Years ago, few swimmers continued their elite careers beyond college and, when they did, they generally remained with their college coaches to take advantage of NCAA facilities for training.
But now the bulk of Team USA’s top swimmers are either post-graduates or professionals who did not attend college, creating a growing training issue: Where do these athletes go?
USA Swimming can now make three specific suggestions: the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, the Fullerton (Calif.) Aquatics Sports Team and SwimMAC in Charlotte, N.C.
The U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming jointly announced on Monday that Sean Hutchison, who attended Oakton and Centennial high schools, would be the head coach at the newest of the three designated training centers for post-graduate and professional swimmers in Fullerton, Calif.
It was also ann0unced that NBAC’s elite program under Bob Bowman, which received a $100,000 grant from the USOC in December, will continue to receive financial, training and medical support as one of the USOC’s Professional and Post-Graduate Training Centers for swimming through 2012.
Led by coach Dave Marsh, SwimMAC was the first club designated for support in 2006.
USA Swimming wants to move away from a reliance on college coaches, who have myriad responsibilities and priorities besides trying to win Olympic medals, USA Swimming National Team Head Coach Mark Schubert said. The USOC initiate is designed to create independent homes for top post-graduate swimmers that resemble the groups already in place at various universities around the country but whose focus is entirely on international success, Schubert said.
“The reputations of these coaches speak for themselves,” Schubert said by phone from Colorado Springs, Colo. “The initiative here is to help support elite clubs and their programs that are dedicated strictly to international success as their highest priority.”
Added Schubert: “This is not to take away from places like the University of Texas or Arizona or [University of Southern California] or Michigan. We just feel like we need more centers like the three we have that are purely devoted to international success.”
Hutchison, who began swimming through the Vienna Aquatic Club in the Northern Virginia Swim League, will move in September from Seattle, to take over FAST.
He will be joined by Olympic silver medal winner Margaret Hoelzer and world champion Ariana Kukors, whom he has trained through his current club, Seattle’s King Aquatic Club. And he will also begin coaching Katie Hoff, who has decided to leave the NBAC after more than a half-dozen years there, Bowman said during an interview Tuesday. Bowman said Hoff was seeking a fresh start, and he had no hard feelings about the move. In May of 2010, five-time Olympic team coach Jon Urbanchek will join the FAST staff.
“This is an incredible opportunity for post-grad swimmers looking to find their next step in training and preparation, Hutchison said. “I’m honored and excited to be part of this program.”
Bowman trains Michael Phelps and Brennan Morris, and for much of this year worked with Nick Thoman and Haley McGregory, both of whom moved to other clubs this summer. Joining Bowman’s group will be rising NBAC youngsters Elizabeth Pelton and Felicia Lee.
Cullen Jones and Nick Brunelli lead the SwimMAC program, which has included Mark Gangloff, Ricky Berens and Hoelzer, among others.
The USOC support will not include direct athlete funding, Schubert said. Athletes are funded through separate USOC and USA Swimming grants. No other clubs will enter into the program until at least after 2012.