USA-Swimming Rule Change Proposals Include Major Overhauls to Abuse Reporting System, Glossary Rewrite

USA-Swimming has released all of the proposed rules changes that will be voted on at the House of Delegates meeting on September 18, 2010, in Dallas, Texas.

The massive list, which includes over 64 changes, mostly consists of minor rewrites, fixing typographical errors, and administrative policy. There are, however, a few notable changes that coaches might want to delve further into. Keep in mind that none of the proposals are official until voted upon by the House of Delegates.

One big change is in the form of proposal number RW-2. This is a huge, and badly needed, rewrite of the Glossary that sits at the back of the rule book. In addition to merging “open water” and “pool swimming” terms into one list, it provides some new definitions, such as “Tapper”-Personal assistant who uses a poll with a soft-tipped end to tap a blind or visually-impaired swimmer as notifications of turns and finish.

One change to the glossary shows the swimming community has fully embraced the technological movement. “Postal Meets,” where swimmers swim races at different locations and send reults to a central area to be compiled, would be renamed as “Internet Distance Challenges” if passed.

Other major proposed changes deal with Coaches codes of conduct. Proposal R-16 adds that any criminal misconduct against a minor is a violation of the code of conduct, regardless of the nature.

Rule R-17 is a major step that many have thought to be needed for a long time. This proposal would hugely limit the authority of a single member of the USA-Swimming administration to dismiss a complaint against a member of the organization. Many USA-Swimming officials, including Director Chuck Wielgus have received huge criticism for doing just that, which has led to complaints of sexual abuse being brushed off and largely ignored.

Along those same lines, rule R-24 require that all non-athlete members of USA-Swimming be required to undergo background screening, a regulation that is long overdue and has been one of the major emphasis of the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the sport. Hand-in-hand with this is the new requirement (R-26) that all coaches of USA-Swimming clubs must be 18 years of age, since background checks are more complicated when done on minors.

Proposal R-25 will mandate that all coaches take a Coach’s Conduct Education course. This proposal, which the committee did not yet review but was proposed by the ASCA’s John Leonard, will help educate coaches as to what is appropriate and not, especially with regard to sexual misconduct. The course would cover both what is mandated by law, and the higher standards that coaches might be held to by the USA-Swimming code.

One proposal unlikely to pass is R-6, which would eliminate the “multiple suit” restrictions at all meets below the national level. The Rules & Regulations Committee, which writes and reviews these proposals prior to their vote at the House of Delegates meeting, has recommended that the rule remains as written, which allows only 1 suit to be worn during any competition.

Proposal R-7 would allow expanded advertising on both suits and caps, which coincides with USA-Swimming’s recently released Athlete Partnership Agreement that expands the opportunity for swimmers to make a living in the sport. Top athletes will now be able to dedicate much larger portions of their suit to advertising, and help increase their personal earnings.

A new rule change that I am particularly fond of is Proposal R-4, that requires prelims and finals be swum (at prelims-finals meets) even when there is only 1 heat. Among the reasons given is included the following statement: “Meets are for the swimmers and not for the people who want to leave early.” So many rules, at every level of swimming, are designed to get parents out of the meet as quickly as possible, without regard to the best situation for the swimmers. It’s wonderful that USA-Swimming is finally taking a stand on this issue.

Many of the other rules changes recognize the expanded interest in open-water swimming. This includes recognition of open-water Age Group swimmers of the year, and allowance for additional course equipment, such as “guide buoys” and “feed poles.” Guide buoys would help lay out the course in between the turning points, and feed poles would allow, in races where swimmers have escorts on boats, an easier way to give food and water to the athletes.

The only rules that seem to deal specifically with stroke technique are proposals R-3 and HK-1. RK-3 clarifies the language with regard to the butterfly pull to come in line with what is in practice. Specifically, it will state that “all movements of the arms during the pull and the overwater recovery shall be simultaneous.” Rule HK-1 changes the restriction on “flutter” kicking in breaststroke to “alternating” kick, clarifying that no alternating kick is permissible, be it specifically a flutter kick or some other alternating kick.

If you’d like to peruse the entire list, along with the committee’s recommendations and reasoning, the list is posted on the USA-Swimming website in PDF form. If you have a thought on the matter, be sure to contact your local delegate so that they can take your opinions to the meeting.

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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