for John Leonard, and it somehow gives him access to our membership dollars so that he can win a flame war against a small group of coaches, many of whom are ASCA members also?? Give me a break. Didn’t ASCA at one point have a slogan like “diversity is our greatest strength?”

Reply to  The Screaming Viking!
8 years ago

The very reason why ASCA will never get any of my money. That and the scene of the coaches’ meeting at USA-S convention in 2010 banging on the lectern like its his pulpit, the suits are the biggest problem with the sport. At that point we were in the midst of passing some of the most important legislation regarding athlete protection and this, THIS, is the most important thing in our sport right now. I will never forget that meeting and I will never let it go.

Reply to  coacherik
8 years ago

Unfortunately they get your money just by being a USA Swimming Coach. Who owns the “Fundamentals of Coaching” name that we all must use twice for about 60 bucks or more (rather than the old method of passing around a $20 cd)? USA Swimming’s partnership with ASCA is one of my bigger problems with our organization.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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