ISL, NCAA, and Their Fans Love Short Course Swimming. Why doesn’t Swimming Canada?



Even a casual viewing of any of the new International Swimming League races shows us an incredibly exciting and competitive atmosphere. In fact, other than the ridiculously prestigious Olympics, there’s only one other type of meet that consistently has this much excitement, this much atmosphere, and this much pure fun. And that’s almost any NCAA meet.

These two organizations are as fundamentally different as you can get. One is based on incredibly close-knit college teammates going up against a traditional opponent, while the other is a loosely-knit group of international swimmers going up against another loosely-knit group of international swimmers.

So what makes ISL and NCAA so exciting? It’s because it’s fast short course swimming! There’s an immediacy to this type of competition. The racing is right in front of you all the time. Fans love watching short course, and swimmers of all ages love swimming short course.

Which brings us to Swimming Canada. They don’t like SC for the simple reason that it’s not long course. The thinking is that since all major international swim meets are LC, everyone should swim long course as much as possible. To enforce this, Swimming Canada instituted a ban on SC provincial or national championships, and somehow convinced the Canadian University Swimming system [U Sports] to switch to SC heats / LC finals for the national championships. It’s now at the point where it’s incredibly hard to find a good SC meet between January and July.

But here’s the thing with short course. It promotes speed in a way that long course just can’t do. The wall at 25m (or 25 yards in the US) rest some muscles, allow a launch off the wall, and allow faster underwater swimming. SC meets are just plain faster than LC, and anybody competing has to up their speed game just to stay competitive.

SC also promotes better underwater technique, as so much of SC swimming is done underwater. You absolutely have to be fast underwater if you want to compete SC. In fact, 2 years ago I wrote a blog on my statistical analysis on why American men dominate backstroke. It all boiled down to the emphasis on SC swimming and mastering the underwater phase (see here). If you like stats, it’s kinda cool how the numbers all aligned for that argument.

And yet in Canada we’re told to ignore SC. The huge, massive, insurmountable problem with this bizarre approach is that the vast majority of Canadian swimmers don’t have consistent access to long course training. Which means long course competitions for the vast majority are often frustrating and relatively slow. And this is doubly so for developing swimmers.

What a devastating combination we have in Canada:

  • lack of long course pools
  • lack of short course meets
  • ignoring the speed that SC racing demands
  • frustrated younger swimmers who can’t train LC
  • and none of the excitement that can come from high-level SC meets

Swimming Canada should take a much closer look at the excitement behind the ISL and the NCAA. Short course swimming is amazing!



2 thoughts on “ISL, NCAA, and Their Fans Love Short Course Swimming. Why doesn’t Swimming Canada?

  1. We love short course (and your blog). So much more excitement could be built around some provincial and national short course meets! OJI is great but much to fast for most athletes. I don’t understand why it’s not valued in Canada. Thanks for posting.

    1. The NCAA Div. I Champs are really missing the boat!! They should follow Canada’s “world leading example” and run a LC finals with SCY prelims. Think of the added excitement!!

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