Thursday, July 2, 2009

Professional Swim League?

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.


  1. I think a lot of great ideas have been expressed on this topic. My 2 cents...

    Create a point system to be awarded throughout the season for the place earned in specific events. Only certain races should be included to increase excitiment(no distance events). Phelps was first at the NBAC meet in the 100 Free, he is awarded "X" points for that race towards his season total. At the end of the "season" the top 24 in each event will participate in a prelims and finals meet. Seeding will be based on top times done in qaulifing meets. Finals will be televised somehow or online etc. Somehow keep the coverage to 1 or 2 hours live, again to maintain excitment and get non swimmers to watch. Short and sweet. I think the events should be Yards (more exciting to non-swimmers). If we could include 50's and 100 IM (see Texas All-Star IM You wouldn't need to create an elaborate league or season because this can be done within the normal schedule. The only thing really new would be a Pro Swimmer Meet showcasing the Pro swimmers. 1 meet, pro swimmers only, for some money. Champions of each event win some money etc.

  2. Great idea, maybe the grand prix meets could serve as qualifying meets. Yards is the way to go too, more underwater walls.

  3. i guess with the banning of tech suits after 2010, this will be a good place for them! maybe these Pro Swim Leagues can have really fun events (100m corkscrew), and crazy suits (fused leggings for fly, or sewn in hand paddles)! East Conference vs West Conference? Mixed relays?... I kinda feel like we have already created this system with the "Dual in The Pool" meets- they should be held on a more frequent schedule.

    while on the subject of banning suits, I think after 2010 FINA should provide all swimmers with the same suit at trials/games of World Champs and Olympics. this will DEFINITELY make a level playing field... but then again, people could down size more than others, so they will have to take measurements of every swimmer, and allow a range of sizes a swimmer can wear... caps and goggles should be provided too!

    but then you could argue that its not a level playing field if some swimmers can afford coaches, equipment, massage therapists, personal trainers, nutritionists, etc during the off season while others can't... so FINA might have to start banning specific resources that can't be used during training... i just think this arguement could go on and on forever. sorry if i went off on a tangent.