Making Swimming a More Spectator-Friendly Sport

SCANDONE ISL International Swimming League 2021 Match 7 day 1 Piscina Felice Scandone Napoli, Naples Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Making Swimming a More Spectator-Friendly Sport

Historically, swimming is a sport that only gains national attention every four years during the Olympic Games. Apart from these eight days of excitement, swimming is widely unknown by the average person. If you’ve ever swum at a high school meet, or any meet in general, the spectators usually consist of parents, family members, and coaches. There isn’t much noise.  The ‘little noise’ we get is from the meet referee blowing the whistle, the announcer calling heats to the blocks, or the team cheering for another swimmer’s best time.

Let the Games Begin

Typically, you do not have to buy tickets for a swim meet.  And if there happens to be a concession stand, it is usually small and may run out of food items rather quickly. Even in a collegiate setting, the best teams rarely draw huge crowds during in-season meets. The low spectatorship of this sport, unfortunately, is something that has been common for quite a while. But this problem is starting to change. So, let the games begin.

Putting On a Show

To give these meets respectable viewership, we can include things like DJs, strobe lights, and walk-out songs, approaches used during the International Swimming League. Introducing the swimmers one by one is another option to add excitement to the environment, with special photos and graphics flashed on the scoreboard. Parents or staff could set up cookouts and tailgate parties before the meets. while venues could enable fans to earn free merchandise using a t-shirt cannon. Basically, hype up the atmosphere.

Advertising Is a Key

To garner crowds, swim meets must be advertised to viewers on social media. A hype video or flashy pictures could give a potential spectator an exciting reason to attend the event. Making a swim meet more appealing can help draw a crowd larger than expected. Meanwhile, including nontraditional events like a 100 individual medley or mixed-gender relays can add an extra component of competitiveness that increases the number of spectators.

Better for the Swimmers

Recently, the University of Texas hosted a dual meet against Virginia. This meet drew in a crowd of over 850+ fans. The meet was electric. Bold light effects, loud music, and energy from the crowd propelled the swimmers to fast times. When the athletes feel the impact of a high-stakes environment, they can be motivated to faster performances. Basically, they respond to “a show.” Swimmers are some of the most competitive athletes and boosting the environment of the meet can give them even more of an edge when competing.

Moving Forward

Realistically, it would be extremely difficult for venues to generate a hyped-up atmosphere at every meet they host. However, moving forward, we can use fundraisers or sponsors to help support the funds required to sponsor this type of meet. If meets begin to create loud environments and exciting interactions for the fans, perhaps the hosts will be willing to spend more money. Swimming is so often referred to as a boring spectator sport. But every swimmer deserves to race in a hype-filled environment. We are headed in the right direction and must continue to create spectacles worth watching.

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Matt Russell
Matt Russell
1 year ago

College duel meets especially can lead to a fun environment. When Mike Anderson was coaching the women’s team at the University of Nevada, he arranged for the band to come over to play throughout the meet. it was a great idea and really improved the atmosphere, more schools should try it!

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt Russell
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