A Voice for the Sport: Which Michael is Changing the Sport: Phelps or Andrew?

Photo Courtesy: Brooke Wright and Peter H. Bick

Which Michael is Changing the Sport: Phelps or Andrew?

Commentary by Brent Rutemiller, CEO and Publisher of Swimming World Magazine. 

Both Michaels are graced with incredible physiques. Michael Phelps stands at 6-4 with size 14 shoes and a wingspan of 6-7. Michael Andrew stands two inches taller at 6-6, filling the same shoes and wingspan. One career just ended, the other is just getting started.

Both Michaels are perceived differently. Phelps changed the sport publicly. Andrew is changing the sport internally.

From a public perspective, Phelps changed competitive swimming by maximizing its exposure while winning 28 Olympic medals. Internally, Andrew—at age 19—is changing the sport by setting junior world records and national age group records by using non- traditional training methods. Andrew’s form of training was validated as he won four national titles last month at USA Swimming’s Summer Nationals and gold in the 50 free at the Pan Pacific Championships.

If change is measured by how the sport is viewed, then Phelps wins. But if change is measured by how the sport’s culture is viewed, then my guess is that Andrew is the catalyst.

Herein lies the conundrum: which change will be the most beneficial to the sport—cultural change or public awareness?

Phelps did the impossible by training seven days a week, two practices (on most days), for years with an emphasis on the 400 IM and middle-distance events. It is a distance-on-down approach.

Andrew is showing what IS possible by training differently with an emphasis on sprints and shorter races. It is a sprint-on-up approach.

So, if we are to measure change from a visibility point of view, Phelps wins again. But if we are to measure change from a cultural point of view, my bet once again is on Andrew.

The hard fact is that the Phelps era did not translate into institutional growth for thesport of swimming. Statistics showed that the number of young boys (10-and-under) that joined USA Swimming dropped between 2012 and 2016. Most young boys complained that the sport required too much time.

So, the Phelps influence on the public’s perception of swimming—although great for viewership—did not ultimately translate into growth for the sport of swimming.

This lack of growth for young males is one reason USA Swimming is instituting a Flex Membership campaign to attract new swimmers into the sport. The intent is to limit practices and competitions for these young entry-level swimmers. The goal is to encourage all kids to try all sports, and when they are ready to commit, those athletes who choose swimming can upgrade to a full membership with more practices and competition opportunities. If the kids are still swimming at age 13, USA Swimming has shown a 93 percent retention rate from that point on.

With Michael Andrew’s emphasis on high-intensity, short-yardage workouts, his form of training certainly feeds well into USA Swimming’s marketing game plan.

Phelps certainly paved the way for Andrew. But in the end, who really has changedor will be changing the sport? Perhaps it will be a combination. Either way, the Michaels win.

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[PHOTO COURTESY: POLLY LINDEN]

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FEATURES

017 A YEAR TO REMEMBER
by David Rieder
North Allegheny High School won its first national title in school history, defeating Carmel High School (Ind.), 168 to 142.5, to capture Swimming World’s 2017-18 boys’ national high school championships.

021 “…NEVER THIS GOOD!”
by Annie Grevers
Forty years since Harpeth Hall School (Tenn.) finished second in Swimming World’s National High School Championships, the Bearacuda girls finally made it to the top, outswimming Buchholz High School (Fla.), 170.5 to 135.5—and ending Carmel’s (Ind.) five-year reign as national champions

027 TOKYO TAKEAWAY
by David Rieder
For Team USA, their performance at the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo was cause for some concern. For Australia, it was reason to be excited. For both, it wasn’t the end game.

029 PROJECT 56
by David Rieder
At the European Championships in Glasgow, Great Britain’s Adam Peaty—the best sprint breaststroker in history—took aim at an un­fathomable boundary: swimming the men’s 100 meter breast under 57 seconds.

030 MENTAL PREP: BEFORE THE BEEP WITH ALLISON SCHMITT
by Annie Grevers 

040 AROUND THE TABLE WITH MARIAH DENIGAN—A LOOK INTO TEENAGE NUTRITION
by Annie Grevers and Dawn Weatherwax

COACHING

010 LESSONS WITH THE LEGENDS: JOHN COLLINS
by Michael J. Stott

014 SWIMMING TECHNIQUE CONCEPTS: DEVELOPMENT OF AN OPTIMAL MODEL FOR TECHNIQUE: PART 3—HEAD POSITION AND MOTION
by Rod Havriluk
This month’s article examines the effect of head position and motion on body rotation, and consequently, body size and shape. The head is critical because a slight variation in the non-breathing position or excess motion during breathing can impact resistance from the rest of the body.

032 SPECIAL SETS: EARLY FALL SEASON TRAINING
by Michael J. Stott
Coaches Ethan Hall (Crow Canyon Sharks) and Brian Elko (Egg Harbor Township) share some insights and actual sets that they offer athletes, ages 15-18, as they resume aquatic training.

034 PREHAB/REHAB VIA THE SWIM BENCH: STAYING FIT
by Michael J. Stott
This installment is the third in a multi-part se­ries and explores the role of the swim bench in injury prevention and rehabilitation.

042 Q&A WITH COACH MIKE NOVELL
by Michael J. Stott

043 HOW THEY TRAIN DANNY KOVAC
by Michael J. Stott

TRAINING

026 DRYSIDE TRAINING: STROKE AND DISTANCE STRENGTH SERIES—INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY
by J.R. Rosania

JUNIOR SWIMMER

036 GOLDMINDS: SETTING GOALS…AND HOW TO ACHIEVE THEM!
by Wayne Goldsmith
Exchange your hopes for “actions,” trade in your wishes for “commitment” and swap your dreams for “goals”—and you’ll be on your way to realizing your full potential!

045 UP & COMERS: MAGGIE WANEZEK by Taylor Brien

COLUMNS

008 A VOICE FOR THE SPORT
013 BEYOND THE YARDS
016 THE OFFICIAL WORD
039 MOMS AT MEETS
046 HASTY HIGH POINTERS
047 GUTTER TALK
048 PARTING SHOT

9 Comments

9 comments

  1. avatar
    Phoenix

    Who is more important to the sport, Michael Phelps or Michael Andrews? It’s April Fool’s in September everybody!!!

  2. avatar
    Jennifer Emmert

    Michael Phelps, Michael Andrew, or Caeleb Dressel? I’ll take the only likely NON DOPER IN THE BUNCH, Michael Andrew!

  3. Betsy Luminais

    Probably only appropriate to answer this question after another 10-12 years.

  4. Ivan Picado

    We’ll see in 12-13 years

  5. wtf is this real question or paid advertising?since 2014 i have the feel that andrew is shoved up to my throat as the next phelps..no he is not the next phelps and probably will never be..not under dressels watch…his style is what ??50,100 breast??yeah right good luck with peaty on board..50,100, fly and free??hold on boy caeleb is here..200 im?same.50,100 back??jacob and of course ryan has something to say about it.soo…whats left to be that great to change the sport???and no usrpt is not revolution is just a pre set for Troy..

  6. avatar
    Windy City

    Big-time sexism by Rutemiller. No wonder the sport does nor thrive.

Author: Taylor Brien

avatar
Taylor Brien is the Assistant Operations Manager and a staff writer at Swimming World. A native of Bettendorf, IA and a 2015 graduate of Illinois College, she has covered a variety of events since joining the SW team in 2015, including the NCAA Championships, World Championships, Olympic Trials, and 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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