Why Swimmers Will Tread Water Until They Gain Real Access To Decision Making

All things have a starting point … by Patrick B. Kraemer

After considering the woeful state of the world cup and ahead of some thoughts on what a professional swimming world might one day come to look like, the following article highlights one of the primary barriers to significant progress for swimmers and swimming beyond the biggest championship moments.

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curious question if you will …

so true that “growing swimming in developing countries (much of that is lip service, with no real evidence of significant improvement)” is challenging …

what would be effective and lead to significant improvement? Easy to do in my backyard but how to do globally

Craig Lord

Bigger answer down the line, Pegasus, but first instant thought: much improvement could be gained by a serious change of emphasis and incentive, like starting with NOT inviting dozens upon dozens of folk to world titles to race 50m (some manage 100m but even then not all)…. where are the development kids doing 200m, let alone the 1500m free and 400IM etc? .. this has not changed at all in decades. It is a sign of poor approach and exercises designed not to develop swimmers but make sure all those nations have blazered delegates on the gravy train. Tokenism – bad for swimming; bad for the democratic process of how swimming should be run.

clive rushton

It would be an interesting piece of research to look at the sprint event rankings in “developed” swimming countries compared to those in “non-developed” swimming countries. My subjective observation is that they would be overwhelmingly “sprint” oriented.

Also fascinating to research the comparative male – female rankings in those countries.

Craig Lord

Good idea, Clive … I think your sub obj is correct


I don’t think the newly-formed World Swimming Association has any chance of wresting control of the sport from FINA without the support of the swimmers. The reality is that swimmers tend to be very young, training focused and not very concerned with governance issues. If anything is to change then a retired swimmer with real presence such as Michael Phelps, Ian Thorpe, Natalie Coughlin or someone in the mature phase of their career like Nathan Adrian would have to campaign hard for change and have the persuasive skills to take the rest of the swimmers with them. Quite a few prominent swimmers have spoken about their dream of changing the sport and bringing it into the mainstream. However, aspirations for change and having the drive and the skills to realise it are two different things.

Craig Lord

Longstroke: the WSA project was inevitably going to be in for the long haul on the road to improving swimming’s offer but it is not working in isolation and there is much yet to be revealed, so a touch premature to pin failure on a plan neither you, with respect, nor anyone beyond those working on it know anything about – that’s faith or lack of, nothing to do with facts that are not in the public domain – and won’t be for some while yet. On athletes, you must extend well beyond the USA and you must include people with proven business skills and experience beyond the world of swimming; you must talk to broadcasters and backers and many others. Stephan Caron, for example, would eat your list alive on knowledge of some things beyond the pool 🙂 – and that on issues that would be essential to success. Quite a few battlegrounds in current FINA politics are won to the detriment of swimming’s progress because the USA and its officers make mistakes that centre on two grounds:
1. a self-serving approach
2. Naivety and a lack of awareness of how the Game of Thrones works and who backs whom and why
The difficulties of creating meaningful improvements and pressing progress in swimming governance and the look and feel of the sport and how that plays out in the wider world of sport should not be underestimated. At the same time, a professional platform for swimming, with a form of governance that will never be achieved through FINA in current guise (radical reform or replacement the only ways to break down the door) is there to be had if swimmers and swimming want it. That’s what the WSA and others are testing out in the wider world. Don’t expect that exercise to happen overnight. Things can and do, of course, appear to happen overnight come the hour: it is a little like a swimmer preparing for gold at an Olympics: much work, long-term, much of it unseen and unknown about by all but those closest to the swimmer – and then the pre-Games ranked No 12, No 24 etc emerges as … an Olympic champion … and the seascape is changed, myriad predictions and ‘certainties’ cast to the high seas and seven winds 🙂

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