USA Swimming

USA Swimming is the national governing body for competitive swimming in the United States. It is charged with selecting the United States Olympic Swimming team and any other teams which officially represent the United States, as well as the overall organization and operation of the sport within the country, in accordance with the Amateur Sports Act. The national headquarters of USA Swimming is located at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.[1]

USA Swimming
Founded1980 (1980)
AffiliationUnited States Aquatic Sports
HeadquartersColorado Springs, Colorado, United States
PresidentJim Sheehan
CEOTim Hinchey
DirectorLindsey Mintenko
SecretaryLucinda McRoberts
Official website


USA Swimming was originally called United States Swimming (USS) upon its departure from the AAU. Thus, there are several terms used to describe the organization at different times. These terms are: USA Swimming, USA-S, United States Swimming, USS, and US Swimming. Prior to the existence of "USS", the AAU, or the Amateur Athletic Union, served as the governing body for swimming and other sports across the country.[2]

Amateur Athletic Union

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.[3]

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, United States Swimming was born. 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 interesting because the United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics and, during this time, the leadership of the sport was in flux.

The AAU still holds several aquatic events, but it is no longer the official governing body of the sport.[4]


  • Bill Lippman – Last Head of swimming committee in the AAU
  • Ross Wales (1980–1984) – First true president of USA Swimming
  • Sandra Baldwin (1984–1986)
  • Carol Zaleski (1986–1990, 1994–1998)
  • Bill Maxson (1990–1994)
  • Dale Neuburger (1998–2002)
  • Ron Van Pool (2002–2006)
  • Jim Wood (2006–2010)
  • Bruce Stratton (2010–2014)
  • Jim Sheehan (2014–present)

Chief Executives

  • Ray Essick (1980–1997)
  • Chuck Wielgus (1997–2017)[5][6][7]
  • Tim Hinchey (2017–present)


When it was part of the AAU to 1981, USA Swimming had its headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1981, USA Swimming moved to its present-day location in Colorado Springs. At the time of the 1981 move, it had four staff members.

In 1997, work was completed on the official USA Swimming Headquarters, which is currently the official home of USA Swimming.

Through the national headquarters, the organization provides various programs and services to its members, supporters, affiliates and the interested public. This includes educational programs, fund-raising activities, general information, publications, resources, and sports medicine programs, all relating to the sport of swimming.

Organizational structure

There are several parts and levels that make up USA Swimming. There is the National governing body (national) level, the Zone (regional) level, and the Local Swimming Committee (local/state) level.

Safe Sport

USA Swimming's Safe Sport program,[8] established by USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus,[9] is designed raise awareness and reduce the risk and help prevent athletes from being sexually abused. The program includes mandatory training, background checks and an overall awareness of warning signs. USA Swimming requires free, mandatory training for members and volunteers who work with athletes, as well as provides free training for athletes and parents to further protect swimmers from abuse.

To date, USA Swimming has banned more than 100 coaches for violating USA Swimming's detailed Code of Conduct.

USA Swimming encourages any swimmers or parents who suspect any abuse or inappropriate behavior to come forward by either contacting the Athlete Protection Officer or logging a complaint of sexual misconduct or abuse relating to USA Swimming through its online reporting system. The complaint process involves USA Swimming working with a third-party investigator to effectively and thoroughly investigate all complaints of abuse.

The National governing body

The National governing body (NGB) of United States Swimming is an extension of the United States Olympic Committee. While all of the separate swim teams, LSC's, and Zones do not officially make up the NGB, they are all members and are subject to the laws of the NGB.

The NGB is made up of both staff members of USA Swimming and volunteer members of the board. The office of the President is the head of the board and is responsible for the overall direction of USA Swimming. The chief executive is the head of the staff located at the national headquarters in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center. The chief executive is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization at the national level.

The NGB is responsible for nearly all aspects of USA Swimming, and swimming in the United States in general. Its most important responsibility is to set the rules for the sport in the United States. These rules are guided by the international governing body for aquatic sports (FINA). FINA makes the rules that are to be followed at all international level meets. USA Swimming follows accordingly to make the rules of USA Swimming match the rules of FINA; however, it does not have to. In theory, an NGB could make its rules whatever it wanted and have all national level meets and below follow those rules, but it would not have jurisdiction over international level meets held within the borders of the United States, and such a meet would have to follow FINA rules.

