USA Swimming’s SWIMS 3.0 Causing Headache For Clubs Amid Insurance Liability Notice

USA Swimming sent a message to its member clubs on Wednesday that has caused a stir in light of ongoing issues with membership signup in the new SWIMS 3.0 database.

On Sept. 1, 2022, USA Swimming launched SWIMS 3.0, a new online database designed to streamline administrative processes for clubs, swimmers, families, and LSCs. This meant that membership sign-ups and renewals had been moved entirely online.

There have been numerous issues in the nearly six months since the initial rollout, including technical glitches for coaches and parents, and certain time databases not working.

The technical issues came to light once again this week as USA Swimming sent a blanket email to clubs saying that their practices and out-of-pool workouts are not insured by USA Swimming if they have any non-registered participants.

USA Swimming’s Message:

Did you know? Your USA Swimming insurance does NOT cover your practices, including activities in and out of the water, if you have a non-registered individual participant with your registered swimmers. Even if one individual has failed to renew their 2023 USA Swimming membership, your entire practice is uninsured.

This insurance policy is not new and has always been in place, but the reminder ratcheted-up frustrations with coaches and clubs over challenges in getting their members registered. Prior to September 1, clubs and LSCs registered athletes with USA Swimming memberships. Now, the onus is on the parents and families to directly register with the national governing body. The message about insurance served as a lightning rod online for coaches to express frustration over the ongoing struggle with the new procedure and what it meant for their team memberships.

USA Swimming Managing Director of Sport Development Joel Shinofield said that the change in registration pathway was done primarily for compliance reasons, as it allows them to communicate directly with membership.

For example, if a swimmer joins a club and the membership goes through the club, the club uploads the information to the LSC and sends it to USA Swimming. But if certain information needs updating at some point (such as an email address), parents would be able to update that information. Under the previous system, information had to be passed from clubs to LSCs to USA Swimming, and there wasn’t an easy path for those parents to update that information with the national governing body. Now that each athlete is directly registered, they can go in and manage their own contact information with the governing body.

This is crucial when it comes to things like contacting athletes who are about to turn 18, which comes with new SafeSport training requirements.

With more direct access to parents for the purpose of SafeSport education, USA Swimming also hopes to reduce the number of abuse cases. He pointed to other benefits, such as being able to send parents validated nutritional information, rather than letting kids research that information on YouTube.

He said the change will be more expensive for the organization, as they now take on transaction costs that were previously borne by clubs and LSCs.

While Shinofield didn’t say this, his organization has parallel financial motivations to get members registered as clubs and coaches: in 2021, about 50% of the organization’s revenue came from membership dues, plus other indirect revenues earned from the size of its membership.

Shinofield also says the move reduces bureaucracy and allows USA Swimming to implement opt-out SafeSport education programs rather than opt-in. He said that the change being implemented in “every sport.”

He notes that year one of any transition will always have its difficulties and that there will be new iterations and improvements forthcoming.

Nonetheless, there seems to be some transition-fatigue among coaches after months of dealing with the pain of the changeover.

Many coaches have been outspoken about the difficulties they’ve had, or parents have had, in navigating the membership process on SWIMS 3.0.

“USA Swimming creates a horrible tangled mess with registrations that has teams unable to register their swimmers and forces us to spend months chasing parents to do so,” one coach said. “And now this email (referring to the above message). So what now? It seems you have to kick off people that paid your tuition but don’t complete the registration. What a great predicament to put teams in.”

Another coach said: “USA Swimming has dropped the ball on registration. I’m not sure what they want the families to do but it has made things incredibly difficult to get everyone registered. Why was it changed? It was not for the benefit of the clubs they govern. I would say that they made their decision with very little thought for USA Swimming clubs.”

One of the coaches added that clubs aren’t in the position financially to turn away swimmers coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it seems “to be what USA Swimming has forced on teams” that are struggling to recover.

“It’s almost as if our NGB wants teams to fail,” they said.

A third coach mentioned that the registration process is fairly straightforward to some, but less “tech-savvy” parents have “practically been in tears and spent hours in a loop that they struggled to get out of.”

“The instantaneous nature of parents getting their kids registered is nice but we are definitely chasing a number of parents down and even setting up calls and meetings to help walk them through,” they said.

“I’m wondering how much USA Swimming really kicked the tires and tested before moving forward with this method.”

The American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) offered the following statement to SwimSwam on USA Swimming’s message, saying that it was “ill-timed” and “tone deaf.”

“The announcement today by USA Swimming regarding insurance liability was ill-timed and poorly communicated. With all the issues coaches and clubs are experiencing implementing SWMS 3.0, to send a message with a threatening tone and no acknowledgement of the frustration it causes is nothing short of tone deaf. USA Swimming needs to provide support for the many clubs that are still struggling to get swimmers registered, and also communicate the steps it is taking to fix the problems SWMS 3.0 created. The issues with the liability insurance have numerous consequences for teams that should have been discussed and addressed months ago. The constant appearance of barriers for coaches and clubs is detrimental to the growth of our sport. We urge USA Swimming to work collaboratively with ASCA to find solutions that reflect the needs and ideas of our frontline coaches and all the grassroots participants in the sport of swimming.”

