USA Swimming on Monday will launch a new tool that they’re hoping will help teams adapt to the new normal of competitive swimming during the coronavirus era.
The organization’s ‘virtual meet simulator’ tool will be rolled out Monday, as will a webinar explaining how to use the tool.
During a preview given to SwimSwam last week, the tool’s developers, Director of Analytics Patrick Murphy along with his colleague Larry Herr, says that this fulfilled a mandate come down from the organization’s senior leadership to develop new initiatives that would be both fun for membership, and free or at a very low cost for membership.
“This specific project has been a great opportunity for us to do something unique and be a great motivator and when we do something that’s going to impact so many people,” Murphy said.
The basic functionality of the tool upon its release is this:
Users can select 2 or more teams, and then choose meets from which to grab results, and using data already in the USA Swimming SWIMS database, come up with real results (in PDF or web format) and team scores for the meet.
With an uncertain timeline as to when teams will be able to return to in-person competition, this tool will become immensely valuable for teams hoping to drum up some competitive spirit in their athletes. Because the tool will be able to pull information from all meets in the SWIMS database, there are countless possibilities for how the tool could be used.
“I’m excited to learn how teams are going to use it,” Murphy said when asked about what his dream use for the tool is. “It kind of seems like the application of it could be endless when we get it to its full functionality.
Murphy, a self-professed fanatic for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, had one idea: “I think it would be cool if LSCs set up brackets for virtual competitions like March Madness.”
Other Possible Uses:
- Comparing results across Winter Junior Championship meets or Sectional meets, bringing in top times from across the country.
- Rapidly producing national club “dual meet rankings” from across a full season’s best times.
- Giving teams that choose different season-ending taper meets an opportunity to still compare themselves fo their local competition.
What’s equally as exciting is what the tool could become. Murphy says that, unlike most of their projects, they opted to roll out the basic version of this tool so that teams could start using it while building out new features. Among the corollary features will be a new fork in the USA Swimming times database for non-sanctioned meets.
Herr described these non-sanctioned meets as sort of “pickup basketball” rules. Teams wouldn’t need to find officials or follow strict technical guidelines. While the informality means that the results of those meets wouldn’t count for any time standards or national programs like Scholastic All-America, it would allow teams to set up quick meet results.
While those times will be stored in a separate database, eventually teams will be able to choose non-sanctioned meet results in the new Virtual Meet Simulator tool, allowing teams to have fun and light-hearted dual meets without the troubles of travel or finding officials.
Because of concerns over those times accidentally slipping into the sanctioned database, for now the USA Swimming national office will be in charge of uploading all times from non-sanctioned meets. Traditionally, meet results are uploaded at the Local Swimming Committee (LSC) level by a times coordinator.
The hope is that the non-sanctioned feature will be ready in a week or two.
Murphy’s eyes glowed as he pined at the possibilities. He’s hopeful that one day, they’ll be able to pull in results from high school or summer league meets and offer different database and simulation functions at those levels as well.
- Learn more about hosting a virtual meet, and the difference between sanctioned and non-sanctioned meets, here.
A survey by USA Swimming found that about 50% of teams did not have access to electronic timing, and that about 15-20% of teams didn’t have access to electronic meet management software. Because of restrictions on large gatherings and travel, Murphy and Herr said that there were growing concerns about how to get some of those teams competitive opportunities, even if the times won’t technically count.
For more information on virtual meets, please view the following resources: