2019 State of the Sport

2019 State of the Sport

 | Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Change. We have experienced it, bared witness to it, and sometimes hesitantly embraced it. But it is a natural evolution and one that, if mindfully done, helps strengthen and refine our purpose.

Over the last 12 months, in partnership with the USA Swimming Board of Directors, I have continued to challenge our organization to look at how we do business and how we serve our membership. I have asked our teams not only to speak with one voice but to listen, learn and understand where we can improve and change.

We continue to keep the athletes at the core of everything we do at USA Swimming. They are our reason for being here and the drive behind our decisions. We have focused on developing the right processes to further protect, care for and develop their physical and mental well-being, from grassroots to gold medals.

We are all immensely proud of USA Swimming’s strong legacy and recognize that the best way to honor and celebrate it is to avoid complacency, and continually focus on building and improving upon it.

USA Swimming will continue to lead our industry in every aspect of business planning, people, policies, operations and performance. We have made significant investments in athlete protection, information technology, events, and sport development to provide enhanced services and remain nimble, creative and responsive.

We are united in our transformation by four common goals, also referred to as the ‘Ends’, set forth in partnership with the USA Swimming Board of Directors. The Ends are a successor to the USA Swimming governance change and establish the values upon which all decisions are made.

 

1.            COMPETITIVE SUCCESS: USA Swimmers Achieve Sustained Competitive Success at the Olympic Games and other high-level international competitions

2.            PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT WITH SWIMMING: There is growth in public awareness of and interest in swimming participation

3.            SUCCESSFUL ATHLETES, COACHES AND CLUBS: Members have Resources for Sustainable                 Success

4.            RECOGNITION OF USA SWIMMING: USA Swimming is recognized as the “Best in Class” NGB

 

As part of this revolution, we have strategically realigned our organization, effected new policies, and created more opportunities for athletes, while also identifying significant improvements in communication to our members.

In our continued effort to create more dialogue between our membership and the organization in Colorado Springs, I believe it’s important to highlight many of these advancements and future opportunities.

 

LEADERSHIP

We are well underway and successfully charting our future course with our four-phased, 10-year strategy. We continue to focus on phase II’s evaluation of all personnel in each business unit to ensure we have the right roles and talent for the job, and phase III’s long-term succession planning and development of a 10-year LA 2028 plan.

The recruitment of our senior executive team – the Strategy Team – is now complete. These four women and four men bring an unparalleled diversity of experience to One Olympic Plaza, and they are wholly dedicated to better servicing our membership. Together they oversee these respective Business Units:

ELT-Chart

Within our own culture, we are focused not just on our efforts, but our results. We have worked both internally and collaboratively with the new strategic-focused Board of Directors to re-envision our strategic plan, which includes expanded Key Performance Indicator (KPI) measurements and a tracking and reporting schedule for progress. These reports are made available following every board meeting.

We are rightfully proud of our achievements, but it also forces us to acknowledge where there is room for improvement.

Our number one area of emphasis and continual improvement focuses on increasing communication with our membership. We firmly believe communication leads to community, and we want everyone in our community invested in the positive long-term growth of this sport.

We have undertaken several initiatives to enhance our communications channels in the last year.

Following a review and audit of usaswimming.org, along with ample feedback from our members, the web team strived to update the site’s existing functionality. The primary areas of focus were search function/navigation and an improved resource topic browser. The key objective was to provide an overall better user experience, which should in turn increase site usability and create greater ease in locating valuable information.

USA Swimming and TeamUnify partnered to launch Deck Pass on TeamUnify, an online and mobile platform designed to create engagement and inspiration, and to provide insights to improve the athlete’s performance in and out of the pool. Integrated with the TeamUnify platform, users now have access to exclusive offers from USA Swimming partners, live coverage and streaming of events and USA Swimming content directly on their team’s page. 

In the spring, USA Swimming reorganized its social media channels to create greater impact and more streamlined messaging across its platforms. Follower groups continue to receive the same great information but now in more efficient ways.

Our goal is to provide clearer, more transparent and more regular communication with every member, especially on major initiatives at all levels of the organization and in matters of high importance.

 

SAFE SPORT

Athlete protection and abuse prevention continue to be weaved throughout the fabric of everything we do at USA Swimming.

Last September, the Safe Sport Recognized Club program was launched. This program allows clubs to demonstrate their commitment to creating a safe, healthy and positive environment for all their members through the development and implementation of athlete protection policies, best practices, and education. The program continues to successfully expand, with over 830 clubs initiating the process to become Safe Sport recognized.

USA Swimming then kicked off 2019 by hosting 144 members, non-members, coaches and staff at its biennial Safe Sport Leadership Conference. The event was very highly reviewed and focused on a holistic approach to abuse prevention, including introducing attendees to community-based organizations that can support local prevention and response efforts.

In addition to being promoted to Associate Counsel and Director of Safe Sport, Abigail Howard successfully complete a Praesidium Guardian Certification to become a Certified Praesidium GuardianTM.

The U.S. Center for Safe Sport (“the Center”) also released its model Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policy (MAAPP). USA Swimming Safe Sport staff updated the template policy to make it swimming-specific, which was approved by the Center and implemented by the June 23, 2019, deadline.

Without the support of our membership this would not have been possible. For that, we sincerely thank you. We received very valuable feedback, and we have vowed to find ways to support the fundamental nature of the program while ensuring it is appropriately devised for our sport.

In our continuing quest to better the status quo and align ourselves with industry experts, we have partnered with Futures Without Violence Coaching Boys into Men. This is the only evidence-based prevention program that trains coaches to teach young male athletes healthy relationship skills and that violence never equals strength. Additionally, we have joined with Athletes as Leaders, a complementary program for female athletes promoting healthy relationships and an end to sexual violence. USA Swimming is the first National Governing Body to partner with these organizations and will roll out the partnership at Convention.

Our greatest long-term impact will come from providing effective educational tools and resources and identifying opportunities to promote awareness and prevention around athlete protection.

 

SPORT DEVELOPMENT

Following the arrival of Managing Director Joel Shinofield, the Sport Development Division has been busy reevaluating USA Swimming’s field and member services and reviewing best practices within the NGB and professional sports communities. Among the early adjustments, there have been several employee appointments including the re-assigning of Jaime Lewis to the role of Performance Development Manager and the hiring of six-time Olympic medalist Brendan Hansen as Director of Team Services.

Hansen will provide leadership and support to the Sport Development Division and promote the utilization and delivery of all USA Swimming programs & services through the Team Services group. He is at work providing superior resources and education to coaches and clubs, while helping to deliver coach development at all levels via a comprehensive coach education program.

With that, in its early stages, the development of the coach education and licensure program focuses on seeking best practices from other NGBs, identifying internal and external subject matter experts and resources, as well as identifying a viable online platform. The end goal is to work collaboratively with other organizations to build a comprehensive educational and licensure pathway for coaches.

 

Membership Numbers

Once again, we are pleased to report another strong year for USA Swimming membership. This was our third highest membership year behind 2017's record-breaking year and 2018. Overall athlete retention remains above 70% (73.3% this past year), and 2019 marked our best-ever retention rate outside of post-Olympic years.

In its inaugural year, over 25,000 athletes registered with the Flex membership, including over 18,000 new members. More than 3,300 Flex members upgraded to a Premium membership by the end of the membership year. We witnessed a direct impact of the Flex membership at the 8&Under level, as those member totals were the highest they have been since 2014.

This year marked the highest ever number of coaches (20,307) and second highest number of officials (16,603). The number of year-round clubs (including organizations) remained virtually unchanged at 3,033 clubs (2018: 3,034; 2017: 3,030).

 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

In a continued effort to evolve, we are proud to report that the D&I team, led by MJ Truex, has officially changed its name to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

USA Swimming is committed to a culture where everyone feels welcome and differences are embraced. We are dedicated to increasing diversity, which comes in many forms including race and ethnicity, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, age, ability and disability. Adding equity into the department’s name involves increasing fairness within the procedures and processes of our organization, allowing for fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement for all our members. Inclusion is the act of intentionally creating environments where differences are embraced and everyone feels welcome, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate.

