USA Swimming Publishes End-of-Year Open Letter to all Members

USA Swimming’s President and CEO Tim Hinchey III and Board Chair Bob Vincent sent out a letter to all of the organization’s members on December 18, reflecting on the current COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games. 

“Dear USA Swimming members,” the letter begins. 

 “As this tumultuous year finally comes to a close, we are taking a moment to reflect on our experiences and count our blessings.” 

Vincent and Hinchey focus mainly on the efforts taken by USA Swimming itself and teams across the country in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, “From the moment we wrote to request the postponement of the Tokyo Games, we came together as one, striving to provide a platform for all voices to be heard and to be considerate of all constituents. Zoom meetings quickly became the norm, with Local Swimming Committee (LSC) leaders, club coaches, National team athletes, and many more, meeting frequently with staff and board of directors’ members to exchange ideas and best practices to forge ahead.” 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, USA Swimming has kept a list COVID-19 resources, including virtual coaching tools, mental health resources, and club operation information. In addition, the organization has published multiple updates regarding the return to competition plan and the club recovery plan. Many National team athletes and coaches have also added their expertise to a series of webinars for teams to access for free on topics including safe sport, drylands, nutrition, and diversity and inclusion. 

The letter also points out the financial contributions that USA Swimming has made for clubs during the pandemic, “There is no doubt that the most significant collaboration was a financial one, with USA Swimming, the USA Swimming Foundation and LSCs delivering more than $9M of support to our swimming community. Hundreds of clubs were aided by the Foundation’s $3M COVID-19 Relief Program, and countless others via the 59 LSCs.” 

USA Swimming developed the COVID-19 relief grant system in June, with grants being awarded in July. However, clubs had to meet several different guidelines in order to qualify for relief, including safe sport recognition status. Although this program provided $9 million in support to some clubs, many clubs across the country were still forced to shut their doors due to the pandemic. In addition, this did nothing to improve the conditions for over 20 NCAA swimming and diving programs that were cut this year. 

The letter then looks forward, towards reopening facilities across the country, “Leaders of the U.S. aquatics industry also came together in a historic way to create the Aquatics Coalition. Spearheaded by USA Swimming, this group of more than 30 water safety and competitive water sports organizations joined together with one aim: to advocate for a return to purpose-driven instructional aquatics. Their work is not done.” 

Hinchey and Vincent make a valid point in saying that these efforts are not completed. In the early stages of the pandemic, USA Swimming faced criticism for not taking a leadership role in lobbying for polls to be reopened. Even now, several states still have limited, or no access to pools and other aquatics facilities allowed, including swimming powerhouses New Jersey and California. For both states, their pools have been forced to go back into lockdown following a rising number of coronavirus cases across the country, despite opening for a short period of time this summer and fall. 

Moving beyond the pandemic, the letter also addresses several political movements that have swept the country, including the Black Lives Matter movement, which was highly publicized by several US Olympians, including Simone Manuel and Cullen Jones. “The events of this year also presented us with another unique opportunity to recommit ourselves to our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, and to establish new partnership groups to help us further grow our initiatives and welcome a greater number of diverse athletes and families into our membership.”

As a response to these movements, USA Swimming has expanded its community swim team programs and diversity offerings by offering Flex Membership options. In addition, the organization has clarified its guidelines for changing gender categories in competitions in an effort to improve inclusion. 

The letter wraps up by highlighting recent advancements USA Swimming has made, such as the Virtual 18&Under Championship Meets. Although these meets provided strong racing opportunities for swimmers across the country, several clubs were unable to participate in the competition due to state lockdown and travel restrictions. 

According to Hinchey and Vincent, the organization is looking towards 2021 optimistically, where, “hope for recovery is strong. We will return to training, we will delight in competition, and we will collectively cheer the world’s greatest swim team to gold in Tokyo.”

 

Full Letter: 

Dear USA Swimming members,

As this tumultuous year finally comes to a close, we are taking a moment to reflect on our experiences and count our blessings.

Unquestionably, this was a difficult year for our organization. From the postponement of the Olympic Games, to the closing of our local pools, every one of our dedicated members faced a realm of unforeseen challenges. We have made progress, but we know we are not yet out of the woods. There is much work left to be done, as many of our swimmers and clubs remain out of the water as we head into this new year.

But through these uncertain months, we have found hope within the swimming community. We have come together like never before to fight for what we love. The level of communication, collaboration and solidarity was simply unparalleled.

