USA Swimming Hires Consulting Firm To Review Age Group Tech Suit Policies

USA Swimming has hired outside consulting firm Isaac Sports Group to review various policies on tech suit use in age group swimming, with a final report due in November.

USA Swimming officials e-mailed the federation’s staff about the review last week, noting that Stu Isaac would be heading up the review process. The given timeline has the Isaac Sports Group starting its review in July, continuing through August and September, and finally giving a preliminary report at USA Swimming’s convention in September, followed by a final report in November.

The issue of tech suits in age group swimming has flared up recently, with several major LSCs (USA Swimming’s regional governing bodies) passing rules to ban tech suits in certain age groups. Southern California was the most high profile, but the list also includes Maine and Arkansas. The issue isn’t just confined to the States, as Australia’s Swimming Victoria has also banned tech suits for athletes 11 years old and younger, and USA Swimming’s e-mail suggests similar efforts are moving forward in Oregon.

The main rationale for the bans has been economic: tech suits are a pretty sizable investment, especially for growing age groupers who may not stay the same suit size for long. The independent review is aimed at gathering information from all sides of the issue. USA Swimming’s e-mail suggests it will include interviews with “Age Group Development committee members, LSCs, coaches, staff, legal, Rules & Regulations committee, suit manufacturers, team dealers and online retailers.” It lists the following as elements of the eventual report:

  • Review of existing and proposed LSC rules, policies and actions
  • Review of a sample of swim club suit policies
  • Analysis of membership history and trends vs. tech suit timeline
  • Review of the range of suit technology and costs
  • Market analysis of tech suit use
  • Impact of any new rules on teams, swimmers, parents, coaches, manufacturers, retailers, officials
  • Impact of LSCs with differing rules (ex. swimmer from one LSC competing in another LSC)
  • Age cut-offs
  • Financial impact to parents
  • Need for a national rule vs. LSC-by-LSC
  • Legal issues
  • Evaluation of suits and/or testing

That third bullet from the bottom is especially intriguing, as it suggests USA Swimming is at least exploring the idea of a national rule either limiting or allowing tech suits at a certain level. One criticism of local LSC suit bans is that it could disadvantage swimmers in those areas competing for Junior National qualifying times or National Age Group records against swimmers from other LSCs who are still allowed to use tech suits.

Isaac himself is a former collegiate swimmer, an NCAA All-American for Michigan in the 1970s. He worked for Speedo North America for 25 years before starting the Isaac Sports Group in 2009.

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5 years ago

It’s the end of November… no news?

Mark Rauterkus
5 years ago

The opinion of Stu Issac would be well worth the time and investment. The suit companies have been loyal supporters on various fronts for many years for various outlets, including USA Swimming, of course. Due diligence can be prudent in the long run. Hope to read an insightful summary from the consultants here in a few months.

5 years ago

I have an age grouper and she wears tech suits to every meet from 9 years old.
Is it expensive? Of course! We have brought a speedo fast skin on sale and she wears it until its dead. Obviously not how the suit is intended to be used but who cares, we only get a few years of childhood sport before most quit in high school. Buy the suits, let them feel like Olympians, enjoy the moment, you will never get these moments with your kids back

Reply to  Tamara
5 years ago

I agree. This up to the parent, swimmer, and coach. If the suit is legal, they should be allowed to wear it. Like you said, they can often be found on sale. They don’t replace good technique or preparation. Some kids (especially developing girls) like them because they feel more modest. The important thing is that the swimmer feels comfortable in whatever they are wearing.

5 years ago

We don’t live in a communist country (at least not yet I don’t think). I’m not sure how we can ban a legal FINA APPROVED suit without someone challenging this as unconstitutional. Are we going to ban private lessons next?

Reply to  SwimMomof2
5 years ago

What makes you thing FINA is a suitable organization to make this decision>?

Random swim coach
5 years ago

Allowing swimmers under the age of 13 OR swimmers in meets less than SECTIONAL level feeds the CRAZY-SWIM-PARENTS! I just returned from Speedo Far Western Championships. A fast meet, no doubt but, the number of VERY Expansive tech suits on kids that were in heats that, quite frankly won’t final, was ludicrous. And…. if you were a hold-out parent who had not paid top dollar for a tech suit for your 10 year old, there was a swim shop on deck selling the top suits the pros wear. The parents are in competition for their child at this age in these meets. Suit companies are both taking advantage of and feeding the crazy swim parents. MY swimmers that made FW… Read more »

Reply to  Random swim coach
5 years ago

Your swimmers who made FW as 10-year-olds are no longer swimming??? What kind of program are you running?
Crazy swim parents? Is that all that this boils down to? Every program has crazy swim parents but not every program has a coaching staff who calls parents out for their crazy behavior.
The suits, the goggles, the caps aren’t the problem or the solution. Honest conversations with swimmers and be parents about performance, development and expectations create a mindset for success. That said, you will have the same conversation with the same parents and swimmers over and over again because sport activities are an emotional experience and people need to learn through repetition and they need to learn from… Read more »

5 years ago

I’m sorry but it shouldn’t matter what age you are. If you have a tech suit and want to wear it you should be allowed the right to wear it. Kids look forward to wearing them, and it gets them excited to work hard all season to put a suit on and do their best at big meets. The suit boost their confidence and makes it worth their wild. How is it ok to let older swimmers wear one and then turn around and tell a child they can’t wear it because they aren’t old enough. It’s the same sport, and they have worked just as hard all season to compete as these meets and wear a tech suit if… Read more »

5 years ago

I just wonder why they feel the need to engage a consultant for this – The issue has been widely reported and all you need to know is readily available via Google. Would be far cheaper to just hire a college student intern to compile the info, and plow the savings into youth swim programs or swimmer stipends.

5 years ago

I was at USA convention in September 2015 and USA Swimming as an Age Group chair, and they held a conference to ask all the Age Group chairs what we thought about a tech suit ban for swimmers 12 and Under. Almost every LSC represented was in favor of a tech suit ban for 12 and Under swimmers in Non-Open meets. We were told USA swimming was working on a rule. Later they told us it was going to be a recommendation. Now, almost 2 years alter and they are hiring a consulting firm? Guess listening to all the Age Group chairs from across the different LSCs wasn’t good enough.

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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