USAS Convention: Frank Busch Considering Capping Numbers, Not Times, For Trials

  33 Braden Keith | September 12th, 2012 | Featured, National, News

The big buzz on Wednesday at the USA Swimming convention in Greensboro, North Carolina is the beginning of a finalized plan for 2016 Olympic qualifying.

The 2016 Olympic Trials, that will determine the team for the Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are tentatively scheduled from July 4th through July 11th, though there are still a few hoops to jump through to set that in stone. It seems as though, in early returns, new National Team Director Frank Busch isn’t backing any plans to move the trials any earlier. That timing is about the same as we saw ahead of the London Olympics in 2012, as the Rio Games start a week later.

The qualifying standards for the Olympic Trials are still two years away. They will be announced in September of 2014, with the qualifying period going back retroactively to July 30th of that year.

Note that these “standards” are not necessarily going to be times. According to a member of the House of Delegates who was at today’s Senior Development Committee meeting, Busch left the impression that he is leaning toward the 2016 Trials standard being a number of athletes rather than a specific qualifying time. This would stir up plenty of debate both to the pro and the negative, so expect much shouting to be done before that becomes set in stone.

Still, if enacted, it would rattle the swimming community and create a new sort of twinge of competitiveness, where the competition is not just against a number, but literally against beating the guy next to you to ensure you’re higher on the rankings than them. The contrarian view would be that it leaves a lot of uncertainty, and doesn’t allow athletes to hit a standard and then time out their tapers for Trials perfectly.

No discussion yet on possible 2016 trials hosts. There will be a lot of sentiment for the host of this event, Greensboro, who has already announced their candidacy.

Also, in 2014 Junior Nationals will be held before Nationals, so as to allow a more natural buildup. These standards will be the same as what they have been in 2012.

The full Quad Plan, that lays out the path ahead to the 2016 Olympics, can be read here.

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Comments

  1. NONA says:
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    Sounds like it could be like NCAA qualifying. Why not establish an A cut and a B cut? All the actual contenders for the team would be able to hit the A cuts I imagine and have a secure spot. The swimmers filling out the meet would have to contend with the B cut and number line. The challenge is in making travel and lodging when you are on the bubble, but it seems like a reasonable solution.

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    How many times have we seen amazing performances from athletes who weren’t even on the swimming radar? At the elite level of swimming, the only factor that consistently separates athletes is mental fortitude. Other than that, anyone has a shot. Make the times harder, but don’t deny athletes the opportunity.

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    Could they do both? Make some really fast automatic qualifying standards (~20ish swimmers in each event?) and then just say they’ll invite a certain number after that. That might help appease some of the “uncertainty,” though I don’t think there’d be much anyway for the swimmers that have a real legitimate chance at making the team.

    I’m sure there are a billion problems with this idea that I’m just not thinking of, though.

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    can you imagine how many last chance meets there will be across the country? and the agony of thinking you are in only to watch your name slide down to the “uninvited” list as the results pour in? oh well… at least there are no relays to give joe schmoe from the big team an advantage over amazing larry from the small one.
    Dang, I was looking forward to being able to post on our team website that my team has an Olympic Trials qualifier as soon as he/she makes the cut. With the new system we won’t know if we have one until trials is almost upon us.
    ugh.

  5. anonymous says:
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    this is an awful idea. someone like katie ledecky who only made trials cut a few months (if i recall…correct me if i’m wrong) before actual trials. her taper goes well, she WINS trials AND the OLYMPICS!!!!! also this excludes lots of up and coming athletes who won’t get a chance to taste trials before their moment to shine in 4 years. It provides extra motivation to work harder in order to be a contender in four years. Missy Franklin is probably the best example. She had no realistic chance of making the team as a 13 year old…but she used it as an experience and a motivator. She has credited her trials experience in 2008 to be one of the main reasons why she is where she is right now.

    but equally as important, there is such a science about tapering that you don’t want to swimmers with the need to constantly swim “fast” so as to prevent being sliding down the qualified list.

    • JackedAndTan says:
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      Well, depends if they finalize the list of invitees earlier than “a few months out”. But your point is moot since Katie went a 4.05 before Trials, so it’s not like she came out of nowhere.

      The timing of the Trials is more of an issue, Katie might not have made the team had they held the meet in March/April. It goes both ways, some tapers have been ruined because Trials were so close to the Olympics

    • Keith says:
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      No, Ledecky’s times from 2011 were well under the cuts.

