As athletes, teams and coaches get back to intense workouts and winter competition, Swim Swam met up with Paris Jacobs, Chief Operations Officer for ASCA, the American Swimming Coaches Association, to hear what’s new in the coaching world and why ASCA just endorsed a new solution to keep athletes safer in the water.
SWIMSWAM: First things first, congratulations on your fairly new role at ASCA. Tell us, what are you and the rest of ASCA leadership planning for 2019?
Paris Jacobs: We are implementing coordinated new initiatives across the board. Things like improving relationships and communications with our member coaches across the country and also around the world. We’re enhancing our social media presence to improve two-way communications and to really hear from the coaching community what they’re seeing, doing and thinking on their pool decks. We’re also seeking and making strategic alliances with partners who can really help us on our mission to constantly improve coaching standards, professionalism in the sport and to shine a spotlight on important issues like head safety for athletes.
SWIMSWAM: How did you first get into the swim industry? You have been a coach for years, right?
PJ: Yes, I’ve been in the aquatics industry for 20 years as a coach, team administrator, USAS volunteer and business development consultant for teams. I feel very fortunate to have seen, learned and experienced what I have. We started our own team, Machine Aquatics, in 2001. In 18 seasons we have grown to more than 1,200 swimmers in seven locations. In 2010, we started a swim school, a private training facility that has recently expanded to a 24,000 square feet Performance Center that offers everything from Learn to Swim, Dryland Training, SwimLabs Video Analysis, Triathlete training for our Tri Team and Kickr bike studio. In 2016, I started doing business consulting for ASCA before they asked me to come on board full time as Chief Operations Officer. I’m still actively involved in everything and my days are full.
SWIMSWAM: You touched just now on head safety, is that a big concern for coaches going into the winter season?
PJ: Yes, it is a big concern. Head safety has become an area of focus for coaches in many sports. Look what’s been happening in the NFL and football in general. Hockey and lacrosse too. It was not 20 years ago when the idea of head safety in sports was unheard of. For the longest time, people didn’t understand that swimming is a contact sport with crowded lanes in meet warmups, for example, swimmers can be injured, but that’s changing rapidly. There is more data showing that any kind of injury from cumulative bumps and knocks over long periods of time to single incident concussions can have lasting impact on an athlete’s well being.
Our coaches are telling us head safety is paramount to them and their teams. They’re working hard to make athletes more aware of the risks in swimming and help educate about solutions. That is also why ASCA recently endorsed the Hammer Head® Swim Cap, a ground breaking development in head safety for swimmers and all aquatic athletes.
SWIMSWAM: Tell us more about that. Why did you decide to endorse Hammer Head® Swim Caps?
PJ: I’m paraphrasing but our executive director John Leonard says it best. Once in a while a product or an idea comes along that intuitively everyone can see is right, that the benefits to athletes are so obvious that it’s going to be a real game changer. That’s how we feel about the Hammer Head cap. It’s really the only major innovation for head safety in swim cap design in more than a century. We decided to endorse it because it can make a real impact for athletes.
SWIMSWAM: How do Hammer Head swim caps work?
PJ: Each cap has a proprietary layer of honeycomb material on the inside top of the cap that helps to absorb the shock of impact when collisions occur in the water with other swimmers or the pool wall. They also feature TEKFIT® – an evolved, new cut that means the cap sits low over the ears. The Hammer Head cap is also wrinkle free, which means even if you’re double capping with a team cap, you’re going to experience a more hydrodynamic swim and reduced drag in the pool. Swimmers have no issue paying $400 or more or a tech suit to make them more hydrodynamic in the water, so it makes sense they should take this next step to perform to their best.
Hammer Head® Swim Caps are also becoming very popular with triathletes and open water swimmers for extra protection in busy starts and at buoy turns. We’re going to be talking to all of our members about Hammer Head and introducing the cap at our swim clinics going forward.
SWIMSWAM: But experienced coaches can spot a dangerous situation developing in the pool? Isn’t that enough?
PJ: With the best will in the world, no coach or no meet official can see everything. Coaches do everything they can to keep athletes safe and to make sure no one is on the bottom of the pool. And we all work hard to ensure athletes have as much information and as many tools as possible to protect themselves in practice and competition. Hammer Head is another tool, another layer of safety and protection against injury for athletes. It’s like when goggles were first introduced and everyone thought they were totally unnecessary. That’s an unbelievable thought now.
I’ve seen head injuries professionally as a swim coach for more than 20 years and my own daughter, an experienced swimmer, went head to head with a teammate. I suffered a concussion personally that took me two years to recover from. These things do happen and any education we can provide, or any innovative solution we can offer to athletes is an instant win.
SWIMSWAM: What else can be done to promote head safety?
PJ: It’s everyone’s responsibility to understand the risks of any sport and to practice, train and perform armed with that knowledge. But things are getting better. The pendulum has really swung in the last year as coaches are driving awareness with athletes and the industry in general is seeking solutions. Concussion Protocol Training (CPT) is now being implemented and enforced at the state level. So one thing is for sure, athlete safety is going to remain top of the agenda and a big discussion topic for all of us for the foreseeable future.
Paris Jacobs is Chief Operating Officer, ASCA. She is an experienced swim coach, swim team and swim school founder, entrepreneur, level five business teacher and executive business consultant.
The world’s only protective swim cap. We are creating a movement to protect aquatic athletes one cap at a time.
Our goal is simple. Make every aquatic athlete safer and more confident in the water.
- Raise awareness about head injury in the pool
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