The Local Swimming Committee

The Local Swimming Committee (LSC) is the local level of USA Swimming. Each LSC is a separate entity, with each being an individual member of USA Swimming, although all act on behalf of USA Swimming on the local level. LSCs are the local administrative organization responsible for the registration, support and governance of the USA Swimming member swim clubs in their designated region. Over 2800 swim clubs across the US are registered with USA Swimming through their respective LSCs.[10][11]

The LSC gives USA Swimming sanctions to swimming meets in their area. A sanction from the LSC allows the meet to be run under USA Swimming rules. The LSC is responsible for enforcing these rules at the meet. The LSC does this by training officials for the meet. These officials are typically parents of swimmers and volunteers. The technical swimming rules for USA Swimming are the same for all LSCs as mandated by USA Swimming. This allows an official in one LSC to officiate in another LSC without having to learn a new set of rules. This is able to be done because while each LSC may have its own set of rules they are not different regarding the actual strokes.

An LSC is typically responsible for an entire state; however, several bigger states (e.g. California, Texas, Pennsylvania, among others) have multiple LSCs within their boundaries. The size of the LSCs is supposed to be roughly the same and allow for easier travel between meets. The result is that while borders tend to follow state borders, this is not a rule. There are currently 59 LSCs in the country.[12]


There are several different types and levels of meets, all but the very top level directed by individual clubs and the Local Swimming Committee. The following is a list of the types of meets, listed from lowest and most common level to highest and least common level.

Dual Meet, Double Dual, Triangular, Quadrangular, etc.

A dual meet is a meet where each individual event is ranked based on how individual swimmers on a team swim. It is generally limited to 2 teams, but different variations can have more. In a dual meet, there is almost always a limit to the number of events that a certain person can swim, usually four,and to the number of swimmers that a certain team can enter. meet entries close up when the maximum number of people have entered. Generally, there is only 1 heat in each event and each team alternates lanes so that each team swims in half the pool, regardless of how fast each swimmer is. While this style of meet is generally uncommon for individual USA Swimming clubs, it is by far the most common of high school (NFHS) swimming, YMCA swimming, college (NCAA) swimming, and summer league swimming. Meets of this variety are almost always a low level meet because entry time standards are almost never applied to enter the meet. It can, however, be rather high level when both teams involved are very fast and have exclusively high level swimmers, as is the case with college swimming.

Invitational Meet

An invitational meet is a meet with many more teams and swimmers than a dual meet. The term "Invitational" comes from the fact that for a team to attend this type of meet, a team had to be invited to attend from the host team, but now is a general catch-all term for this style of meet (although there are still occasional invitation-only meets.) Meets of this variety generally have hundreds of swimmers, many teams, and many different events. Within the definition of an invitational meet, there are dozens of different styles of scoring and placing but the standard method is described here. All levels of swimming use invitational style meets at least once during their season (usually as a championship meet of all the clubs in a league), but the clubs of USA Swimming use this meet almost exclusively since there are very few leagues in USA Swimming and it acts as one giant league itself. Most meets of this style have no limits as to the number of swimmers that a team can enter, and only limit the number of times a swimmer can swim in order to make the flow of the meet manageable. Meets of this style can be at any level of swimming since all of the higher level meets use this style of meet with just more restrictive rules applied. Meets of this style usually do not have entry time standards, but can have them to either reduce the size of the meet, or raise the competition level.

LSC Championships

Each Local Swimming Committee (LSC) is mandated to have a season ending championships twice a year for both Age Group (younger) and Senior (no age requirement) swimmers. Most LSC's split these up into two separate meets. The meet style is an invitational meet open only to club teams within the LSC. Almost universally, entry time standards are applied so that only the top level swimmer of the LSC can attend; only a few of the smaller LSCs do not have a time standard. Each LSC sets their own time standards (due to LSC size differences), so the competition level of the meet is not exactly the same across the country. Normally, this style meet is a prelim/final format. Common age groups are 10 and under, 11-12, 13-14, 15 and over, also known as seniors.