One key initiative to increase multicultural participation continues to be our partnership with the Chicago Parks District (CPD). The Chicago Park District Community Swim Team is the first USA Swimming Team with 3,000-plus members, and more than 100 coaches are involved in the partnership. Now in its fourth year, the program has become completely sustainable and is looking for ways it can expand. This past summer the program piloted its first Open Water series and is hoping to grow the series in the upcoming years. 

Our goal is to use lessons learned from this pilot program to build similar programs in other areas across the country.

 

NATIONAL TEAM AND EVENTS

We are incredibly proud to share that the U.S. finished the summer with 37 unique athletes ranked in the top-8 in the world across events. There were an additional 33 athletes ranked from 9-16 in the world.

These amazing athletes and more recorded many notable accomplishments this year.

 

2019 TYR Pro Swim Series

The TYR Pro Swim Series made five stops in 2019, traveling to Knoxville, Tenn., Des Moines, Iowa, Richmond, Va., Bloomington, Ind. and Clovis, Calif. Michael Andrew took home more first-place finishes than any other male by winning 16 races, while Katie Ledecky had the most victories by a female swimmer with 10.

The 2019 Swim Squads program, a fantasy sport-like competition where swimmers earn points for their respective teams, was won by the Adams Squad. For her team’s successes, team captain Camille Adams was presented with a $10,000 donation to the Jessie Rees Foundation. U.S. National Team members Cody Miller and Olivia Smoliga were awarded a grand prize for earning the most FINA power points throughout the 2019 TYR Pro Swim Series.

 

2019 World University Games

The 30th edition of the World University Games took place in Naples, Italy from July 3-14. More than 1,000 swimmers from 45 countries competed in the pool, with 52 athletes representing Team USA. At the end of the eight days of swimming, American swimmers finished with 40 medals (19 gold, 12 silver and nine bronze), which doubled the next closest country (Japan) on the medal table.

 

2019 FINA World Championships

The pinnacle of the 2019 summer took place in Gwangju, South Korea, as the best swimmers in the world took to the pool as part of the 2019 FINA World Championships. American swimmers totaled 30 medals, nine new American records and five new world records en route to earning “Team of the Meet” honors.

Caeleb Dressel had a historic performance in Gwangju, as he became the first swimmer to ever win three gold medals in one night and later became the first swimmer to ever win eight medals in one World Championships competition. For his efforts, Dressel earned “male swimmer of the meet” and later won Team USA’s Best of July honors. Emerging talent Regan Smith also put up jaw-dropping performances in Gwangju, as she set a new world record in the 100m backstroke (:57.57), 200m backstroke (2:03.35) and as part of the women’s 4x100m medley relay (3:50.40).

Haley Anderson, Ashley Twichell and Jordan Wilimovsky all stamped their tickets to Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with their top-10 finishes at the 2019 FINA Open Water World Championships 10k, in Yeosu, South Korea in July. This will be the third Olympic appearance for Anderson (2012 and 2016), second for Wilimovsky (2016) and first for Twichell.

 

2019 Phillips 66 National Championships

An exciting field of swimmers took to the Avery Aquatic Center in Stanford, California, from July 31-August 4 for the 2019 Phillips 66 National Championships. The event saw many exciting swims, such as Ryan Held’s U.S. Open record in the 100m freestyle and Ryan Lochte’s 200m individual medley title in his return to competitive swimming. The competition also served as the qualifying event for the 2019 FINA World Junior Championships. At the end of the five days in Stanford, 45 talented young swimmers had punched their tickets to Budapest for one of the premier events in the world of youth swimming.

 

2019 Pan American Games

Team USA headed to Lima, Peru, from August 6-10 to compete in the Pan American Games. Headlined by veteran talents such as Nathan Adrian and Margo Geer, American swimmers won gold in over half of the competition’s events. In total, Team USA’s 45 medals came by way of 21 gold, 15 silver and 8 bronze.

