2020s Vision: New Swimming World Series On Challenges Of The Decade Ahead

2020sVision - Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

2020s Vision. Do we have it? Do you have it? Do the athletes and coaches have it? Do parents have it? Do politicians have it? Do investors and sponsors have it? Do guardians and governors have it? Does the swimming community have it?

Not always easy but as everyone seeking to unlock the best version of themselves knows, it is likely to require knowledge that speaks to the moment, hindsight and foresight, truth and reconciliation, with self and others.

Over the coming year, Swimming World will consider key challenges facing aquatic sports athletes, swimming, swimmers, players, coaches, leaders and others working in this, one of the biggest, Olympic sports and its governance in the decade ahead

It’s Olympic year, a peak-performance thrill to look forward to. It’s the flame that burns most brightly in the lives of elite competitors, coaches and a cornucopia of others once every four years. There are rotten apples in the basket, too. It’s been like that for much of the past 124 years since it all began at Athens 1896.

Citius, Altius, Fortius. But don’t forget fraudum, praestrigium – and Tempus fugit, too.

The Olympic story is nothing if half told: the pantheon of excellence associated with Olympism is diminished if we only consider the things that take place under super-troupers while ignoring issues that shape people’s lives, like all marriages do, for better or for worse.

There will be much to celebrate in 2020 but none of that should prevent transparent and open discussion of the themes athletes, coaches, scientists, lawyers, governors, parents and others wish to raise in the interests of the betterment of swimming for all players. The swimmer, the player is the prime asset whose welfare should be paramount. Swimming is a sport populated in the main by children and young adults; the entrance to the stream is about toddlers to youth and some of the key issues that raises are well known.

Knowledge has not always guaranteed best practice, history confirms, sometimes alongside stark, sorrowful, harmful and even lethal outcomes. After long years under the surface and out of view, the issue of mental health has risen up the aerial of late, thanks to the courage of athletes and coaches and the work of academics highlighting the issue. Even now, however, understanding is in its relative infancy in sport when it comes to what constitutes mental health, how it might be detected and where the lines are blurred and bump into legitimate measures, including effective goal-setting, that help to deliver resilient, robust, fit-for-performance-purpose athletes to their blocks, pontoons, start lines and high boards.


Swimming culture? What is it? What does it mean? Where is it going? – Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

Are the guardians, standards of practice and governance, the culture, care, ethics, formats, calendars, event programs, levels of transparency, rules and the observance of those fit for purpose? Are they fit for the third decade of the 21st century? Where will future speed come from – and when it does will it respect the best of all that is mentioned in the preceding question?

In realms far and wide, there will be outstanding breakthroughs in the coming decade, such as this one in cancer research.

Issues that affect the whole of humanity and life on Earth look set to dominate debate at the highest end of priorities. The Roaring Twenties of the last century led to the war-torn Thirties. What will the coming Twenties become known for? In a flow out there on that vast ocean, swimming has its own list of priorities and, sadly, we cannot say that none are a matter of life and death.

The point of 2020sVision is not to be controversial for controversy’s sake. Rather we want to dip into a wide pool of experience and expertise – and have you, the reader, swim with us and have your voice heard, too. We want to hear a variety of voices and will invite the views of those who beg to differ and are able to keep alive what Bret Stephens referred to in the New York Times as “The Dying Art of Disagreement’.

However long ‘disagreement’ may last, rubber hits the road and progress begins where we find workable solutions that deliver safe and healthy environments, betterment of the sport, transparent, good governance and agency capable of heeding the lessons of the past and, as such, fit for the challenges to come.

We aim to emerge from 2020sVision enriched and able to point to the people and practices that could leave swimming in a better place than it came from and better equipped for the challenges of the next decade.

Times they are a-changing. The Olympic Movement, in common with its stable of long-term traditional sports such as swimming, faces big challenges over the coming decade. Many of the coming tests speak to the thread of history and issues building to a swell for quite some time.


Making a big splash in the pool and the culture of the sport: The International Swimming League

In the past year, the arrival of the International Swimming League has set several key processes in motion. The dam has broken and 50 swimmers among the very best of the sport’s elite athletes have laid the foundations for a new era.

Will that be one in which the size of the cheque dictates what else gets discussed or will athlete representation take on a parallel professionalism to that the best swimmers must harness themselves to each day in the pool and out of it if they’re to put themselves in reach of podiums and prizes?

In the course of the year, we will consider such issues as the athlete voice, swimming culture, the coach voice, the gender debate and the risk of war in women’s sport, mental health and mindfulness, abuse and prevention of abuse, the future of the Olympic Games, the roll of Pro-Sport, governance, accountability, Government oversight of and procurement in sport, sustainability, career transition, calendar chaos, why experts are saying that swimming has lost ground with other sports in terms of media attention and slipped down the ranks of global world-class sports.  Then there’s the evergreen and many-layered issue of cheating and the loss of trust in a game with no winners.

Each quarter, we will raise three billboard issues with an opening article on each followed by focus on each topic in turn in a series of different angles on and approaches to the theme at hand. The work, a mixture of news, analysis, commentary, profiles and reviews, is intended to stimulate discussion and further thought in the worldwide swimming community.

The aim is to include contributions from Swimming World and guest writers, from experts, academic and practising, in science, medicine, law, welfare, parenting, labour relations, business and the art of agency, as well as those who apply lessons from all such realms to swimmers at the coalface of swimming.

In this first quarter of the new decade and 2020, we will consider the following themes:

  • The Athlete Voice
  • Swimming Culture – what is it?
  • Gender Vs Sex: a waking nightmare for women’s sport?

We start our series in the coming days with a look at The Athlete Voice and how it’s about to get louder.

Do you have a contribution to make, a topic to suggest within the frame of the themes we are looking at this quarter? Your views on any theme can be left in the comments field at the foot of any article, while those who want to reach out with suggestions to the editorial team can contact us at editorial@swimmingworld.com.

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