SwimSwam Pulse: 52% Support Long Course Focus For All NCAA Athletes

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side.

Our latest poll asked SwimSwam readers to weigh in on how much American college programs should focus on long course meters in Olympic years:


How much should NCAA coaches push long course in an Olympic year?

  • Only for those athletes with a chance at making the team – 34.5%
  • Push everyone – 52.1%
  • Focus on yards and NCAAs – 13.5%


The results reflected the trend we saw in our previous poll, in which an overwhelming majority supported a long course focus for the FINA World Cup series in Olympic years. More than half of respondents said that NCAA coaches should push long course for all their athletes, regardless of their realistic Olympic hopes, and only 13.5% supported a full focus on yards and NCAA swimming.

Based on the history of our comments section, that focus on long course meters swimming comes out of the idea that Olympic-level swimming is the most important arena of the sport – the highest goal for athletes and coaches and the point where swimming is most popular and fields the biggest stage. In that view, yards swimming is a smaller stage and a less-important focus for athletes, especially those with an eye on the Olympic level.

The obvious counterargument, though, would be the fact that the vast majority of NCAA swimmers will never compete in the Olympics, or even on the international stage. It’s only a select few who ever rise to that level – the most exclusive level in our entire sport – and for the rest, a focus on yards and NCAAs is a more level-appropriate choice. That seems to be the rationale behind the 34.5% who voted that NCAA coaches should only push a meters focus on the athletes with a chance of making an Olympic team.

In most cases with these polls, the numbers are skewed toward a more American-centric view, given that almost 80% of SwimSwam’s readership is based in the U.S. But in this case, the international portion of our audience still does have some effect, given that an international fan-base doesn’t really have a context for what NCAA athletics mean.

It’s a bit like how an American audience will have a hard time grasping just why the Premier League is so important in England, or why Australian rules football would even be a draw for a world-class swimmer like Kyle Chalmers.

Since short course yards are swum only within the United States, more than 20% of SwimSwam viewers will have little to no reason to care about yards swimming. With that bloc comprising more than one-fifth of the audience, the numbers on a poll involving yard swimming will undoubtedly shift some in that direction.

One more point worth noting: the reason college coaches have a difficult decision between short course yards and long course meters is that their jobs are almost completely tied to team performance in yards and NCAA performances.

In an ultra-competitive NCAA athletics world where college coaches in any sport are liable to be fired at nearly any time for poor team performances – and maybe more scary, a world where swimming & diving programs are continually first on athletic department chopping blocks when programs need to be cut – coaches have incredible incentive to focus on NCAA and short course yard achievements with their athletes of all levels. It’s one thing to be idealistic about the importance of Olympic swimming as a fan; it’s another to maintain that focus when your livelihood and the very existence of your program is tied to results in a separate realm.



Check out the SwimSwam frontpage to vote in our newest poll, which asks about FINA’s declaration of Ryan Lochte‘s underwater kicking technique as illegal in IM races:


Should the “Lochte Turn” be illegal in the IM and medley relays?

  • Yes, on all turns
  • Only on the Breast/Free turn
  • No, let ingenuity reign!

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The faster swimmers get, especially mature college-age swimmers, the shorter the 25Y pool looks. When they are already going 15 underwater, it starts to look so short.

I have always loved 50M format, even as a young swimmer. I would love to see college swimmers competing more in 50M; and this would better prepare the top swimmers for Olympics and other highest-level meets.


also influencing this poll: a fairly hardcore segment of the swim fan population votes in these polls, I think


Not factored into this poll: how many teams (across the entire NCAA, all divisions) actually have LCM access during the school year?


Of the top 50+ programs in the country, most all of them have some if not total access to a long course facility. At these sorts of larger successful collegiate programs, long course access is pretty common.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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