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.