While we thought the highlight stories of 2020 would come from successes in the pool, they instead arose from actions taken by our clubs, coaches, volunteers, parents, swimmers and staff. Leaders emerged and new bonds were formed.

From the moment we wrote to request the postponement of the Tokyo Games, we came together as one, striving to provide a platform for all voices to be heard and to be considerate of all constituents. Zoom meetings quickly became the norm, with Local Swimming Committee (LSC) leaders, club coaches, National team athletes, and many more, meeting frequently with staff and board of directors’ members to exchange ideas and best practices to forge ahead.

There is no doubt that the most significant collaboration was a financial one, with USA Swimming, the USA Swimming Foundation and LSCs delivering more than $9M of support to our swimming community. Hundreds of clubs were aided by the Foundation’s $3M COVID-19 Relief Program, and countless others via the 59 LSCs.

Leaders of the U.S. aquatics industry also came together in a historic way to create the Aquatics Coalition. Spearheaded by USA Swimming, this group of more than 30 water safety and competitive water sports organizations joined together with one aim: to advocate for a return to purpose-driven instructional aquatics. Their work is not done. Beyond the immediate, this long-overdue collaboration will continue to strengthen the efforts of our aquatics’ community across the country.

The events of this year also presented us with another unique opportunity to recommit ourselves to our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, and to establish new partnership groups to help us further grow our initiatives and welcome a greater number of diverse athletes and families into our membership. We look forward to the incredible guidance and support we will receive from both the DEI Council and the Black Leadership in Aquatics Coalition (Team BLAC).

With the positives, we also faced the negatives, and the most devastating blow was undoubtedly to our athletes – our Olympic hopefuls and age groupers alike. For such dedicated, passionate, and driven individuals to be stripped of what they love is the saddest of all. But what an incredible sight to see – the social workouts, the support videos, the online letters, and the group streams! The creativity was unstoppable.

And this was only a pause. A break, to further appreciate what we all have.

As we charted a path to wade back into the water, we are thankful to every club, coach and swimmer who joined our inaugural virtual competition series and participated in its continued improvement. While not how we know you wanted to compete, it allowed us to take our first steps forward. It laid down a path for a challenging National Leaderboard, the return of the Toyota U.S. Open and the launch of the 18&Under Winter Championships. We promise to create more competitive opportunities as swiftly and as safely as we can.

While the pandemic has most definitely affected USA Swimming’s finances, our team has strived to do more with less, and will continue to endeavor to deliver our programs without interruption. We remain confident that with our current partners, along with the promise of new ones, we will rebuild and be better off for it.

As we look towards 2021, our hope for recovery is strong. We will return to training, we will delight in competition, and we will collectively cheer the world’s greatest swim team to gold in Tokyo.

From the USA Swimming family in Colorado Springs to you and yours across the country, we send our most sincere wishes for a safe and healthy holiday season. 

 

See you on the pool deck soon.

Respectfully Yours,

Bob Vincent

USA Swimming Board Chair

 

Tim Hinchey III

USA Swimming President & CEO

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SwimMomof2
23 days ago

Has USA swimming recommended that coaches wear masks or facial coverings when coaching? It seems like a basic health/safety issue and best practice to wear a mask-and yet I have seen many swimming coaches without one even when the city has a mask mandate. I have taught school 4-6 hours with a mask on. It’s not that difficult.

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Reply to  SwimMomof2
23 days ago

The current recommendations on the website do not recommend a mask, though they’re sort of a wishy-washy list that seems intentionally designed to avoid making any potentially-controversial statements and instead deferring to the WHO and CDC websites. https://www.usaswimming.org/home/covid-news Which, I think is ok – if they’re not going to make them actual RULES, rather just RECOMMENDATIONS. The only specific rule that I see is that they’re required to “follow all local, state and federal health guidelines for all workplaces, practices and competitions.” Most of the country has “guidelines” in place that would include mask-wearing in the work place, even if those guidelines are not being followed or enforced. So, if you follow this chain of reason, then I guess you… Read more »

SwimMomof2
Reply to  Braden Keith
21 days ago

Thank-you for the clarity. There have been over 300,000 COVID-related deaths in the United States (according to the CDC). I am very grateful that our local pool has been opened for laps and swim practice. However, I am surprised that USA Swimming has not been stronger regarding coaches wearing masks or facial coverings. It should be required. It is such a simple, yet effective way to prevent spread of this highly contagious disease.

Last edited 21 days ago by SwimMomof2