USA Swimming has been working through the bugs recently, including having TeamUnify in their offices for a few days, and says that they will host webinars for any team that has parents who are struggling.

Shinofield says that the organization proactively identified clubs that had reduced membership this year and reached out to see if they were having difficulties getting parents to complete the new registration and reached out to them. He acknowledged that they didn’t reach out to clubs that saw increases in membership, so if those clubs also had parents who were having trouble registering, they wouldn’t have been contacted proactively. But he did encourage any club with parents having trouble to make contact with the Team Services department.

There are currently eight people who are responsible for 6-8 LSCs each, who members can contact if they’re having difficulty. Their information can be found on the Team Services Page here. They can also contact Brendan Hansen, who is the Director of Team Services. Shinofield said that these kinds of issues are best solved by the Team Services group rather than submitting a technical ticket, because in this case, the software is functioning properly, but the need may be more of a end-user assistance than a specific technical upgrade.

He also said that the organization has expanded its Team Services group in order to help with these kinds of issues.

Shinofield was willing to admit that he would have done some things differently knowing what he knows now. One thing he said they learned through this process is that many parents didn’t know that they were USA Swimming members.

Part of the new membership process involved changing all member IDs – which Shinofield said had to be done because the old IDs included personally identifiable information like names and birthdays that became widely available. When parents went to register their athletes, they were asked if the old ID was their ID, and because they didn’t know they were registered, they said it wasn’t.

That created duplicate IDs in the system. In hindsight, he says he would have conquered one thing at a time – having parents register athletes directly with USA Swimming, and then at some determined date, changing everyone’s legacy member ID away from the one with personal information.

Shinofield pointed to the fact that since September, when the new system went into place, over 300,000 people had successfully registered memberships for the new season.

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1 year ago

One thing to bear in mind: There is no reason that insurance coverage has to be dependent on perfect athlete registration. USA Swimming could pay for insurance coverage that covers everyone (at least for club general liability – USA Swimming also provides secondary accident insurance) which many organizations in all fields do. USA Swimming CHOOSES to do it this way to force universal membership that its budget is dependent on. The USA Swimming budgets shows the per swimmer cost of the insurance is very small in relation to the membership fee, so they are highly motivated to get the membership fee for everyone. (US Masters Swimming does it the same way though.)

Last edited 1 year ago by P K
1 year ago

So happy I retired from coaching and no longer have anything to do with USAS!

1 year ago

Perhaps USA Swimming should resort back to paper, pens, and an envelope. It would actually be an improvement over this frustrating nightmare of a system they have transitioned to.

Dale Allen
1 year ago

AT some point in time, USA Swimming and its leadership needs to understand that their mission is to serve the membership instead of ruling the membership. They also need to understand that the majority of teams are less than 100 swimmers, and most coaches are part time and have other responsibilities and jobs. This is what happens when have as staff that has not lived the life of a coach and understand the dynamics of running a team. It all starts at the top and the level of experience there is void at best.

1 year ago

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Last edited 1 year ago by rsgnsf
Brandon Franklin
1 year ago

I am the registrar and own billing for a 100+ member team. I have also worked in finance at multi-national company and been involved in big system implementations. The issues I have experienced with the new SWIMS system, both as a parent with kids on a team and in my role as the registrar, are minimal.

Yes there are duplicate members but this is a one time thing and represent less than 5% of the membership base. USA Swimming has a process in place to fix this.

Yes you need to chase the parents as it is now on the team to get the swimmers registered. We knew that going in, we owned it and did the work to make… Read more »

Concerned coach
Reply to  Brandon Franklin
1 year ago

Not every team has the luxury of a registrar. Many teams , the coaches are registrar, membership and coach. And many teams the coaches are part time employees with other jobs not full time coaches. This takes more time away from actually coaching and potentially could put teams out of business.

Reply to  Brandon Franklin
1 year ago

Administrators and board members should not be in charge if they don’t understand their insurance coverage and limitations. This also applies to all those CEO/Coaches out there.

Reply to  Brandon Franklin
1 year ago

Agree Brandon. I’m a coach of a team with no registrar and it was no big deal. So many complainers on here…it took me 20 min to write up clear instructions and email them to the members. Very few questions/problems.

Bob Vializ
1 year ago

This debacle was totally avoidable but they completely rushed this with little or no thought to the many consequences and negative impacts on teams. USA registration should have been integrated into Team Platform Provider registrations. That way USA Swim will still get parents to register directly with them, but it’s connected to the Team registrations so both registrations occur at the same time, share the same data and the only problems remaining will be the typical “bug” issues that occur in any software rollout. Currently parents have to do two different, disconnected registrations and there are often differences between the two that cause huge problems. With this new email regarding insurances……a team has to suspend or dismiss a family who… Read more »

Coach Bill
1 year ago

The new IDs are ridiculous on top of everything else. It’s all so convoluted, we wonder who’s thinking this thru.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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