Thursday, August 28, 2014

Alabama High School Swimming: Rule Changes Do Not Benefit Athletes

 Major changes have been made to the qualifying procedures for swimming in the Alabama High School state championship meet. Our high school swim coach provided a handout with an overview of the changes, but I cannot find any additional information in spite of scouring Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) website and other sport/news outlets. I suppose it is futile to expect an explanation as to why these procedures have changed and how they could possibly benefit the high school athlete. Just another reminder we live in a state where only football matters. If anyone has an opportunity to ask an AHSAA Staff Member, please enlighten us! 

Beginning with the 2014-2015 season, swimmers must qualify to swim at a “sectionals” meet in order to have the opportunity to swim a state qualifying time at the sectionals meet. This means there are two sets of time standards: one for the “sectionals” meet and one for the “state” meet. Athletes must swim a “sectional” qualifying time in order to swim at the sectional meet. Then, at the sectional meet they have a single opportunity to swim the state qualifying time in order to swim at the state meet.

Previously, swimmers could qualify for the state meet by swimming a specified time standard at any meet during the season.

Swimmers who make the “sectional” qualifying time, will have ONLY ONE opportunity to swim the state qualifying time because it must be swum AT THE SECTIONALS MEET. That’s right. If they are sick or there is a family emergency and they cannot attend the sectionals meet, they will not be allowed to swim at the state meet. God forbid a top contender is DQ at the sectionals meet making him or her ineligible to swim at state! This could drastically affect their opportunity to swim at the collegiate level because recruiters are tuned in to the athletes at the state meet.

There are three sectional meets scheduled throughout the state: Mobile, Birmingham, and Huntsville.

To add to the confusion, the change in procedures includes the following statement, 

"Individuals and relays placing in the Top 4 in each event shall automatically qualify for the state meet. In the event that multiple swimmers tie for the 4th place, both swimmers shall qualify for state. Any relay or swimmer who achieves the following time standard at the Sectional Meets shall also qualify. These times must be achieved during the meet of record."

HUH? It appears this new rule is somehow intended to level the playing field (part of the give-every-kid-a-trophy mentality) but actually serves no purpose at all. The rule is basically assuring that if at a sectionals meet, no athlete meets the state qualifying time standard for an event, four swimmers from that region will still go to the state meet to compete anyway. A quick glance at the list of swimmers from around the state shows that dozens of high school swimmers from each region can make the state qualifying time. Therefore, the “Top 4” would already be eligible because I can assure you, at least four swimmers from each sectional region will already make the state qualifying time.

So who benefits from these changes in procedures? NO ONE! All swimmers regardless of their ability are given far fewer opportunities to make their qualifying times for state.

Now if significant changes in procedures with the potential to penalize athletes were made to the football, basketball, or baseball championships, I’m certain there would be an outcry from the entire state. Can’t you just hear the chatter on sports talk radio? But my guess is this humble post is the first and last you’ll hear about the changes in procedures to high school swimming in the state of Alabama. And I’ll bet my last pair of goggles that nothing will be done. 

If I am misinterpreting any of the changes in procedures to the AHSAA Swim Championships, please clarify. No one will be happier to print a retraction than me. 

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