Team USA was led by five-medal performances from Geer (four gold, one silver) and Adrian (two gold, three silver). Also putting up multi-medal performances were U.S. National Team members Michael Chadwick (one gold, one silver, two bronze) and Annie Lazor (three gold).

 

2019 FINA World Junior Championships

After putting up stellar times at the Phillips 66 National Championships, 45 of the Nation’s best young swimmers traveled to Budapest, Hungary for the 2019 FINA World Junior Championships. Under the leadership of National Junior Team Director Mitch Dalton, this year’s team had one of the best performances ever by an American team at a World Junior Championships by capturing 18 gold medals, which included wins in seven of eight relay events and setting a new world junior record in four of those relays. Individually, Gretchen Walsh topped the female medal count with six medals (all gold) while Luca Urlando’s five medals (all gold) led the male swimmers.

 

2020 U.S. Olympic Team Head Coaches

Decorated college coaches and experienced mentors on USA Swimming’s international coaching staffs, Dave Durden and Greg Meehan were named head coaches for the 2020 United States Olympic Swimming Team. Durden, the University of California, Berkeley men’s coach, will serve as the men’s head coach, while Meehan, the Stanford University women’s coach, will lead the women. Durden- and Meehan-coached swimmers combined to win 20 medals at the 2016 Olympic Games.

These two veteran coaches served in the same roles for USA Swimming at the 2019 FINA World Championships, and as assistant coaches at the 2016 Olympic Games. Both are first-time U.S. Olympic Team head coaches.

 

2019/2020 National Team

One hundred and fifteen (115) of the nation’s top swimmers were announced as members of the 2019-2020 National Team. The team features the top six athletes in each individual Olympic event.

 

The 2019-2020 USA Swimming National Team by the numbers:

  • 115 National Team members (60 men; 55 women)
  • 26 states represented; California leads the way with 16 athletes
  • 60-plus USA Swimming clubs represented; California Aquatics highest-represented club with 12 swimmers
  • 32 medalists from the 2019 FINA World Championships
  • 24 first-time National Team members
  • 12 members of the 2018-19 National Junior Team move up to senior team

 

U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming

The U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming will be held at the CHI Health Center in Omaha in June of 2020. This will be the fourth consecutive time the Trials have been in Omaha. Demand for tickets is on record pace for this sole qualifying event for pool swimmers on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team. As of September 1, 1,076 swimmers have already qualified for the Trials and we anticipate 1,400-1,500 swimmers could eventually qualify to swim in Omaha. The 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming will have full coverage of Finals and Prelims on NBC, NBCSN, the Olympic Channel and usaswimming.org.

Not only are we fortunate in the U.S. to have world-class coaches working with our elite level athletes, but we are also incredibly proud to have such a strong foundation of developmental coaches who help shape and build our many talented American swimmers. Among these individuals is National Team coach Mike Parratto, from Riptide Swimming, who recently received the 2019 American Swimming Coaches Association Coach of the Year honors for his incredible work with Regan Smith and many other exceptional swimmers.

 

PARTNERSHIPS

Blue chip corporate partners continue to proudly align themselves with the organization. We have welcomed new partners while also extending long-term ones.

Olympic sponsor Toyota named USA Swimming one of its six newest national governing body partners. Toyota supports the NGBs in promoting the individual sport as well as the competitive success of its athletes. Toyota dealers and regions will have the opportunity to amplify the partnerships with local activations at a grassroots level with community-based activities.

We then signed a landmark partnership extension with Phillips 66, which marks the longest-running partnership in national governing body history. Together we will celebrate 50 years of collaboration in 2023. Phillips 66 will continue as title sponsor of both the summer Phillips 66 National Championships and the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash Tour. The partnership also introduced new promotional elements, including ‘Team Phillips 66’ and ‘The Leadership Exchange’.

