Steve Roush To Lead The American Swim Coaches Association

Steve Roush was offered the position to become Chief Executive Officer for the American Swim Coaches Association

Swimming World sources have confirmed that Steve Roush, 60, has been offered the position of Chief Executive Officer for the American Swim Coaches Association to replace John Leonard, who will be retiring on January 1st, 2020 as its longtime Executive Director.

Roush has been a proven advocate for elite athletes over the years through his various roles as a collegiate swim coach, executive for USA Swimming, sports partnership director for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and USOC’s chief of sport performance.

According to the Associated Press, Roush was widely considered one of the most active advocates of athletes in the American Olympic movement. In the six years leading to the Beijing Olympics, he made more than two dozen trips to China to ensure optimal conditions – everything from living quarters, to the food they ate, to their training facilities.

Before coming to the USOC, Roush was a top executive at USA Swimming for six years, and before that had been an assistant swim coach at Northwestern and Wisconsin Universities.

Roush found himself in the middle of the 2008 USA Olympic Trials suit controversy when the “Shiny Suit” era of swimming was dawning. There was discussion among leaders in the sport that the new technical racing suits should be banned.

The new suits, made of polyurethane and other non-textile, impermeable materials that turned swimmers into “speed boats”, a term coined by Germany’s 2008 double Olympic sprint champion Britta Steffen, were so controversial that the Australian Olympic Committee asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to overturn a decision by FINA, swimming’s international governing body, approving use of the suits. The request was based on the grounds that the suits were performance-enhancing “devices” prohibited under FINA Rule SW 10.7. The CAS upheld FINA’s decision.

Since the suits were considered legal, USA Swimming’s International Relations Committee took another approach to get the suits banned. The committee, led by Jim Wood, recommended that the suits not be allowed at the U.S. Olympic Trials due to the possibility that all swimmers may not have access to the new technology. The recommendation was rejected by USA Swimming’s Board of Directors. Roush, as the associate executive director of USA Swimming at the time, had to announce the controversial decision.

Debate about the suits split the world swimming community, some denying the apparel made any difference, many more accepting the obvious truth: the impact was massive and changed the dynamic of swimming in significant ways. That impact is still felt to this day: the top 10 and 100 best performances lists (multiple entries per swimmer) are stacked high with efforts swum in 2008-09 in shiny suits, the era accounting for between 60 and 80% of all top 10s and 100s across all strokes in sprint events and an average across all events and distances of more than 50%.

No change to swimming in history, such as the introduction of goggles and wave-breaker lanes, produced the kind of impact on progression deep through the sport like that delivered by shiny suits. The delivery of that added speed and advantage was not even across all swimmers, nor distances, nor events, some morphologies and types of swimmer gaining more than others.

The suits were eventually banned in 2009, in the wake of 18 months of relentless campaigning by the man who named them ‘shiny suits’, Craig Lord at Nick Thierry‘s SwimNews. The focus of leading federations, led by USA Swimming, ASCA and its peer body in global waters, the World Swimming Coaches Association, determined to make the FINA leadership change course. A statement from Bob Bowman after a FINA Congress vote in Rome to ban shiny suits noted that Michael Phelps would not be showing up to FINA events until a date was set for a return to textile suits.

Roush has some big shoes to fill when Leonard officially steps down. The American Swim Coaches Association’s core missions has been leadership, education, and certification. All three of those missions have remained firm. However, in recent years advocacy became a fourth mission as ASCA began focusing more on protecting and supporting professional athletes while calling on changes in governance structures.

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Donald P. Spellman
4 years ago

ASCA should focus on also teaching coaching ethics.
Too many people in the USA get into coaching club teams who have little sense of how to treat their peers and the leaders of other clubs. I’ve grown tired of seeing the rampant violations of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct by those who claim to be ASCA certified coaching members.

John Leonard was good on fighting drug use in the sport. He dropped the ball on SafeSport / abuse issues (which he knew about in the 1990’s).
His letter sent out to ASCA members last month was another misstep. Hopefully Roush can mend some bridges and see that reforms to the USA-Swimming Board Of Directors governance model needed to take place.

Nicolas Messer
4 years ago

Chris Raahauge DeSantis

4 years ago
Reply to  Nicolas Messer


Mark Hesse
4 years ago

Congratulations Steve Roush

Kyle Cowan
4 years ago

Hope he can weed through all the corruption of his predecessors.

Steve Schaffer
Steve Schaffer
4 years ago

According to his profile on Linked In, Roush was on staff at USA Swimming from 1994 through 2000. In 2008, he is listed as working for the USIC as Sport Performance Director. So how is it he was the person who announce for USA Swimming the decision not to ban the shiny suits for the 2008 Trials?

Steve Schaffer
4 years ago

Not a member of ASCA for some time now, but this article raises a couple of questions…

First, why did the article omit what he was doing since he left the USOC in 2009? Working for BCW – an international sports communication and marketing firm whose clients include FINA and key directors include Dale Neuberger?

Second, According to his profile on Linked In, Roush was on staff at USA Swimming from 1994 through 2000. In 2008, he is listed as working for the USOC as Sport Performance Director. So how is it he was the USA Swimming staff member who announced the USA Swimming decision not to ban the shiny suits for the 2008 Trials?

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