Recently, the SCAQ blog has made a couple of posts calling for us to consider pushing for a professional swim league. We are now in the dawn of the professional swimming athlete, tech suits, and more importantly, the age of Michael Phelps. We are getting the press. I feel that we have reached the point where we are getting many of the negatives of being a premier sport, but we haven’t quite capitalized on all of the positives.
Brent Rutemiller at Swimming World recently made the case that there has never been a better time than now to take the plunge. A professional swim league that embraces suit technology could be the perfect way to keep the Olympics and our traditional system intact and pure, while allowing the suit companies to innovate and keep the sport fresh and growing. Who says we can’t have meets that don’t follow FINA rules? The high schools have been operating that way for years. It would not surprise me if the NFHS continued to allow tech even if FINA goes back to permeable with length restrictions.
So what if we were to host a meet where the times wouldn’t count as traditional world records? Why couldn’t we add the 50’s of the strokes and underwater fly kicking as events without pressuring FINA to add it to their meets? This honestly could let FINA off the hook regarding suits, and give us a way to resolve the issues that might come up with the looming decision on whether or not to let records set in technology stand. It would not have to be done with a spirit of defiance… It could be something completely separate from the way we currently do things, but it could be done in the interest of enhancing and promoting our traditional system.
We now have hubs of post-college excellence in teams like Club Wolverine, North Baltimore, Mecklenburg and the Race Club. Why not have suit company sponsored training sites with sponsored coaches leading them? Team TYR and Team Speedo could have a whole new meaning. They could set up a college-style system of dual meets and a championship, or even a system of invites for pro athletes similar to the Grand Prix series that would not interfere with our current club system. They could keep it light and fun, and give pro athletes a way to take an exciting detour during the season and generate income to keep their traditional swim careers progressing. I would personally buy a ticket to watch Ian Crocker put on a tech suit and put Lochte and Hill Taylor to shame with some serious fly kicking. College or high school format duals would be fun. Eight man 50 free shootouts are a blast. Anything that makes swimming more spectator friendly could be fair game.
Come on, guys. Let’s get creative. Just like butterfly spawned from people innovating their breaststroke technique, a great thing could come out of suit companies innovating their products. Let’s help write a mission statement for this thing and come up with a way to end the fighting over tech. Let’s allow it to bring our sport to a new and exciting place while simultaneously ending the debates over the purity of the sport.
In the comments section below, I want to know what you would like to include in the mission statement, format and rules for a professional league. Let’s bust the door to the house of ideas wide open. We could create a real solution.