  6. Todd says:
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    House of Delegates isn’t until Thursday evening/Friday morning. The meeting this morning was the Senior Development Committee meeting.

    Also, and I don’t think I’m wrong here, but I didn’t take away from the meeting that the standards would be a specific # of athletes. Rather, the talk seemed to focus on setting the standards to try to get a specific number of athletes.

    The talk on time standards for meets focused on what percentage of unique qualifiers attended the meets. For Trials, it was as close to 100 percent as you’re going to get.

    They said that 1000-1200 athletes at Trials was the goal, and that they felt 1300-1400 was acceptable. I personally did not hear anything that led me to believe that they want to move away from specific time standards to a ‘capped’ number of athletes without a specific low end time standard. I could have misinterpreted, but I doubt it. They did say that they wouldn’t go as far back in the qualifying period as in the past as a way to control the size of the meet, which is a specific quote and again leads me to believe that they are still going to have specific time standards. After all, if they are going with a hard cap of the number of swimmers, why worry about a longer qualifying window leading to a bigger meet?

    The time standards would be back dated to the summer junior nationals of 2014.

    • WHOKNOWS says:
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      Your recount of the meeting makes sense… its more in past thinking in developing meet size. The committee works to make things more simplistic… not multi-dimensional.

  7. jman says:
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    This is a bad idea. Why ‘fix’ something if it isn’t broken. I think the USA’s performance in London is suffcient to say that 1) the big numbers at Trials had no effect, 2) the ‘late’ Trials date had no/little effect, and 3) it was a fantastic experience for up and coming swimmers who just might be those who are seriously vying for spots on the team in 2016.

  8. Jigaboo says:
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    When will the summer national meet standards for 2013 be released??!

  9. Brasilia says:
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    This model has worked for the NCAA for decades and is a great way to limit the number of people running around on deck. The truth is that there are far too many people competing at trials, and what you don’t see down on that “empty deck” is the fact that athletes have nowhere to sit in the stands to watch their teammates. Does anyone recall seeing Grevers, Phelps, Lochte or any of those guys sitting in the athlete section? No? Because they couldn’t, they would be warming up and then the seats were gone. Close to 50% of athletes had no seat to sit and watch. On top of that, it was very difficult to get a proper warmup in!

    I’m sorry, but I would hate to see Amazing Lary miss making the Olympic Team because a couple people placing 211th and 212th respectively in an event got in the way of his warmup. This is Olympic Trials for the fastest nation in the world; it’s an honor, not a privilege and the standards need to be higher, not only to maintain the meet’s prestige, but to maintain the quality of the meet. There are other meets Joe Schmoe can taper for.

    As for the up and coming kids, why not reserve 8 or so spots per event for under 18 athletes. That way these athletes can get a taste of Olympic Trials and get the experience under their belt, or just anyone under 18 who obtains a B standard.

    • JackedAndTan says:
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      Totally agree with you. Like the NCAA’s, Trials should be an elite meet that determines who makes the Olympic team, not a motivation factor for teenagers 4 years removed from their “prime”. If you can’t motivate yourself without having already experienced Trials once, then you need get your head checked.

    • beachmouse says:
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      If Amazing Lary is such a fragile flower that he can’t handle a crowded pool scenario, then he doesn’t have the mental toughness he needs to go to Rio. We want a team of amazing racers, not amazing time trial swimmers.

    • SwimNerd says:
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      Don’t you think it’s pretty ridiculous to blame somebody, just because they accidently got in your way during warm-up, as the reason why you didn’t make the Olympic Team?

      Plus, every swim meet is like that. Unless you have a big enough facility, it’s going to be crowded. It is what it is.

      Olympic Trials needs to be bigger for two main reasons:

      1. Maximize revenue
      2. Foster the growth of USA Swimming’s up-and-comers

  10. baxter says:
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    This type of “outside of the box” thinking is one of the reasons Mr. Busch has this position, I’d imagine.
    It seems uncomfortable, alien even, to imagine a meet of this caliber without an objective time to meet. However given the overflow of athletes at this past trials (and the circus surrounding TTs, there in, there out, oh wait, there in again, but at our discretion) it seems very useful in order to help control numbers.

