SportsEvents Magazine

AUG 2015

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August 2015 36 www.sportseventsmagazine.com SPORT Report t "As our sport continues to grow, we also want to help ensure that college swimming thrives," said Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming. "That scholarship opportunity is a big driver for many young swimmers, and collegiate swim- ming programs have proven to be very valuable to a university community. The vast majority of our Olympians came through college swimming programs, and we want to ensure that younger genera- tions have those same opportunities." FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE To develop a pipeline of coaches and ath- letes, Wielgus said USA Swimming tar- gets the youngest potential swimmers. "Through the USA Swimming Foundation, we promote the "Make a Splash" initiative, which has the goal to provide every child in America the oppor- tunity to learn to swim—regardless of race, gender, or financial circumstances," he said. "Since its launch in 2007, Make a Splash has reached more than three mil- lion children, about 10 percent of whom have received scholarships to take swim- ming lessons. These are children who might not otherwise have had the oppor- tunity to participate in a program of swimming lessons." That helps ensure that even children who might not pursue swimming as a sport are exposed to it, but USA Swimming also uses a national promo- tional campaign that targets athletes specifically, and playfully bills swimming as the "funnest" sport, Wielgus said. "The promotion showcases the sport's many life-long benefits and directs people to SwimToday.org where they can find information about how to join a club or team in their area," he said. "I think the combination of these two initiatives, cou- pled with the promotions that our 2,800 member clubs do at the local level, pro- vide for a strong growth strategy." MAKING A SPLASH Within the sport of swimming, a new development is that athletes are gravitat- ing toward more all-star competitions or invitational events on an international level, according to Wielgus. "There seems to be a growing interest in special events such as the Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool, which is a Team USA vs. Europe All-Stars dual meet held every two years. The Australians are now promoting an event called the Aquatic Super Series, a multi-discipline interna- tional competition that includes diving, synchronized swimming, water polo and swimming (both pool and open water)," Wielgus said. "Additionally, FINA is con- sidering changing its World Cup meets from short course to long course, which is how the major international competitions and the Olympic Games are contested. This change may appeal to more elite- level athletes." Closer to home, Wielgus said USA Swimming is working to upgrade the Arena Pro Swim Series, which is a series of regional swimming competitions that include freestyle, breaststroke, back- stroke, butterfly, medley and relay events. FUN FOR THE FANS Swimming competitions don't get the consistent air time that other major sports do, but that hasn't stopped USA Swimming from incorporating some of the ideas to make events fun for the fans and the athletes, Wielgus said. "We always watch what other sports do with their championship level events, and we constantly identify even small ways in which we can make improvements for our members and fans," he said. For example, Wielgus borrowed the idea for the AquaZone—a sponsor and fan experience area—at the sport's Olympic Trials from fan experience pro- grams offered at the NBA All-Star Game and the NCAA Final Four. USA Swimming's AquaZone has consistently grown to help expand the reach of the Olympic Trials to bring swimming to a wider audience. Wielgus was inspired by another fan engagement experience he picked up from the NBA. "Watch an NBA Playoff game, and you'll see how the home team outfits all the fans in the same color shirt," he said. "We did the same at the 2012 Olympic Trials and provided red, white and blue shirts to all spectators on July 4 th . It was quite a visual, and we still see peo- ple wearing these shirts at meets today." As the use of social media has flour- ished, sports events have incorporated it in different ways to reach their fans and gain new ones. "Last year at our Phillips Wielgus The Arena Pro Swim Series is a series of regional swimming events that include a variety of competitions.

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