27 New Rules to Be Voted on at 2019 USA Swimming House of Delegates

During this week’s United States Aquatic Sports Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, members of the USA Swimming House of Delegates will be voting on 27 proposed amendments to the USA Swimming rules books, 1 resolution, and 1 administrative change.

This is substantially more than the 19 proposed rules changes at last year’s convention.

The one resolution up for debate is USA Swimming’s wish to increase the club dues for USA Swimming clubs for the first time since the mid-1980s (read more here). The changes would more-than-triple annual club dues, and result in over a 7-fold increase in the dues for first year clubs. While dues increases are rarely popular, in USA Swimming, they usually pass – including a 2014 resolution to increase the rate at which individual membership dues increase.

Club Dues Per Year $70 $250
First-year clubs $70 $500
Seasonal clubs $40 $70

The proposed rules changes span the gambit from those that deal with in-pool competition and meet management to those dealing with Safe Sport policies and broader rules relating to meet scheduling.

A big one worth highlighting is a proposed rules change that would allow athletes to have 3 advertising logos on suits, caps, and goggles (up from 2), which would expand income earning opportunities for professional American athletes (though at international meets, FINA or IOC rules would still apply). This proposal received a recommendation to approve from the Rules and Regulations Committee.

Below are highlights of the 27 proposed rules changes.

  • Under one proposal, R-1, “consolation finals” would no longer be equivalent to just the second-fastest heat of finals. Instead, all scoring or prize-earning finals besides the fastest heat in finals would be considered “consolation final(s),” while non-scoring or non-prize winning finals heats will be referred to as “Bonus” finals. Previously, “Bonus final” meant the 3rd-fastest finals heat (or “C” final). Rules & Regs Committee Recommendation: Approval
  • Proposal R-3 requests an edit to relay rules that would require all 4 members of a relay to be eligible for a lead-off leg to be counted. The rationale is to prevent teams from building illegal relays with the intent of getting a legal swim from a lead-off swimmer. Rules & Regs Committee Recommendation: Approval
  • Proposal R-7 seeks to clarify that therapeutic elastic tape (sold under brand names like Kinesio tape” is prohibited in competition. In practice, it already is under the guise of “any kind of tape,” but this amendment would explicitly lay that out. Rules & Regs Committee Recommendation: Approval
  • A big change would be Rule R-8, which would expand the number of logos that an athlete could have on suits, caps, and goggles, and allow athletes to expand their income-earning opportunities. Currrently, there is a limit of 2 logos on swimsuits, caps, and goggles, and the rules change would expand that limit to 3 on each item. Rules & Regs Committee Recommendation: Approval
  • Proposal R-11 would give USA Swimming more flexibility in scheduling its relatively-new Futures Championships “as seen best for the athletes.” Previously rules required them to be the same week as Junior Nationals. Recall that in 2019, the meets were scheduled one way at convention and then announced with a different schedule later on. Rules & Regs Committee Recommendation: Approval
  • Proposal R-14 gives the National Team Managing Director the authority to set the schedule for US Nationals to match the World Championships or Olympic program without the approval of the Program & Events Committee Chair. Rules & Regs Committee Recommendation: Approval
  • Rule change R-15 eliminates the requirement for all coaches and referees to be represented at the pre-meet administrative meeting. Videos of these meetings are now generally available online. Rules & Regs Committee Recommendation: Approval
  • Rule change R-16 would establish a “re-entry fee” for preliminary events in which an athlete failed to properly scratch or withdraw and did not compete in. Rules & Regs Committee Recommendation: Approval
  • Proposals R-18, R-19, R-20, R-21, and R-22 involve the deletion of certain Code of Conduct clauses relating to sexual abuse of minors, which are now under the exclusive control of the US Center for Safe Sport and its policies – making the USA Swimming policies redundant. R-25 is similar, but updates mandatory reporting guidelines to comply with federal law.
  • Proposal R-24 deals with a sticky and vague clause in the Code of Conduct relating to an action being “detrimental to the image or reputation of USA Swimming, a LSC or the sport of swimming.” This has long been a clause that caused a lot of consternation over its ability to give USA Swimming broad-reaching powers over its membership’s activities. For example, if an athlete or a coach were to go to the media in an act of “whistleblowing” against a USA Swimming or LSC cover-up, that would certainly be detrimental to the image and reputation of USA Swimming and the sport of swimming, but would not be within the intent of the Code of Conduct. With that being said, we are unaware of any accusations of USA Swimming using this clause as an overreach to date. The official purpose is stated as “To omit consideration of image or reputation in the assessment of potential bad acts.” Rules & Regs Committee Recommendation: Approval
  • Proposal R-26 would update wetsuit rules in races shorter than 5km to allow wetsuits in water with temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius or 68 degrees Fahrhenheit. Rules & Regs Committee Recommendation: Postponed recommendation pending further clarification from proposer
  • Proposal R-27 would update open water eligibility rules for Open Water Zone Championships to be determined by the swimmer’s age as of December 31 of that year. The purpose is to align with FINA’s age considerations for junior international open water competition. This is a hot topic of conversation in the pool as well, where USA Swimming’s age-up policies don’t align with FINA’s. Rules & Regs Committee Recommendation: Postponed recommendation pending further clarification from proposer

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3 years ago

with regards to R-27, I do not see anything positive from going to the FINA fixed age up date. This will leave the swimmers born during the 2nd half of the year at a disadvantage in the long run as they will always be the younger/youngest swimmers at all the meet and never have the chance of being that the top (the oldest) in an age group. Having grown up in Europe I saw that many swimmers born later in the year were often among the first to quit swimming.
FINA clearly states which year the Jr. swimmers have to be born to be eligible for a meet, so as long as you know which year you are born… Read more »

Reply to  Dan
3 years ago

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the negative effects of fixed birthdays on sports. Not sure which book it was in.

3 years ago

USA Swimming has to increase the club dues – CEO Tim Hinchey overspent the budget by $4 Million in his second year. This doesn’t include the $4 Million headquarters office renovation that he lied to the Board of Directors about and still isn’t finished a year later.

In order to make up for the shortfall, he has directed staff to stop most travel – most notably to educate and serve members, coaches, teams in the field – and cut member programs like crazy. What hasn’t been cut? His luxury travel schedule and the support entourage that he insists goes with him. Case in point: Tim and his Senior staff are staying at the JW Marriott this week in St.… Read more »

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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