Swimming in the United States
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Swimming in the United States
Swimming in the United States
CountryUnited States
USA Swimming[1]
United States Olympics team
National competitions
International competitions

Swimming in the United States began competitively in the 1880s. The first nationally recognised swimming organisation was the Amateur Athletic Union in 1888.


In the 1920s and 1930s, public swimming pools became more accessible to the general public.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

USA Swimming

The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) was the official organization responsible for the running of all amateur sports in the United States, established in 1888. The AAU was officially charged with the organization and operation of many sports in the US. During this time, swimming was one of the committees in the organization and was not an independent governing body.[11]

The Amateur Sports Act of 1978 enabled the governance of sports in the US by organizations other than the AAU. This act made each sport set up its own National governing body (NGB). Each of these governing bodies would be part of the United States Olympic Committee, but would not be run by the Committee. Thus, USA Swimming was born.[12] From 1978 to 1980, the official responsibilities of governing the sport were transferred from the AAU Swimming Committee to the new United States Swimming. Bill Lippman, the last head of the Swimming Committee, and Ross Wales, the first president of United States Swimming, worked together to ease the transition. This process was made more complex because the United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics and, during this time, the leadership of the sport was in flux.

International competition

The United States is the dominant force in international competitive swimming.[13][14][15][16][17][18]

Collegiate swimming

Young swimmers compete on club teams and may wish to continue their careers through college. Prior to July 1, people can complete recruiting questionnaires for schools they are interested in. The Recruiting process for collegiate swimming often starts on 1 July following the athlete's junior year of high school.[19] That date marks the day that college coaches can contact athletes via phone to discuss possibly swimming for their team. After speaking with high school recruits via phone and email, college coaches are able to invite athletes on official recruiting trips, during which the recruits participate in a wide range of activities.[20] Such activities include meeting the team members, attending classes, meetings, and athletic events in order to gain an idea about what it might be like to attend that college. The trips are funded by the athletic department and are known as structured sales pitches designed to impress the student-athlete. Each student-athlete is allowed to take five official recruiting trips, each lasting no longer than 48 hours.[21] Swimmers most often base their college decisions on how well they mesh with the existing team and coaching staff, the location of the school, the academic opportunities, and the cost of attendance.[22]

Student-athletes must reach a certain standard of academic performance depending on which college they seek to attend. In some cases, the athletic department may have some control over who is admitted. Once admitted however, academic regulation and policies, such as mandated study hall and credit hours, are strictly enforced. Swimmers can choose from competing in Division I, Division II, Division III, or the NAIA. Swimmers that choose to compete in Divisions I through III adhere to the rules set by the NCAA.[23]

The collegiate swimming season spans from mid-October to mid-March and ends with the NCAA Championship meet. Meets between two or three teams, known as dual meets or the latter as tri-meets, run throughout the season at collegiate facilities. Conference championships, usually lasting four or five days, include all teams in each conference and are usually held at larger aquatics facilities to accommodate spectators. Collegiate swimmers are eligible to compete in the NCAA championships for Division I, II, and III contingent upon swimmers meeting the qualifying time standards. The qualifying time standard for the NCAA Championships are based on the times that qualified for 16th and 24th place for the meets the previous three years.[24]

The NCAA invites 235 male swimmers and 281 female swimmers to the competition each year based on the qualifying standards. There are two qualifying standards, "A" and "B", where those qualifying with the "A" time standard are automatically invited to the championship. Then the next fastest swimmers with the "B" time standard are invited to keep each of the events even. This process is repeated until all of invite spots are filled.[25]

The NCAA qualifying times varies across the different Divisions. The qualifying standards for the NCAA Championship meet can be found on the NCAA championships site.[26]

Ethnic minorities

Black people in the United States are less likely to be able to swim or swim regularly.[27] This is partly due to aftereffects of segregation, during which access to swimming places for black people was limited due to racism.[28][29][30][31]

Simone Manuel was the first African American woman to win a gold medal in Olympic swimming.[32][33][34]


