Levels of the USA Swimming Pyramid: From Learn to Swim to Elite Competition
Diagram credited to USA Swimming
Base of the Pyramid: Foundation of Swimming
The base of the USA Swimming pyramid encompasses recreation, water safety, learn-to-swim programs, and pre-team/pre-competitive activities.
Second Level: Teams Level
Local Swimming Committees (LSCs)
LSCs are responsible for organizing and running local swim meets, setting up training programs, and promoting swimming in their region. They also act as a liaison between individual clubs and USA Swimming.
Zones are comprised of several LSCs and provide a higher level of competition for swimmers. Swimmers who qualify through their LSC can compete at Zone meets, which serve as a stepping stone to national-level competitions.
Third Level: National Level
This level consists of national-level competitions, such as the US Open, National Championships, and Olympic Trials. Swimmers who perform well at these meets may qualify for international-level competitions, such as the Olympics or World Championships.
Top of the Pyramid: International Level
This level represents the highest level of competition, including the Olympic Games and World Championships. The best swimmers from around the world compete at this level, and many swimmers aspire to reach this level of competition.
How about summer leagues and high school swimming teams?
Summer leagues and high school swimming teams are not officially part of the USA Swimming pyramid. However, they can serve as entry points for swimmers to begin developing their skills and potentially move on to more competitive levels within USA Swimming. Summer leagues typically offer less formal instruction and competition for beginner swimmers, while high school swimming teams provide a competitive platform for student-athletes within their school district or state. Within the USA Swimming Pyramid, they fall under the Second Level.
How do NCSA, Sectionals, and Futures championships fit into the USA Swimming pyramid's competition levels?
NCSA, Sectionals, and Futures are all competitive swim meets that fall under the category of national-level meets, which is the third level in the USA Swimming pyramid. These meets are open to swimmers who have achieved qualifying times and are intended to provide opportunities for swimmers to compete at increasingly higher levels competition.
The National Club Swimming Association (NCSA) hosts several meets throughout the year, including the NCSA Junior National Championships, which is one of the largest national-level meets in the country.
Sectionals, also known as Speedo Sectionals, are a series of regional meets held throughout the country that bring together the fastest swimmers in each region to compete against one another.
Futures is a relatively new national-level meet that was introduced in 2016. It is designed to provide additional opportunities for swimmers who are not quite fast enough to compete at the Junior National or Senior National levels. The meet is held in multiple locations across the country and serves as a stepping stone for swimmers who are aiming to eventually qualify for higher-level meets.
Does College Swimming Fall Under the Umbrella of USA Swimming?
College swimming is not officially a part of the USA Swimming as it falls under the jurisdiction of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). However, many college swimmers have come up through the ranks of USA Swimming and have competed in USA Swimming meets before transitioning to collegiate swimming. Additionally, college coaches often recruit swimmers based on their performances in USA Swimming meets. As shown in the USA Swimming pyramid diagram, college swimming is positioned within the National and Elite levels.
What's Open Water?
Open Water swimming is another discipline that falls under the umbrella of USA Swimming. Open water swimming is any swimming event that takes place in a natural body of water such as a lake, ocean, or river, as opposed to a pool. USA Swimming sanctions open water events, sets rules and regulations for open water swimming and also selects athletes to represent the United States in international open water competitions. Open water swimming is considered a unique and exciting aspect of swimming that requires different skills and strategies than pool swimming. It can be included at various levels of the USA Swimming Pyramid.
Is the NCSA Age Group Championship considered a National-level competition?
NCSA (National Club Swimming Association) Age Group is a national-level competition for age group swimmers. It is organized by the National Club Swimming Association and features some of the top swimmers from across the United States. Swimmers must meet qualifying times to participate in the meet. But the NCSA Age Group Championship qualifying times fall somewhere between the times required for Zones and LSCs.