5 Ways to Add Excitement and Entertainment to ISL Season Three and Beyond

International Swimming League ISL

5 Ways to Add Excitement and Entertai nment to ISL Season Three and Beyond

Over the past few weeks, the International Swimming League (ISL) has started to roll out plans for its third season.After successfully navigating a six-week bubble in Budapest for Season Two, the league hopes to have a more “normal” feel this time around. 

The schedule includes a six-week regular season from the end of August to the end of September, with the top six teams automatically advancing to the playoffs in November. The bottom four teams will have a play-in match for the final two playoff spots. After the three-week playoffs, the top four teams advance to the Grand Finale in December. 

While swimming fans welcome the extended season, the most intriguing prospect for next season is the draft selection process. Though the process mimics those of the NBA, NFL, and others, the ISL has added one unique feature to make the draft more fan interactive. Pre-draft, in addition to the 15 swimmers each team retains from last season, fans vote on a 16th  member for each team to retain. 

The draft contains 11 rounds, with the lowest-ranked team from last season getting the first selection. Post-draft, General Managers (GMs) will have the opportunity to sign undrafted swimmers to complete their 36 member roster. Having a draft will be instrumental in the league’s growth for this year and beyond, but the excitement and fanfare shouldn’t stop there if the ISL aims to be a sustainable professional venture. 

So how can the league expand upon what it has built over the last two seasons?

Here are five ways I believe the ISL can continue its growth in Season Three and beyond. 

1. Trades 

Imagine seeing a team proposing three swimmers and two future draft picks to the Cali Condors for Caeleb Dressel? 

Caeleb Dressel

Photo Courtesy: MIKE LEWIS / ISL

In other professional leagues, teams will trade players to address weaknesses in their squads or to add star-studded names to their rosters. The ISL could adopt a similar format in allowing teams to make trades up until the halfway point of the regular season. Teams could trade a swimmer(s) for another swimmer(s) or future draft pick(s).  

Introducing trades would perfectly complement the draft. It would make the league more entertaining, adding another competitive and strategic aspect for coaches and GMs. 

2. “Mystery” Skins Races 

One of the ISL’s most entertaining events has been the skins races. Originally a 50 free shootout, now the winner of the 400 medley relay at each match gets to pick the stroke. While the innovation has undoubtedly increased excitement and engagement, I believe implementing “mystery” skins races would do so even further. 

The way it would work is teams will choose their two swimmers to represent them like normal, but before each round, a randomly selected fan would pick out of a hat the stroke they swim. Adding “mystery” skins races would give meets a more interactive fan experience and bring an element of surprise and anticipation to league competition.

3. Live Performances 

Obviously, being in a bubble was not conducive to fans and live performances, but with worldwide vaccine rollouts picking up steam, the hope is that Season Three will be. How cool would it be to attend the ISL Grand Finale or tune in on television and see your favorite singer performing?

Having a live performance during the Grand Finale would skyrocket television viewership and create the ultimate swimming spectacle. While it may not be feasible for every match, other matches could include performances from upcoming creatives. It would be a win-win situation for both parties. It would provide entertainment for fans and possibly serve as a platform for rising stars to gain international attention. 

4. Celebrity and/or Fan Matchups 

This is an idea I believe could work interchangeably with live performances. 

Remember back in 2009 when four-time NBA Champion Shaquille O’Neal challenged Michael Phelps to a swimming contest in his reality TV show Shaq VS? That challenge garnered millions of views, and the entertainment it provided is still talked about today. 

The ISL could employ something similar. It could put two fans against each other, two GMs, a special guest and a fan, or any version of the three. Adding these “matchups” is yet another way to engage with fans and enhance their experience. 

5. Mini Swim Camps/Clinics 

There is nothing a young swimmer wants more than to swim alongside and learn from his/her favorite professional swimmers. 


Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

Teams having a series of one or two-day swim clinics throughout the season would provide that opportunity for thousands of young swimmers. The clinics could consist of stroke analysis, motivational speeches, autograph signings, and even a chance for attendees to race members of the host team. 

Having swim clinics would not only be good for the league’s public and media relations but would provide another source of income for the ISL. 

An international professional swimming league has been long overdue in the sport, and the swimming world is grateful to the ISL for making that possible. The hope is that with constant expansion and innovation, the league can be sustainable for the long term.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.