Southern California Swimming’s Director Talks Tech Suit Ban

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.”




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The Ohio LSC also has a ban scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2018 for 10 & Unders. A notice was sent out to coaches and printed in the heat sheets at the Summer JO meet in order to give parents as much notice as possible about the new rule.


So is cost the issue? Some swim teams cannot afford lane ropes. So you should probably ban those as well. Some clubs cannot afford fins for their blocks, so you might as well get rid of those too. You know what some kids cannot afford goggles, so lets get rid of those too. Some kids cannot afford to swim more than two days a week, so lets limit the amount of practice time for all swimmers. Your decisions are affecting companies that are sponsors for these events. Why would you want to hurt the companies and their profit margin and revenue. These companies will see the lost revenue and change prices elsewhere to make up the lost money. Or with… Read more »


Suit companies managed just fine before they started charging $400-600 for swim suits.


Not all tech suits are $400 either

Coach Broseph

True. The market has grown and so has the competition in sales.


Lane lines can not be compared to tech suits… not even remotely. Goggles don’t cost $400 plus, not even really fancy ones. Young kids don’t need tech suits. With or without them, the kids who are winning the size and puberty race will win in the pool. I have seen the costs of this sport rise across the board in my 12 years as a swim parent. If the goal is to squeeze out middle and low income families, by all means, continue to expect them to spend several hundred dollars a year on suits so their kid isn’t the only one without.


You are absolutely correct that with or without tech suits, kids who are winning the size/puberty race, and to some extent, the talent/technique race, will win in the pool. And that is exactly why a tech suit ban is pointless. Some parents will always spend ridiculous amounts of money to help their kid be the best, whether it is on suits, private lessons, Fastskin goggles, or fancy practice equipment. I still have yet to hear or read a clear articulation of what problem these LSC boards are trying to solve. If it is a cost issue, banning bonded seams won’t solve it, because suit companies will just come up with ever-fancier and more expensive suits with stitched seams. If it… Read more »


So what about all the age group records set during the various era’s of suits? The entire “tech suit” age has just been one attempt after the next to putting the cat back into the bag…

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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