Erik Wiken

Guest Post: Maximizing the Pro Swim Series

The Arena Pro Swim Series is just like any other USA Swimming toy. They have the resources to make a great event, but the insular nature of decision making means that members get an inferior product. Don't believe me? Check out their latest website that purportedly came with a $2,000,000 price tag. 

Friend of the blog Erik Wiken is a club coach, a studious helper of other swim coaches on the Swim Coaches Idea Exchange Group on Facebook, and a tireless thinker of how we could do things better. He submitted the following plan (edited slightly), which I will feature today, on how to improve the Arena Pro Series:

"In light of recent changes to the Australian Olympic Trials (ed: closer to the Olympics like the US) , Ranomi Kromowidjojo joining the Pro Derby in Louisville, Kentucky this April, I felt motivated to revisit an idea i've long left dormant: bllowing the Arena Pro Swim Series up.

Before I get into it, let me just establish off the top that I will ignore the messy logistical web that could complicate this for the moment to just focus on the series itself. 

We need a two-cluster series in the U.S. for the 2017-2018 year. One in the fall, one in the spring. The fall cluster avoids the Golden Goggles and makes stops where teams across the country will enjoy the weather. The spring cluster starts three weeks after the NCAA championships while avoiding a certain popular, rabbit-centric holiday weekend.

I have proposed locations, for the purpose of attracting international talent. If it goes well, we can change the cities every couple areas, staying near major hubs while offering underexposed areas of the swimming population something to new and exciting to see.

2017-2018 Proposed Schedule

October 5-6 Clearwater, FL (Clearwater Aquatic Center), 25m

October 13-14 Atlanta, GA (Georgia Tech University), 25m

October 21-22 New Orleans, LA (University of New Orleans Aquatics Center), 25yd*

April 12-13 Mesa, AZ (Skyline Aquatic Center), 50m April 20-21

Los Angeles, CA (University of Southern California), 50m

April 28-29 Las Vegas, NV (University of Nevada-Las Vegas), 50m

The purses need to be sufficient to attract foreign national teams and pros, in line with the World Cup Circuit for individual events, WR bonuses and cluster bonuses. For the fun of it and for our young swimmers/fans to reference, make the 3rd stop in the fall short course yards, but up the purse per event to keep the foreign athletes visiting to compete in the final stop

What We Do With These Stops

1. Require National Team members on the APA to choose one of the two clusters to compete a, offering further incentive to compete at both.

2. One of the stops on each of these clusters could be a competition for the National Junior Team, combining it with a camp going into the meet.

3. Each stop will come with it opportunities for community outreach, clinics for professional swimmers.

4. Local clubs allowed discounted tickets and priority purchasing for all sessions, to ensure the most exposure to the USA Swimming developmental level.

5. USA Swimming coordinated training sessions at the pool for national team members who would compete, open to registered USA Swimming athlete members to watch.

6. Education tracks for local swim parents, coaches and athletes between sessions.

7. Live Stream both prelims and finals (need a sponsor!) and have Facebook live on deck (the action, the noise, some interviews during warm-ups, awards breaks, etc.). Keeping it off TV will make it far more enjoyable and accessible.

It’s time the US did something different with this series and put an even greater emphasis on the fan and athlete experience. By clustering these stops we afford athletes and fans alike an experience that will be fun, impactful and intriguing to athletes from around the world. With the right people involved we could do a ton of good and build the popularity of the sport even further."

Erik's plan sounds in many ways similar to Europe's Mare Nostrum serious, where over the course of ten days or so, three elite swim meets happen on the Mediterranean coast. The clustering means that it is worth it economically for international athletes to make the trip and makes for a better meet experience for everyone. 

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