In a live Facebook interview, International Swimming League officials shed some light on the recruiting and roster-building process for the league’s second season.
The eight returning ISL franchises were each able to ‘secure’ or ‘protect’ 8 athletes, keeping them on the roster for the 2020-2021 season. At the same time, the two new franchises got about a month of priority recruiting in their home countries – the Toronto franchise had exclusive rights to negotiate with Canadian athletes and the Tokyo franchise exclusive rights to Japanese athletes. After the month was up, all athletes were free agents and all ten franchises were able to compete to recruit the same pool of athletes.
The defending champion Energy Standard team has been announcing athletes on its roster, but the parameters of free agency were still unclear, though we’ve been asking the organization for information since early January. However, ISL officials revealed the concept of protecting athletes and exclusive recruiting for the new franchises in the video interview on the American Swimming Coaches Association Facebook page.
A few other notes from that Facebook live session, with details we’ve been able to gather for context:
Skin Races of non-free strokes: Tsagkarakis couldn’t reveal specifics, but hinted that the multi-round skin races would feature strokes other than freestyle in the 2020-2021 season. One ISL athlete has told SwimSwam that one plan is that the team that wins the medley relay on day 1 gets to pick the stroke of the skin race on day 2. So the winner of the women’s medley relay gets to decide the stroke of the women’s skin race the following day, and the men’s medley winner would get to pick the men’s skin stroke.
Potential for no spectators in 2020-2021 season: Nitz noted that due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a strong possibility that the second ISL season would have to take place without spectators. That’s a possibility in all professional sports at the moment, with large group gatherings perhaps outlawed for a time as the world starts to chart a return from quarantine and shelter-in-place rules.
No location yet for 5-week training camp: The ISL still plans to condense its 2020-2021 season into one five-week training camp in which ISL athletes all come together and train in one place, with the season’s competitions held within that training camp block. ISL organizers see the training camp as a way to create lots of content with their athletes, showing athlete interactions away from the pool as well as the behind-the-scenes strategies and team preparations for ISL meeets.
There’s no location yet set for the 5-week training camp, as the pandemic is making it difficult to lock in a commitment with a host. But the ISL is talking to potential hosts in Australia, the U.S. (the Florida area) and Japan and likely won’t choose until summer.
“Something more” to minimum time standards: Tsagkarakis said the ISL would be introducing “something more” to its set of minimum time standards to help make meets more exciting. The current minimum time standards are a time that has to be surpassed to avoid a point deduction, forcing athletes to swim hard in all events rather than taking an event easy to just collect 8th-place points.
Return to proposed 8-month, 27-meet format for 2021-2022: The ISL plans to push its originally-planned 2020-2021 format to the 2021-2022 season, directly after the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. The ISL had originally announced a massive expansion for its post-Olympic season, with an ISL season running from September through April and featuring 27 meets including a regular season, playoffs, and a final.