United States Masters Swimming (USMS) has released their official rules proposals that will be voted upon this year.
Among the most interesting rules changes to be debated is R 15 – which would allow the addition of 25-yard races as short course yards meets, plus 100 yard relays (4×25).
The official rationale:
Rationale: 25-yard races may be less intimidating for new swimmers. Adding 25-yard races and 100-yard relays will increase meet participation, meet revenues, and swimmer recognition through Top 10, All American, and All Star programs.
USMS makes their revenue primarily from participation numbers, and they’re hoping that this rule will increase participation numbers in two ways.
The first is by encouraging more people who are either new to swimming. or who have been out of swimming for decades, to participate, as 25 yard races aren’t very intimidating. Conceivably, meets could be run specifically for Intro Masters swimmers that have only short races of 25 and 50 yards, and they could be run in one day.
Further, it can generate more revenue for meet hosts, especially at meets where athletes are charged “per splash” or “per race.” For the time it takes to run a 200 yard race, meet organizers can host 4-5 (or more) 25 yard races, therefore quadrupling their revenue for the same pool rental fee.
While we wouldn’t expect to see any movement to add 25 yard races to youth, club, college, or elite/pro swimming any time soon, 25 yard races make sense for the mission of Masters’ Swimming. Specifically, it opens the sport up, creates more opportunities, and gives more people a way to stay in the water.
The biggest push back on the 25 yard races is specifically the part of the rule that allows a meet host to bid for a national championship meet with a schedule that includes 25 yard events and 100 yard relay events (though it would be up to the USMS Championship Committee as to whether they’d approve those events at Nationals). There will be a large group of Masters’ swimmers who see the above-mentioned pros as a great thing for the sport, but won’t want to see the National Championship meet diluted.