PHOENIX, Arizona, July 28. SWIMMING World CEO Brent Rutemiller writes ” Success Is Not Always Measured by the Stopwatch” in the latest Voice for the Sport, which appears in the August 2012 issue of Swimming World Magazine. The column is reprinted in full below. Read Now For $3.95.
I saw a lot of coaches consoling athletes at the USA Swimming Olympic Trials. I witnessed parents questioning coaches whose swimmers did not perform well.
From a performance level, roughly four out of five swimmers swam slower than their seed time at the event. However, from a marketing level, USA Swimming struck gold!
Chuck Wielgus, executive director for USA Swimming, was hired as a “person outside the sport.” He was the successor to Ray Essick, who was hired as a “person within the sport.” Essick served for 17 years. Wielgus is on his 15th year at the helm.
Wielgus was hired in part to market the sport. Essick was hired to organize it. Under their leadership, USA Swimming has led the world in Olympic performances for more than three decades.
With all of these variables in mind, the London Olympics will be the final performance measure of all aspects that make up USA Swimming today.
I don’t think USA Swimming could have better positioned itself within the sports market. The “Show” in Omaha was flawless. USA Swimming stuck with its America’s Team theme with signage, videos and AquaZone vendors. It set a high-water mark for the sport–and FINA should take note on how to conduct an event.
The Omaha arena, sound system and video presentation board were spectacular. The ascending floor stage used to introduce the athletes every evening was an impressive touch, and the blowtorch fire balls erupting at key points during the event was over the top.
All of this allowed NBC television to average a 3.5 rating and 5.68 million viewers each day–up 30 percent in ratings and 36 percent in viewership from 2008 (2.7, 4.17 million).
Behind the curtain and cameras were some 1,800 swimmers from all parts of the United States fighting for water time. This is where the product meets the market.
The athlete performance ratings were dismal. On average, only one out of five races was a lifetime best swim. No world records were set, and only three American records.
From a top-down perspective, the United States will be sending a veteran team to London. A majority of those representing the USA have been on the Olympic stage before. The swims in Omaha by these athletes are of no real concern. The goal was to make the team. I have no reason to believe that the USA team will not perform at its highest level in London.
However, for the remaining 98 percent of those who competed at the event, I beg the question: “Was the experience of competing in the United States Olympic Swimming Trials of more value than the times produced?”
In the short-term, I think the answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” Every one of those swimmers went home and told of their experience. The USA Olympic Trials are more than a personal experience–it is a cultural experience. Performance times for that meet really mean nothing in the end. It is what the athletes do with the experience that will be the long-term measure. Will they share stories that inspire others? Will they use the experience to perform better next time they are in a similar position?
I believe the athletes will improve next time around, and London is the first measure.
Video Preview of August Issue
TABLE OF CONTENTS
8 U.S. Olympic Trials: The Best is Yet to Come by John Lohn and Jason Marsteller
19 Olympic Predictions: Bring It On! by John Lohn Eight days of swimming action will unfold at the London Aquatics Centre, July 28-Aug. 4. During that time, dreams will be both realized and crushed. What we do know is this: the Olympics will feature heated, spectacular battles in all distances and strokes.
23 Male High School Swimmer of the Year: A Bright Future by Jason Marsteller Not only did Jack Conger have a record-setting high school season on his way to being named Swimming World’s Male High School Swimmer of the Year, but the junior from Our Lady of Good Counsel in Maryland went on to final in both backstroke events at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
24 Female High School Swimmer of the Year: The Right Choice by Jeff Commings After deciding to keep her amateur status, Missy Franklin, a junior at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., was named Swimming World’s Female High School Swimmer of the Year.
26 Nutrition Choices of the Stars by Jeff Commings This is the second of a three-part series on nutrition choices by some of swimming’s elite athletes. This month’s focus: nutrition during workout.
28 Dryside Training: Look Fit and Swim Fast! by J.R. Rosania
30 Q&A with Coach Al Boelk by Michael J. Stott
32 How They Train: Chase Gross by Michael J. Stott
34 American Relay by Judy Jacob
35 TYR Age Group Swimmer of the Month
6 A Voice for the Sport
37 For the Record
39 Lane 9/Gutter Talk
46 Parting Shot
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