If high school swimmers and their parents are waiting for the National Federation of State High School Associations to release a list of approved swimsuits for the 2009-2010 school year, they could be waiting a good long time.
With the swimming season already underway in 18 states and the NFHS’s decision to ban high-tech, long-length suits just over two weeks old, the organization is trying to help its member states navigate the new dress code without a formal list.
The NFHS has neither the means, nor the time, to evaluate suits and compile a complete list of allowable ones, according to Becky Oakes, NFHS assistant director and liaison to the Swimming and Diving Rules Committee.
Instead, it is urging its members to study the new rules, contact their state associations for advice in choosing new swimwear and use common sense.
“It would have been premature for us to try to throw together a list,” Oakes said. “We would have run the risk of saying certain models were banned [by inadvertently excluding them] when they weren’t.
“As questions come in, we’re trying to be a good resource.”
Oakes said the NFHS hadn’t ruled out adopting lists that might eventually be compiled by the sport’s world governing body (FINA) or the NCAA, but it wasn’t depending on such action.
“We’re moving ahead,” Oakes said. “We can’t wait for somebody else.”
The NCAA, meantime, hopes to release a list of allowable suits in a few weeks, NCAA swimming and diving rules committee chair Tracy Huth said. A swimsuit sub-committee will in the coming days undertake an informal analysis of suits to try to assemble a list of those that meet the new standards – waist-to-knee for men and neck-to-knee for women, all-textile materials, permeability and no zippers or fasteners.
Suits that appear to violate the new code will be sent back to manufacturers. The manufacturers will have the burden of providing scientific proof that the suits should be approved, Huth said.
Like the NFHS, the NCAA will not commence its own scientific study of the suits. Once the back-and-forth with manufacturers is complete, the NCAA intends to release its recommendations.
“We’ll get a list out as soon as we can provide it to our membership,” Huth said. “I can see people are a little nervous about purchasing their suits … We feel fairly good that within the next couple of weeks [we will have a list] everybody can use as a basis for purchasing their suits.”
With no high school list and no expectation of one, Oakes urged swimmers looking for new suits to “go back into your written description of the suit” provided by the company and use common sense to determine whether it fits into the new guidelines.
“We are working through this little bit by little bit,” Oakes said. “The feedback we’ve gotten is, ‘This is a good move.’ Yes, there are rough edges now, but we’d rather work through those than go through another school year with the advanced suits.”
The District of Columbia Public Schools is reviewing the NFHS rule changes but has not yet implemented them; Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association has for two years had restrictions on high-tech suits that it will consider aligning with the new NFHS rules when its swimming committee meets in early October; and the Virginia High School League will adopt the NFHS regulations, according to officials from the three organizations.