We announced a new multi-year partnership with Golden Road Brewing, marking the first-ever alcohol sponsorship for USA Swimming. We are extremely careful about the way we activate this partnership, knowing that we hold significant responsibility to the youth of our organization.  This unique deal allows us to provide enhanced event hospitality for adults over 21 years of age, as we push to elevate the fan experiences at our premier swim meets.  Golden Road will serve as co-presenting sponsor of VIP hospitality experiences at USA Swimming House and USA Swimming Live at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming in Omaha, Nebraska. The brewery will also hold activation rights in the Toyota Aqua Zone and serve as presenting sponsor of the “Last Session Show” and the Golden Goggles red carpet show. In a unique extension, Golden Road will also implement an athlete support program that provides financial support to adult athletes, as well as industry exposure and professional training.  Incidentally, Golden Road Brewery was co-founded by former National Team member Meg Gill, so we enjoy this partnership that highlights alumni successes out of the pool.

We are poised for Marriott’s return as our Official Hotel partner. Under the new agreement they would become a supporting partner of several of USA Swimming’s marquee events through 2021, including the Phillips 66 Nationals Championships, TYR Pro Swim Series, Toyota U.S. Open, Speedo Junior and Winter Junior Nationals, the Golden Goggle Awards, and the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Swimming in 2020.

As we strive to provide more benefits to our members, we will also work with Marriott to create unique experience programs for Marriott Bonvoy members to cash in on VIP experiences with USA Swimming.

We are well placed with Comcast to bring them on as Cable Television and Communications Partner of USA Swimming. Its Xfinity brand will become the presenting sponsor of Deck Pass Live, USA Swimming’s digitally hosted desk show, with rights to official marks, branding, marketing and promotional opportunities.

USA Swimming and Streamline Brands signed a multi-year agreement to create more swimming programs across the country and transition more athletes from learn-to-swim programs to recreational and competitive swimming.

 

USA Swimming Foundation

This year is one of great change for the USA Swimming Foundation, as we look forward to seamless integration between USA Swimming and its valued fundraising arm. We have begun the integration of the Foundation staff into the overall USA Swimming staff at One Olympic Plaza, allowing for greater shared resources, purpose, and camaraderie through a unified reporting structure. In the months to come, you will see subtle changes to the way we talk about and depict the Foundation, ensuring that those outside the organization understand its alignment with the NGB. 

We will continue to drive the shared mission to Save Lives and Build Champions through existing initiatives such as Make A Splash and National Team support. In 2019, we awarded $618,200 in grants to 117 local swim lesson providers so that nearly 29,000 children could have the chance to learn to swim. As we focus on building USA Swimming membership at the grassroots level, we know there are opportunities to convert those who have just learned to swim to potential competitive swimmers in clubs throughout the United States. The Foundation is also making important contributions to elite competitors in our organization, providing over $856,000 in direct support to the National Team.

Saving Lives by providing access to swim lessons and Building Champions by supporting our nation’s greatest athletes – our Foundation plays such a critical role in the growth of this sport we love. 

As we begin a new era with the Foundation, I would like to wholeheartedly thank Debbie Hesse for her nine years of dedicated leadership as Executive Director of the Foundation as she moves on to her next successful venture. Debbie’s drive brought stability to the organization and her hard work and passion ensured successful results across all facets of the Foundation. Under her care, the Foundation built a 1000-strong swim lesson provider network and established valuable corporate partnerships to propel our future fundraising growth. Through Debbie’s guidance, the Foundation grew the major gifts area and created the USA Swimming Endowment, the Athlete & Donor Partnership Program, and the Major Donor Trustee Council. She also created fundraisers such as the Youth & Adult Performance Camps, the Golden Goggles Live & Silent Auctions, and Olympic Trials VIP packages. 

 

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. Never were there truer words to live by.

Tremendous opportunity lies ahead as we head into the final year of the quad and a very exciting one in the Olympic journey. Partner engagement is at an all-time high and we continue to look for new and exciting ventures to drive revenue and expand our services.

We hope you will all join us and continue to be valuable members of the USA Swimming team.

 

Sincerely yours,

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Tim Hinchey III

USA Swimming President & CEO


 

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