  1. ^ "USA Swimming Wants More Diversity In The Pool". Npr.org. Retrieved 2016.
  2. ^ Kenney, Tanasia (13 August 2016). "With America's Long, Racist History Involving Public Swimming Pools, Simone Manuel's Olympic Feat is an Important One". Atlantablackstar.com. Retrieved 2016.
  3. ^ "Plunging into Public Pools' Contentious Past". Npr.org. Retrieved 2016.
  4. ^ Appelbaum, Yoni. "American Swimming Pools Have a Long History of Racial Exclusion". Theatlantic.com. Retrieved 2016.
  5. ^ "Why Olympic Swimmers Win the Most Medals". Time.com. Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^ Love, Christopher (18 October 2013). "A Social History of Swimming in England, 1800 - 1918: Splashing in the Serpentine". Routledge. Retrieved 2017 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "Competitive Swimming". In the Hands of a Child. Retrieved 2017 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Encyclopedia of International Sports Studies. Books.google.co.uk. 2012-08-21. p. 1439. Retrieved .
  9. ^ Appleby, Joyce; Chang, Eileen; Goodwin, Neva (17 July 2015). "Encyclopedia of Women in American History". Routledge. Retrieved 2017 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Smith, Bonnie G. (1 January 2008). "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History: 4 Volume Set". Oxford University Press, USA. Retrieved 2017 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ "AAU - Amateur Athletic Union of the United States, Inc. > Resources > About AAU". Aausports.org. Retrieved .
  12. ^ "History of Swimming in the USA" (PDF). Usaswimming.org. Retrieved .
  13. ^ Lee, Bruce Y. "The U.S. Dominates Competitive Swimming. So Why Can't More Kids Swim?". Forbes.com. Retrieved 2016.
  14. ^ Valosik, Vicki. "Why Isn't There a U.S. Synchronized Swimming Team in Rio?". Theatlantic.com. Retrieved 2016.
  15. ^ "Why U.S. olympic swimming is so dominant". Forune.com. Retrieved 2016.
  16. ^ "The Murky History of the Butterfly Stroke". Newyorker.com. 11 August 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  17. ^ "The Development of the Modern Stroke". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2016.
  18. ^ Lohn, John (1 January 2010). "Historical Dictionary of Competitive Swimming". Scarecrow Press. Retrieved 2017 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ "College Recruiting Timeline" (PDF). Usaswimming.org. Retrieved .
  20. ^ "HOW TO HANDLE COLLEGE RECRUITING". USA Swimming. Retrieved .
  21. ^ "College Swimming". College Swimming. Retrieved .
  22. ^ "College Recruiting & Making Your Decision" (PDF). Usaswimming.org. Retrieved .
  23. ^ "Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving" (PDF). NCAA. Retrieved .
  24. ^ "New NCAA Selection Process Will Make For "Better Meet With Better Swimmers"". 2012-09-14. Retrieved .
  25. ^ "2014 Swimming & Diving Championships : Division 1" (PDF). Cdn.swimswam.com. Retrieved .
  26. ^ "Championships | NCAA.org - The Official Site of the NCAA". NCAA.org. Retrieved .
  27. ^ Rohrer, Finlo (3 September 2010). "Why don't black Americans swim?". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2016 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  28. ^ "Cullen Jones on Simone Manuel and the Future of African-Americans in Swimming". Sports.vice.com. Retrieved 2016.
  29. ^ Hackman, Rose (4 August 2015). "Swimming while black: the legacy of segregated public pools lives on". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 2016 – via The Guardian.
  30. ^ "Exploring the Racial Disparities in Competitive Swimming". Swimmingworldmagazine.com. 3 February 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  31. ^ Johnson, Martenzie (12 August 2016). "New documentary on black swimmers is right on time". Theundefeated.com. Retrieved 2016.
  32. ^ "Why Simone Manuel's Olympic gold medal in swimming matters". Bbc.co.uk. 12 August 2016. Retrieved 2016 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  33. ^ Glanton, Dahleen. "Reflecting on black women, hair and swimming after Simone Manuel wins gold". Chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2016.
  34. ^ Washington, Jesse (12 August 2016). "A New Chapter for Black Olympic Swimming". Theundefeated.com. Retrieved 2016.

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