At its latest Board of Directors meeting in Colorado Springs in April, USA Swimming received a recommendation to spin off its own convention in 2022, separate from the annual United States Aquatics Sports (USAS) convention. This would be a huge shift in tradition from where the governing bodies of the 5 major aquatic sports governing bodies in the US (diving, water polo, and synchronized swimming, US Masters Swimming) came together under the heading of USAS, which is the organization that technically represents US aquatic sports interests to FINA.
The recommendation to separate was made by a task force set up by the Board of Directors to review the matter.
“The task force met several times over the past year and one-half to discuss the annual convention,” the task force report reads. “We considered not only our own Convention experience, but also examined the results of the post-convention surveys of our delegates. Survey responses indicate a desire from Convention attendees for a shorter Convention with more networking and “best practices” sharing opportunities as well as content that is more globally-appealing and not necessarily targeted to only one group (officials, coaches, LSC leaders, etc.).”
The committee did recommend exploring having a joint conference with US Masters Swimming, given the overlapping needs and interests between the two organizations. USA Swimming also suggested the possibility of holding the convention around a major event like a national championship meet, or in conjunction with the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) convention.
Among the Rationale Cited for the Recommendation:
- We can control our meeting space, logistics, schedule and special events tied to Convention. We would not be obligated or constricted by the needs of the other sports.
- We would be able to source the Convention location through our Marriott sponsorship. Currently, USAS is contracted with Hyatt properties.
- A USA Swimming-only Convention would mean fewer attendees. This would give us much more flexibility in possible locales, timing of Convention, and host hotels.
- With the progression of the Zone Workshops, there is less need for targeted educational opportunities. Education presented at Convention could be more globally-oriented to all convention attendees instead of niche groups. LSCs might send fewer delegates to convention and place more focus on Zone workshops.
- Convention could focus on governance and being a celebratory event for the sport of swimming.
- We might have the option to hold Convention in conjunction with a larger USA Swimming event, such as a national championship.
- We may be able to partner with ASCA for a future Convention (they are booked through 2023). Many of our delegates and exhibitors also attend the ASCA Convention. If we were able to combine events or make them back-to-back, we benefit on logistics, timing and finances for those attendees.
- We could also consider holding Convention in conjunction with US Masters, who shares many of our same needs/interests and are the second largest (USA Swimming is first) group at the USAS Convention.
A proposed schedule for a USA Swimming-only convention would run Wednesday through Saturday:
- Wednesday – athlete leadership/education as needed. Networking and Arrivals. Keynote speaker opening session.
- Thursday – Board of Directors and Committees (if needed) meetings, educational workshops as needed
- Friday – Zone meetings and House of Delegates, other meetings as needed
- Saturday – conclusion of House of Delegates followed by a “Celebration of Swimming” luncheon banquet
Aside from being an annual event for coaches, administrators, and representatives from across the sport to come together and network, the event plays a crucial role via the House of Delegates meeting. There, representatives from across the country vote on things like new Board of Director members and rules changes.
Members of the task force were: Mary Jo Swalley (Chair), Jayne Spittler, Sean Redmond, Ellaine Cox, CJ Fiala (Athlete Rep), Janelle Nguyen (Athlete Rep, AEC Convention Chair), Dakota Noble (Athlete Rep), Gina Mensay (Staff Leader).
USA Swimming’s audited financial statements list approximately $219,000 in convention line items in 2018, which was less than was budgeted.