by Brent Rutemiller
PHOENIX, Arizona, September 13. Deck changing, or the act of wrapping a towel around your body in order to remove your swimsuit in public, has finally forced discussion among USA Swimming members.
Due to the nature of the sport, swimmers are more comfortable with fewer clothes. Pulling down shoulder straps and removing practice suits, outside the locker room, has mostly been viewed as “acceptable” behavior. It's a swimmer's thing. Call it an “inappropriate convenience”. It happens at all levels of the sport, from the local meet to the Olympic trials.
All that is about to change… USA Swimming is proposing a rule to eliminate deck changing by athletes at USA Swimming events.
The proposed rule states as follows: “Deck Changing – Changing into or out of swimsuits outside designated locker room areas by athletes at any level of competition is prohibited at USA Swimming sanctioned meets. Prohibited areas include, but are not limited to, team and spectator seating sections, as well as warm-up and competition pool decks.”
This proposed rule is missing one important element — practices. Until deck changing is prohibited in all USA Swimming activities, including practices, coaches and athletes are still vulnerable as seen in the following example sent to us by an anonymous coach:
The year was 1986. I was talking to one of my female senior swimmers outside, on deck, next to the bleachers after practice. I was trying to explain some technique concepts. We were just chatting away, coach to swimmer. Fully absorbed in my conversation, I didn't really notice at the time that she had wrapped a large towel around her body from armpit to knees. Nobody else was around.
The conversation continued until I saw her suit hit the ground. She kicked it up into the air with her foot, caught it with one hand and continued to converse with me as if it were an everyday event.
“Did you just take off your suit,” I asked? “Yes, It's called a deck change,” she replied. That was the first time I had ever seen a deck change.
What was somewhat shocking to me at the time has now become accepted as the norm throughout the country. I can't imagine what today's gossip would have been if her towel had dropped and someone saw the encounter. Coaches and swimmers do not need to be placed in those situations, ever.
Hopefully everyone can see that the sport needs to be more aware of its boundaries.
The proposed rule stated above needs to be amended to include practices prior to its vote this week at the United States Aquatic Sports Convention in Greensboro, South Carolina.