The national movement in the United States to limit the abilities of young swimmers to wear expensive technical racing suits that run into the hundreds-of-dollars has picked up steam. So much so, that USA Swimming has even hired an outside consulting firm to review policies and help them decide if a national policy needs to be put in place.
So far, LSCs that have made public announcements include Southern California Swimming, Maine Swimming, and Arkansas Swimming – along with Swimming Victoria in Australia. Swimming Victoria wound up tweaking their policy in the months after it was first announced, trying to clarify what suits were and were not allowed and for which swimmers.
Last month, we checked in with Southern California Swimming‘s Executive Director Kim O’Shea to feel out how the new rules have proceeded in her area – one of thee first to outlaw them for young swimmers (10 & unders all the time in this case, and 12 && unders except in high-level competitions) in the United States.
O’Shea said that the rule, which was voted in at the 2016 SCS House of Delegates meeting, had “huge support” in the area. While O’Shea was overall positive and remained committed to the ban, she did say there were some lessons learned.
“The challenge of the new rule was making sure everyone (coaches, parents, swimmers, officials) understood the January 1, 2017 start date,” O’Shea said. “A few complained of the short notice, and there have been a few disqualifications.
“Hindsight is always 20/20. We should have had more information out to our officials on January 1, explaining the difference in the seams (bonded/kinetic v. stitched). We are looking for options on how to make this a more simple identification process, without further burdening our officiating crew.”
When FINA instituted its own suit ban, while the rules they included are quite technical, they created an approval program where any approved suit could have a special FINA logo stamped on it, and thus make the job of identifying legal suits simple for coaches, athletes, and officials. While a national rule might be able to prompt a similar system, such a system is not feasible with only a handful of LSCs having instituted these rules.
O’Shea says that while the big-picture philosophy behind the change remains in-tact, the details of the philosophy, and how that translates to the exact measures of the new rule, are still being had. “There are current philosophical discussions on everything from suit materials to which ages to include in the restrictions.”
As for whether or not they’d consider expanding the rules to encompass more athletes, O’Shea said there are differing opinions, and that right now, they’re still gathering more information and weighing input.
“We have some coaches and athlete reps who are purists…they’d love to see all 12 & Unders only in lycra or nylon suits, improving through the developmental progression of their stroke mechanics and training methods as they mature physically. It’s only discussion at this time. As we continue to work with the various suit manufacturers, we’ll continue to weigh what fits the developmental philosophy for our age group swimmers.”