There is no single solution to saving Division I Collegiate Swimming and Diving. I wish there were, for the simplest of reasons; a single target requires a lone bullet from one well-aimed gun. Instead, we must fight on multiple fronts because each program has different expectations and resources. In Division I alone, our programs range from multimillion-dollar Power 5 institutions with staffs nearing the double digits to single-gender Mid-Major programs that operate on less than $100,000. The top Division I teams are the visible and shiny tip of the iceberg, but the sport is kept afloat by the breadth of opportunities across the college landscape. That breadth shows strength, provides opportunity and demonstrates broad appeal and demand from the community.
Our Mission: Preserve, Protect and Expand Collegiate Swimming and Diving Opportunities
The lynchpin to this success is ensuring that each program is led by coaches who are armed with the knowledge, resources, guidance, and commitment to building sustainable programs in a changing intercollegiate athletic landscape. So what does that mean? It means that we actively work to:
Our coaches must have the CEO skills necessary to ensure their program is sustainable and valuable
By aggregating efforts across programs the CSCAA can make it easier for coaches to do their job, schools to justify the investment to make the sport accessible and attainable.
Raise The Profile
Raising the profile of intercollegiate swimming and diving takes place on at least three levels.
At the top of the level, raising the profile is advocacy and relationship-building. The CSCAA has worked to become a relevant voice, both singularly, and in concert our peer organizations in other Olympic sports, that lobbies to protect our sport. Examples include the lobbying of Congress to protect the role of salaried coaches, working with NCAA Senior Staff to shape issues ranging from recruiting to categorizing tuition as revenue. It also includes actively building relationships with athletic directors and conference commissioners to gain influence.
The CSCAA also works to assist coaches to increase the profile of their team on campus. When programs become vulnerable we intervene by providing coaches both the data and narrative to highlight a team’s value. We also work engage the requisite decision-makers in a dialogue that leads to solutions rather than confrontation.
We work to have as many “touches” with the campus administration as is possible. This includes personalized letters to the President, Athletic Director, Senior Women’s Administrator and Faculty Athletic Representatives for each of our Scholar All-America teams. (part of our value proposition is the academic success of our athletes) It also includes proactively engaging athletic administrators whenever there is a coaching vacancy to assist their identification of appropriate candidates. This “soft influence” proves particularly effective and results in dozens of handwritten notes back from campus leaders.
In the Community
The CSCAA has created several ad hoc and ongoing programs to help draw attention to our sport. These include the CSCAA Open Water Championship, the CSCAA National Invitational Championship, a Campus Learn-to-Swim Initiative, and Adopt-a-Team Programs. To date, our events have garnered the attention of mainstream media such as the USA Today, been broadcast to over 20 million homes, and created championship opportunities for 32 Division I programs. Our Adopt-a-Team program helped fill the stands at the NCAA Championships with 200 inner-city students cheering and screaming for their adopted teams..
This year, working in conjunction with the USA Swimming Foundation and US Masters Swimming, our teams will provide free lessons to athletes and athletic staff. In addition to helping eliminate the 5-7 college student-athletes who drown each year, our teams will be offering highly valuable (and visible) value to their campus. These are the first steps of engaging our entire swimming community in supporting college swimming and diving.
Educating and Empowering Coaches
The role of today’s coach extends well beyond the pool deck to include recruiting, fundraising, compliance, and reporting. At many institutions, including Division I, coaches are also responsible for teaching, travel planning, and facility operations. It is not uncommon for today’s college coaches to spend as little as 25% of their time on actual coaching. Our profession also tends to eat its own young. When coaches are hired immediately after graduation, they have little time to learn what is truly needed to be successful. To combat this, the CSCAA works to provide our coaches with the knowledge to succeed in a changing athletic landscape.
For nearly sixty years the CSCAA has hosted an annual convention. Over time convention has evolved from a social event to one where serious topics are addressed - both educationally and legislatively. Convention has featured the leaders of our profession (including our entire 2016 Olympic staff). Beyond this, however, topics such as Diversity, Athlete Mental Health and crisis management address societal issues that impact our sport. Partnering with ASCA has allowed us to expand this programming to the World Clinic enabling us to reach more coaches.
The CSCAA Coach Academy is building the next generation of college coaches. We do this by engaging coaches with outside experts in an intense two-day program. Limited to just fifty participants each year, the Academy addresses topics such as conflict resolution, fundraising, program development, and recruiting. Our graduates reflect the best in our sport. They also develop into the best-prepared coaches in their department, with nearly 30% of participants moving onto head or associate head coaches within one year.
Women in Coaching
When administrators see a weakness in your sport they exploit it and currently one weakness is a dearth of women in head coaching roles. When athletic directors cannot fill positions or must go to their second or third choice, they select lesser-qualified coaches to lead programs they now have less confidence in. This year’s inaugural Women in Coaching Forum will bring coaches into contact with decision-makers to develop realistic and tangible ways to improve our profession and our sport for women.
Getting them in the Room
Many of our coaches don’t have direct access to their athletic director. To counter this, we seek meetings with the AD and to talk about the program, what we can do to support it and how the school can take advantage of the full value of the program. In each case, we ensure the coach is in the room with us and in many cases, it is one of the first times the AD and the coach have sat down for an extended period not involving crisis or performance evaluation. It's an opportunity where the coach can advocate for their program, we tell the AD about our partnership with USA Swimming and how important the program is to our community, and we get their direct SWOT analysis of our sport.
Even the most-prepared, informed and committed coach can be overwhelmed by the enormity of operating a program, especially once the season begins. Coaches that are hired on the basis of their ability to develop a winning team are then expected to develop strategies outside of their lane. To combat this, the CSCAA works to develop turn-key resources so that coaches need not reinvent the wheel.
Alumni Management System- Engage Alumni
Alumni management tends to be a collection of lists handed down from coach-to-coach. Oftentimes these lists are incomplete, out-of-date, and not connected with an institution’s broader development efforts. The CSCAA Alumni Management System provides coaches with a ready-made portal to reconnect with their alumni. It also enables coaches to share alumni data with their department, identify potential donors, institutional leadership candidates, and build a support network. The System enables coaches to have a modern Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool that is more powerful and affordable than what they could create on their own.
In the business world, an Annual Report shares the company’s profits and losses (or wins and losses), more importantly, it identifies its impact in other areas and strategy for the future. Since coaches are increasingly evaluated on the basis of their CEO skills, the CSCAA is working with Copper Strategies to develop a plug-and-play method to similarly report on a program’s successes beyond just the pool. This report will demonstrate to multiple stakeholders the outcomes and value provided by a team, easily produced and easily disseminated.
Customized Assessment and Consulting- Protect Teams and Grow the Sport
Each of the 684 institutions that sponsor swimming and diving have a unique set of opportunities, limitations and resources. Through a series of data-driven assessments, the CSCAA works to identify programs in danger of elimination and craft a strategy to address their particular situation.
The CSCAA also works with institutions considering the addition of swimming and diving. We provide customized financial and demographic reports for departments, boards of trustees and other stakeholders to show why adding swimming and diving can be successful, sustainable and valuable. We also work with these institutions to identify coaching candidates that can help ensure the program’s success. We provide new programs free access to our coach academy.
We have worked with numerous programs, both alumni groups and coaching staffs to develop strategies for fundraising and endowment. The barrier to starting these efforts is often simply inertia. We need to incentivize these groups to get active, matching grants could play a significant role in alumni engagement.