Friday, March 22, 2013

On Trials. Podcasts. NCAA. Timing. "Truth". Trivia?

I made an appearance on the #coachmikepodcast today.  To be honest, my contribution was not all that much.  I try to come loaded with strong opinions for Mike's pods but in this case, I just did not have any outrage for the issue at hand and I was not going to fake outrage for entertainment value.  Instead, I was given a short opportunity to say very little and then not given the opportunity to explain my position in further depth (I don't blame Mike for this, I probably would not have let me continue on if I were in Mike's shoes) so I'm supplementing my appearance with this post. 

The issue at hand was the timing of the World Championships Trials and their relation to the NCAA Swimming Championships taking place for women as we speak and throughout the weekend and then for men next week just 1 week out of Trials.

The issue of discussion was whether it is fair to some of Canada's best young swimmers (especially female) to place Trials in such proximity to their focus Varsity meets.  As I said in the pod, I'm not the resource to really be discussing this matter, I don't have a swimmer impacted by this situation but on paper I find this to be a non-issue.

The timing of these Trials has been published for the better part of 3 years on the Swimming Canada website.  Love or hate the Swimming Canada website, at least they pro-actively post competition dates well in advance.

World Trials as we have discussed is April 2013
Pan Pacific & Commonwealth Games Trials are April 2014
World Championships & Pan AM Games Trials are April 2015
Olympic Trials are April 2016

Well there you go.  Someone will always have some gripe surrounding the timing of a Trials, but I applaud Swimming Canada for being remarkably consistent.  Every season, Swimming Canada is demanding their best swimmers be prepared for Trials-level urgency at the beginning of every April.  This is conditioning that would make Ivan Pavlov proud.

For a Canadian swimmer with National team aspirations, you have options...  good options.

The CIS swimming scene is decent.  The CIS would be even stronger if the 18 or so female Canadians swimming at the NCAA championships right now would be on CIS rosters... the backstroke events would clearly be made much stronger.  The meters racing is far more relevant to long course success then the silly short course yards racing that goes on south of the 49th.  Performance carding money is available for the top achievers.  Swimming Canada has a variety of well-established and emerging high performance centers tied to many of the major universities with well-compensated coaches.  And from a purely academic perspective, a degree from Canadian universities tend to carry more weight from future employers then a degree from a sports factory in the US with questionable academics.

Plus... every CIS school has a clear interest participating at Swimming Canada Trials events and will prioritize those meets, the same can not be said for NCAA programs where the success of the program is often solely measure on Conference performance and NCAA Championships performance and little else.

So what's the deal?

On paper, I would think that the problem of Swimming Canada "turning their back" on swimmers competing in the NCAA as Mike insisted on the pod is the exact opposite issue.  Rather, why are Canadian swimmers turning down opportunities with the CIS swimming scene in favour of the opportunities presented by the NCAA?  More crudely, why are many of the elite Canadian swimmers turning their back on Swimming Canada?

This is the point where feelings get sore because this issue starts to get really speculative and subjective.  I think it unfairly covers a lot of the following sentiments...

The CIS swim scene is significantly weaker then the NCAA.

The coaches in the CIS are not good.... especially compared to NCAA coaches.

The athletic departments in the NCAA are committed to athletic excellence to a great degree.

Money, money, money... scholarships outweigh carding or athletic bursaries

Facilities are that much more appealing in the US, including the ability to train outdoors everyday if you choose a southern school.

The result... animosity.  An unfortunate possibility of a strained relationship between Swimming Canada and swimmers who chose the NCAA because of the timing of Trials meets.

The real problem?  It lies in the grey.  I think that there is a lot of "the grass is greener on the other side" kind of thinking when it comes to the NCAA, and in some cases it is because there are some really fantastic swimming programs in the NCAA but I also believe some are too fast to marginalize how good some of the programs in the CIS happen to be as well.

Who are those "some"?  Under-informed parents, club coaches, and swimmers.

Until the point that "WE" coaches, institutional advisors to young up-and-coming swimmers that will come to face the choice of going south or staying north arm ourselves with a greater understanding of the true strengths of CIS system.

Need a blunter truth?  Here you go...

Can you name the last Canadian Olympic swimming medalist that swam for an NCAA program??

I can...  here's your hint.  HE attended the University of Florida and it's been OVER 20 years.  That's a long time.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, Dave, thanks for appearing on my show. I love having you on because you're good for insight.

    2 problems with your logic though...

    1.) Can you name 5 Canadian Swimming medalists in the past 20 years..? 1 in such a small sample size isn't neccessariy a good statistic. I can name 3 from U of Calgary... is that the place to be to win an Olympic Medal?

    2.) I don't believe that those athletes that compete in the NCAA have turned their back on Canada; I think that they have done what they feel is right for them. Swim Ontario (Dean Boles) is doing a fantastic job keeping tolls on those athletes and keeping in touch with them. I don't believe that there are any hurt feelings here.

    I feel like in time, the CIS can build a stronger field that will keep people that feel like they need to race against the Missy Franklins and the Connor Jaegers. But in order to do that, schools need to step up their game. If U of T, U of C and UBC can only carry so many athletes (and teams like Guelph & Ottawa choose not to carry a full crew), the second choices (Queens, Ryerson, Carleton, York, etc) need to be viable alternatives for these athletes.

    School comes first for many... so the option is go to Queens and swim with a so so program or go to UNC and get a scholarship, good education and swim with a top notch program. I can hardly fault someone for that decision.

    Anyway, thanks again Dave and sorry for not exploring your opinion as much as you'd like. If you want to come back to explore more, let me know. I love having you on the show!