Zone/Sectional Championship

As stated before, there are four zones and 59 LSCs in the country. While the LSC championship is a high level meet, the Zone/Sectional Championships are even higher. These meets are also of the invitational format, but the entry time standards are even higher so that only the fastest swimmers of Zones qualify. Zone and Sectional meets are of the same competition level, but serve different purposes. Zone meets are for age group swimmers and Sectional meets are for Senior swimmers. While the intention is to have one champion for the whole Zone, this is generally not possible because to have a meet of that high of a competition level, there would be very little difference between this level and the next level, so the entry times can only be made so fast. Thus, there are sometimes too many swimmers qualifying for this meet to have only a single meet in a Zone. Currently, the Central States Zone is the only one that has more than one Zone Championship meet (Age Group swimmers), and all four zones have multiple Sectional Championships (Senior swimmers). After Zone meets for age group swimmers some may qualify for Junior Nationals.

Arena Pro Swim Series

The Arena Pro Swim Series (PSS), formally known as the Speedo Grand Prix, is a series of 7 meets held throughout the season. Held in either Short Course Yards (SCY) or long Course Meters (LCM). Swimmers race in both Olympic and non-Olympic distances, but only receive points for Olympic distances. First place receives 5 points and $1,000. Second place receives 3 points and $600. Third place receives 1 point and $200. The swimmer that accumulates the most points by the end of the series, wins a $10,000 bonus. Any swimmer of any nationality can compete in the PSS but are not eligible to some of the prizes.[13]

National Championship/US Open

There is only 1 National Championship meet at the conclusion of each season across the country. The National Championships are also of the invitational meet format and offer extremely high level competition. Only a very small percentage of people who ever swim will make it to this high a level of competition. This meet is generally used to determine the US National Team for various international level meets each year, but is not used to determine the US Olympic Team. Currently, there are 2 National Championships each year, but the Spring Championships have traditionally been of a significantly lower level of competition than the Summer Championships. This is because the Spring Championships are so close to NCAA Championships and the fact that Spring Championships are rarely used as a selection meet for national teams.

In many other sports, the National Championship of the sport is known as the "US Open" and while swimming did have a very high national level meet by that name each year, it was just a high level meet and not a national championship meet. This specific meet was ended in 2006 and was replaced with a reformulated Spring/Winter National Championship. Since there is no "US Open" meet of the old format, the National Championships (specifically Summer '08) have begun to be called the "US Open" to bring it in line with the nomenclature of other sports.

US Olympic Trials

The Olympic Trials are held once every 4 years. Since this meet offers such a coveted prize (a spot on the US Olympic Team) it never fails to attract the absolute fastest in the sport of swimming in the United States. Because of this, the entry time standards are even faster than the National Championships. However, even though this is a faster meet and would actually offer a truer indication of who is the fastest swimmer in the United States, the winner of each event in this meet is not officially considered a National Champion and this meet is NOT held in place of the National Championships every 4 years (although the Nationals are generally not held when the Olympic Trials occur, or other selection trials). However, for 2008, the winners of the Olympic Trials were indeed officially be a National Champion with the trials meet taking the place of the National Championship meet for 2008. It is unclear if this will continue for future trials. Unlike all other US Swimming meets, United States citizenship is required to compete at this meet since only United States citizens are allowed to represent the United States at the Olympics. The Olympic Trials are also under unique requirements made by the USOC.

Trials meets are also held for the World Championships, Pan American Games and World University Games, typically at a national championship meet.

See also


  1. "About USA Swimming", USA Swimming.
  2. "USA Swimming History", USA Swimming.
  3. "About AAU", AAU USA
  4. AAU Swimming
  5. "Chuck Wielgus". WordPress. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  6. "Chuck Wielgus". Tumblr. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  7. "#30MostSwimfluential: Chuck Wielgus" (July). Swimming World Magazine. July 30, 2015. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  8. "Reducing the Risk of Abuse in Youth Sports" (May 15, 2015). The Denver Post. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  9. Chuck, Wielgus. "USA Swimming Ed". Tumblr. Tumblr. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  10. "Governance & LSCs" USA Swimming
  11. "Starting a Club" USA Swimming
  12. mapped here
  13. "2015-16 Arena Pro Swim Series Rules" (PDF). USA Swimming. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
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