Athlete Reps: The “Dry Side” Force Behind the Sport

Photo Courtesy: USA Swimming Foundation

By Caitlin Daday, Swimming World College Intern

If you are reading this, it is probably because you are familiar with swimming. You know, the thing where you jump in a pool and swim back and forth for a while. That’s the swimming that everyone knows about. Unbeknownst to many, however, is another side of the sport. It’s the side that keeps everything functioning yet that no one knows about. It’s called the “dry side” of swimming.

The “dry side” of swimming is the behind-the-scenes work that goes into running the sport. For the last three years I have served as an athlete representative for the Middle Atlantic LSC, representing the athletes in Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and Delaware. So, over the last three years I have seen my fair share of swimming governance. As I enter into my final year, I have assumed the role of senior athlete chair of the LSC. In my last year, I really want to make a difference and let people know what being an athlete rep is all about.

So here it goes.

USA Swimming has 59 LSCs (Local Swim Committees), each with its own set of athlete reps. These elected athletes sit on the LSC Board of Directors and help make decisions regarding local matters, including Safe Sport, meets, camps, and more. We attend meetings, write newsletters, and operate social media. Even more unknown is that athlete reps even get the chance to attend the annual US Aquatic Sports (USAS) Convention and have the opportunity to learn about and be part of governance at the national level. And for some, with experience comes selection to national level committees. As an athlete rep, you quickly learn that there is much more to swimming than just actual swimming.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you it is not always quite as exciting as it sounds (if it even sounds that exciting in the first place). Trust me, sitting in on a two and a half hour conference call trying to keep track of what’s going on is not exactly thrilling. But being an athlete rep does have its benefits. Above all, it gives you a chance to lead and to give back.

In our world, leadership experience is invaluable. Being able to take action and make decisions are skills that are almost essential for success. As an athlete rep, you are responsible for making the swimming world as best as possible for the thousands of swimmers you have been elected to represent. For athlete reps swimming becomes something greater than themselves. It is no longer just about swimming fast but about creating an environment for everyone else to be their best as well.

Giving Back to Your Sport

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Photo Courtesy: Paul Stockett

Taking part in the governance of USA Swimming helps athletes give back to the sport. As I am in my final years as an athlete, I have the opportunity to make the sport better for those coming after me. Athlete reps are fortunate enough to be able to have a legacy beyond records and medals, even if their achievements go unrecognized. For example, out of all those involved in USA Swimming, it is likely that few have knowledge of the work former Middle Atlantic rep Paul Stockett has done regarding Safe Sport. Still, as last year’s recipient of USA Swimming’s Safe Sport Impact Award, Paul is grateful for his service as an athlete rep:

“Being an athlete rep has meant a lot to me. It’s very cliché but you truly can’t make a difference until you get involved. Once involved I realized just how powerful an athletes voice was and how much of a difference and impact that we can have on our sport by just getting involved at the LSC level. I have learned a lot about how our sport works behind the scenes that most swimmers never even know about, but I am incredibly thankful for this experience and for the friends around the country I have made.”

Like Paul, all athlete reps have the opportunity to bring change to their swimming community. The work that we do allows us to make the sport better than it was when we started. Each year, change continues to grow all around the country from athletes who have a passion for swimming. Southern Zone and North Carolina rep Seth Maslowski appreciates the opportunities he has had to change the world of swimming:

“To me, being an athlete representative with USA Swimming is all about change. The legislation of our sport has long been primarily lead by coaches and officials, but in my four years being an athlete representative, there has been a distinct push for athletes to get more involved in the legislation that directly impacts them. I’ve personally started an athlete’s committee in North Carolina to get athletes more involved in the legislation of the sport, and it’s made a difference in the governance of the sport.”

Enhancing Leadership Skills

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Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

Without athlete reps who have a desire to lead and serve, the sport would not be what it is today.

For me, being an athlete rep has allowed me to play a greater part in the sport that I love. I have been able to grow and learn and make connections, all while making a difference for other swimmers not just in Middle Atlantic but across the country. I have knowledge of the sport far beyond being able to swim back and forth, and I have developed skills that will greatly benefit me in my future. I am grateful for my experiences as an athlete rep because they have taught me that if you have the passion there is always a chance to make a difference.

So, the next time you dive into a pool, remember that there is so much more to swimming beyond your splash. Be thankful that decades of athletes from all across the country have made their voices heard just for your benefit. Behind-the-scenes athlete reps are igniting change that impacts every single person involved in USA Swimming. The sport of swimming could not be what it is today without athletes who care about making a difference and creating a better environment for their sport. Because of athlete reps, the swimming world has become a much better place.

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Author: Caitlin Daday

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Caitlin Daday is a rising senior at Villanova University. She represents the Wildcats in distance freestyle and IM. Caitlin hails from Allentown, Pennsylvania.

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