    It also accomplishes a few other things, I think. In an environment where all of the emphasis is put on #1 & #2 place it automatically creates the mindset top to bottom (in the meet & across USA swimming) that place is the prime indicator of accomplishment. For those that argued so heavily in favor of the USA PPs over USA NAGs, this format would support the emphasis on PP rather than NAG (although I think the new USA NAGs are very useful in helping guide the Age Group swimmer towards USA Junior Nat times – AAAA 17-18 are virtually, or extremely close identical across the board).

    Great idea, should be interesting to see it impletemented.

  11. newswim says:
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    I really don’t see a problem with his proposal per se….the real issue in my mind is the cap number……as long as that number is driven by the logistical limitations of an Omaha-type facility I see no big problem. My guess some number larger than 2008 but smaller than 2012 will work just fine.

    Re Greensboro….I assume their proposal involves a temporary pool and the Aquatic Center would be used for warm-up/warm-down?

  12. wonkabar23 says:
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    Let’s say the cutoff is Top 100 swimmers. What is to stop someone from hosting a last chance time trial and then just fudging the final time to get a swimmer from 101 to 99.

  13. swimmer 2 says:
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    … why not just make the cuts a fair amount faster?

    • WHOKNOWS says:
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      According to “TODD”, that’s exactly what they plan on doing… there seems to be a misinterpretation of what was actually said at the senior development meeting

  14. Maalco says:
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    I believe in the past, they set standards for Trials just like they set them for Jr’s and Nat’s – devise a cut that will produce a meet of “x” number of swimmers. I bet this quad got messed up with the whole suit fiasco. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the 80’s we had Trials meets with 3-4 heats (of some events) in prelims. I don’t wanna see that low of a number of swimmers. But if the Time Standards committee can come up with cuts for national level meets, then it should be doable to use the same method for trials cuts.

    • WHOKNOWS says:
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      Previous Trials, including the 1980’s averaged about 60-80 swims per event. There were alot of swimmers making the trials with yard times. That was eliminated in 2004 with long course meter times only. In 2004, the women averaged about 48 swimmers and just under 40 swimmers for men. If you look at the standards for 2004 they are almost the same as they were in 2012 (except for a couple of instances). In the 2008, there were any where from 80 to 120 swimmers per event. In 2012, there were between 120-170 swimmers per event.

  15. swimfan50 says:
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    Cut the meet size in half and cut the interest and revenue stream by 75% or more. The Michael Phelps buzz will be gone…I suspect there will be numerous other retirements announced – Ervin, Berhens, Torres, Lesak, etc, etc. I think if you limit the size too much you might as well move the trials back to a facility with 7500 or so capacity. The moms and dads are the ones that drive the swimming economy.

  16. iwish says:
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    As someone who attended trials ’12 with my wife and 2 sons, let me say it was a tremendous experience. We all got into it starting with morning prelims and anticipating each night of finals.
    It was exciting seeing all the swimmers around town, even those who had no realistic chance of making the U.S. team, especially 2 young men with whom my boys have been swimming for the last few years ( my 13 year old even got one’s autograph). The whole week was inspiring, to say the least.
    I can’t imagine the crowds impacted the “stars” in any negative way, except complaints about warmup space. So… would it be possible to get another pool at the arena?
    There seemed to be more than enough space, and I understand these are pre-sold to clubs and schools long before trials week.
    If you cut the entrants, you will cut the crowds, revenue, excitement, and once-in-a-lifetime experience for too many swimmers who are the heart and soul of USA swimming. The trials participants go home heroes and are huge inspirations to there clubs.
    Toughen standards a little, but capping it is a bad idea.

  17. DutchWomen says:
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    You guys who want an elite meet are forgetting about the bottom line…. MONEY AND NUMBERS. With your elite meet idea we won’t have 14,000 in the stands and that is good for the sport.

    • CoachGB says:
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      It was another era but this method was used in 1972 where you called in and got the cutoff time on a recording. Of course now it could be kept up with easily with the electronic world. No nationals were held later and this led to the creation of the Open Meet in Hershey Pa. A predecessor to Jr Nat.
      There is no doubt today that the standards should be tougher and for sure only be valid one year out instead of two like it was. Today the sport is so large what ever sytem will not please everyone. How about in ’56 there were no time standards and until 59 no standards at Nat’s or Ncaa’s.
      The NCAA cut off is incredibly tight but the sport still rolls on. The conferences meets provide an excitement level and feeling of succes. US Swimming needs to evaluate what will keep the base excited at the club/club level as a result of the growth of the college/club level brought on by the our success..They will need to look at what needs to be to keep the base excited about the sport to keep the pyramid in tact.

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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