Monday, October 11, 2021

Rationale behind technical swimsuits ban

There has been considerable response to the recent announcement of the intention to prohibit the use of technical swimsuits for swimmers aged 13 and under in swimming competition in Scotland. Thank you!

The journey to getting to this point from the initial concept took some time, with the policy evolving through various stages of input from the swimming community before the Scottish Swimming Board agreed the final version in late August.

As a quick reminder, the approach is being implemented for a number of reasons as outlined within our article published in May of this year: 

  • The focus of younger swimmers should be less on results, more on learning the process of how to improve and on the enjoyment of the sport and competition. Buying technical swimsuits for young swimmers puts the emphasis on delivering the result
  • In young swimmers the development of good technique and the introduction to training methods is the primary focus. The availability of technical swimsuits brings an undesirable focus on enhanced performance through the use of equipment, and away from technique and training. Young swimmers should feel and understand that it is their own commitment and effort that makes a difference when they compete, not the swimsuit they wear
  • Technical swimsuits are expensive and have a short shelf-life (the qualities that provide the performance advantage start to deteriorate as soon as they are worn in water). We want swimming to be inclusive in a way that enables as many people as possible to enjoy the sport and competition without the additional pressure of buying unnecessary, expensive, and potentially detrimental equipment

Although much of the response has been extremely positive around the principles of the approach, several questions have been asked around the implementation process. We have tried to consolidate these and provide some answers below:

Why 13 years and under?

The original proposal was to go with the 12 and under age group; however, on further discussion with the Coaches Technical Panel and others within the swimming community, the decision was taken to extend to the 13 and under age group. The main reasons for this change were:

  • Swimmers are unlikely to be entering “performance swimming” at the age of 13 (there are a few exceptions) and therefore delaying the use of a technical suit for a further year was viewed as a positive for both swimmers and those that buy the suits
  • The lower age group of the Scottish Age Groups is 13 and under – the 13 and under restriction ensures that all athletes will be competing on a level playing field 

How will the 13 years and under on the day and 13 and under at the end of the year impact on the use of suits?

From 1st January 2022, if the meet is “age on the day” and you are 13 or under for that meet, technical suits are not allowed. If the meet is run as “age as at 31st December 2022” and you are 14 by 31st December 2022, then the use of a technical suit is allowed.

In both cases, athletes will be competing under equal meet conditions.

Are athletes allowed to compete out with Scotland in technical suits?

The technical suit rule for Scotland is applicable only in Scotland. Swimmers will compete under the jurisdiction and rules of the country they are racing in. We would, however, encourage coaches and athletes to take a similar approach to competition when competing out with Scotland for the reasons highlighted at the start of this article.

Why are we only able to use suits that do not have the FINA approved symbol on the back of the swimsuit?

The decision was made to follow this approach to simplify the recognition of a race suit for coaches, swimmers, parents, and officials i.e., the suit either had a label or not. It is and was recognised that there are a number of swimsuits used by athletes that are not “technical suits” in line with the description outlined within our recent flier. Listening to feedback from those that have contacted us directly, there is a growing concern that there is a limited supply of swimsuits that do not have the FINA approved symbol on the back.

We would welcome any further feedback in this regard and therefore if you would like to tell us more of your experiences in purchasing non-FINA labelled suits, please contact us directly at info@scottishswimming.com by the end of October 2021.

As per our recent communication, we are committed to considering feedback and reviewing the definition of a technical suit as the nature (and range) of swimsuits evolve.