USA Swimming’s Board of Directors was expected to vote last Saturday on a proposal that would ban the use of tech suits for 12-and-unders, except at high-level meets.
However, after hearing a progress report on the proposal, the board agreed to move the measure forward in the approval process without a vote. According to USA Swimming’s Chief Marketing Officer Matt Farrell, the organization’s rules of procedure do not require a board ballot on the issue.
The Age Group Committee will instead submit the proposal directly to USA Swimming’s house of delegates, which will conduct the final vote when it convenes in September.
In late 2017, USA Swimming commissioned the Isaac Sports Group to review various policies on tech suit use in age group swimming. The results of the review were informally made public through Board of Directors meeting minutes in March 2018, and revealed that the Age Group Committee favored some form of restriction, though the exact logistics have yet to be released.
The Isaac report concluded: “based on our research, we find that the tech suit cost issue is an important issue, but not one that is driving people out of the sport or as significant an issue as initially assumed. The major concern of tech suit use is the impact on the development of young swimmers, potentially drawing focus, attention and resources away from the development priorities swimmers, coaches, and parents should be focusing on.”
As the report suggested, those favoring the ban often cite preferring to focus on technique rather than technology for swimmers at a young age, which they suspect will lead to improved long-term development. Others have also cited monetarily ‘leveling the playing field’ and making the sport more accessible to all.
Opponents of the ban feel that it is an overreach by USA Swimming, jumping into matters of how parents should best spend money on their children, and violating the athletes’ rights to use a suit that is approved everywhere else in the world.
Based on these concerns, the report also raised a number of questions for the Age Group Development Committee to consider, including whether it is in USA Swimming’s best interest to “micro-manage,” whether restrictions can be enforced fairly and consistently without overburdening officials, and whether new rules can “significantly influence” the current culture of tech suit use.