Swimming made national news this week for something other than speed. The rising cost of technical race suits is starting to turn heads. CBS This Morning reported that some parents are spending as much as 10% of their income on their children’s sports, and the attention was turned to swimming and the costs that are associated.
- Watch the CBS segment HERE.
A technical suit costs anywhere from $100-$549. Although these suits are undeniably necessary at high levels of swimming, some LSCs are deciding that they should be reserved for swimmers over the age of 12. Southern California, Arkansas, Maine, New England, New Jersey, and South Carolina have banned the use of technical suits for swimmers under the age of 12. There is a lot of support for this movement. Coaches see this younger age group as a crucial stage where it is more important to learn to improve races by fixing technique and relying on consistency and hard work instead of using a new technical suit as a “magic pill.”
That said, when a swimmer is racing in a technical suit they have an immeasurable advantage over a swimmer who is not. A technical suits price reflects the amount of science and study that has gone into making it. “For over a decade, Arena has been developing and applying new technical features to its range of racing swimwear,” found on the description of Arena’s carbon technology, “with the aim of constantly offering swimmers a cutting edge in their performance.” The suit manages compression and flexibility when the swimmer needs it most. “The carbon thread framework locks down like a seatbelt when critical stretch levels kick in, giving maximum compression on over-extended zones, increasing support and control when and where it’s needed, and boosting performance through reduced drag, improved efficiency, and maximum power. At the same time, the stretch fabric retains its elasticity, remaining comfortable without affecting the swimmer’s mobility.” It comes at a price, but there is an advantage behind these suit’s technology.
USA Swimming hired Issac Sports Group in July 2017 to review the current policies on tech suits in age group swimming with a projected final report in November 2017. On November 29 USA Swimming told SwimSwam that the final report will be delayed until early February. Leading this study is Stu Isaac who worked for Speedo North America for 25 years and was an NCAA All-American in the 1970s. You can find a list of the elements for the conclusive report here.
The ban on technical suits on 12 and under swimmers has brought relief to a lot of parents. Swim parents may feel pressure to buy their child a $500 suit because that is what their child’s competitors are racing in. This ban is arguably supposed to level out the playing (swimming) field at the youngest level and put the focus back on learning how to race without the added distraction of a suit. The cost of technical suits has been deterring families from joining swimming in the USA and this suit ban has the potential to gain popularity across the USA and turn this statistic around.