International Aquatics Magazine, which is a publication dedicated to all things in the Aquatics industry, has released its annual list of Power 25 inventors. These are generally behind-the-scenes guys and gals that are helping to expand the scope of swimming in general, as well as water safety and health programs. After all, the safer and healthier that pools are, the more people that will use them. And the more people that we can get in the water, the more people who will take it up competitively. Here’s a few that I think coaches will find interesting.
Bruce Wigo, the director of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, in Ft. Lauterdale, Florida, is recognized as one of the world’s leading swimming historians. He has written one of the best books about the history of swimming called The Golden Age of Swimming.
Wigo has also served as the executive director for USA Waterpolo, where he increased national membership from 7,000 to 30,000, and watched his son Wolf compete in 3 Olympics.
He has led a similar charge for the ISHOF, increasing membership, funding, and confidence for the organization. His next goal is to bridge the gap between competitive and non-competitive swimmers, and to get the latter group more interested in the former.
The one, the only, Michael Phelps. Phelps has undoubtedly been one of, if not the, biggest influence on competitive swimming over the past 3-4 years. Phelps has greatly pumped up media coverage of the sport, which includes NBC picking up contracts to broadcast the 2009 World Championships, and the 2010 and 2011 National Championships.
Phelps has even had enough starpower where some of his more infamous exploits have been enough to cross over into mainstream media.
I don’t know that it’s true for a fact, but I’d venture a guess that Phelps and his 16 Olympic medals have made him at least 10 times as much in endorsement and appearance money as any swimmer since Johnny Weissmuller‘s played made $2,000,000 (about $30,000,000 in today’s money) to play Tarzan in the first half of the century.
Phelps has given swimming a national spotlight, for better or worse, and it’s up to the rest of the swimming world to continue to hold the nation’s attention after Phelps is done.
Anybody who has ever tried to run a large aquatics facility without subsidization from a school district or large university knows that it is extremely difficult to make them financially viable. Even clubs with top-level elite swimmers are not immune to failure, for example the Triangle Aquatics Club in North Carolina.
Sue Nelson, a level 4 ASCA coach and very successful entrepreneur, is working to fix this problem. She is the founder and director of USA Swimming’s Build-a-Pool clinics, and is a big proponent of getting competitive and non-competitive programs to work in a synergy (yes, I just used that word) to allow independent aquatics facilities to operate successfully and profitably.
Dr. Alfred Bernard has no swimming background. Really, he stumbled into it by chance. He was working on research into why children living in the heavily polluted city of Brussells, Belgium had fewer respiratory issues than those living in the relatively smog free country, he came to an astonishing conclusion. He found that children living in the country attended indoor swimming pools at a much younger age and much more frequently. Through more digging, he discovered that there was in fact a connection between the two.
Since then, Dr. Bernard has become a leading researcher on the link between certain chlorine based combounds (such as the dreaded chloramines) have led to a dramatically increased level of allergies and asthama problems in frequent indoor swimmers. This research has led to an incredible improvement in the air quality of natatoriums around the world, which is a major issue for both aquatics directors, coaches, parents, and athletes.
A University of Memphis study has shown that minority children are three times more likely to drown than white children. This is an astonishing fact, and points to a divide in interest and availability of both water safety as well as competitive swimming programs.
To that end, in 2006, USA Swimming appointed John Cruzat to lead its charge towards increasing access and appeal of the sport to minority groups, and to “to implement a major strategic shift in the organization’s efforts to reach minorities”.
Since then, Cruzat, along with Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, have dramatically increased minority participation in swimming, both at the elite competitive levels, as well as the learn-to-swim level.
Aquatics International got a great quote from Cruzat:
“Our executive director has been wanting to do this for about a decade,” Cruzat says. “The environment for change was ideal. When you have a leader and culture that lends itself to change, it was just a matter of me showing up.”
So, who else do you guys think are among the most influential in the world of aquatics, both in your local communities and around the world?