USA Swimming sent a message to its member clubs on Wednesday that caused a stir in light of ongoing issues with member registration in the new SWIMS 3.0 database.
On September 1, 2022, USA Swimming launched SWIMS 3.0, a new online database designed to streamline administrative processes for clubs, swimmers, families and LSCs. This meant membership registrations and renewals had been moved entirely online.
There have been numerous issues in the nearly six months since the initial rolloutincluding technical issues for coaches and parents, and some time databases not working.
The technical issues came to light again this week as USA Swimming issued a blanket email to clubs saying their off-pool practices and practice are not being handled by USA Swimming if they have unregistered attendees.
Message from USA Swimming:
Did you know? Your USA Swimming insurance does NOT cover your practices, including in and out of the water activities, if you have an unregistered individual participant with your registered swimmers. Even if a person has not renewed their USA Swimming 2023 membership, your entire practice is not insured.
This insurance policy is not new and has always been in place, but the recall has heightened frustrations for coaches and clubs over difficulties in getting their members registered. Prior to September 1, clubs and LSCs registered USA Swimming member athletes. Now it is up to parents and families to register directly with the national governing body. The insurance post served as an online lightning rod for coaches to express their frustration at the ongoing struggle with the new procedure and what it meant for their team memberships.
USA Swimming General Manager of Sport Development Joel Shinofield said the change in registration path was made primarily for compliance reasons, as it allows them to communicate directly with members.
For example, if a swimmer joins a club and membership goes through the club, the club downloads the information from the LSC and sends it to USA Swimming. But if some information needs to be updated at some point (like an email address), parents will be able to update that information. Under the previous system, information had to flow from clubs to LSCs to USA Swimming, and there was no easy path for those parents to update that information with the national governing body. Now that each athlete is directly registered, they can enter and manage their own governing body contact information.
This is crucial when contacting athletes who are about to turn 18, which comes with new SafeSport training requirements.
With more direct access to parents for SafeSport education purposes, USA Swimming also hopes to reduce the number of abuse cases. He pointed to other benefits, such as being able to send validated nutrition information to parents, rather than having children search for that information on YouTube.
He said the change would cost the organization more as they now bear the transaction costs that were previously borne by clubs and LSCs.
Although Shinofield did not say this, his organization has parallel financial motivations for registering members as clubs and coaches: In 2021, approximately 50% of the organization’s revenue came from membership dues, as well as other indirect income derived from the size of its members.
Shinofield also says the move reduces bureaucracy and allows USA Swimming to implement opt-out SafeSport education programs rather than participate. He said the change was being implemented across “all sports”.
He notes that the first year of any transition will always have its difficulties and that there will be new iterations and improvements to come.
Nevertheless, there seems to be some transition fatigue among the coaches after months of coping with the pain of change.
Many coaches have been open about the difficulties they have had, or parents have had, navigating the SWIMS 3.0 membership process.
“USA Swimming is creating a horrible mess with registrations that prevents teams from registering their swimmers and forces us to spend months chasing parents to do so,” said a coach. “And now this email (referring to the message above). And now ? It looks like you need to fire people who have paid your tuition but are not completing registration. What a beautiful predicament to put teams in.
Another coach said: “USA Swimming dropped the ball during registration. I don’t know what they want families to do, but it made it incredibly difficult to get everyone registered. “Why was it changed? It wasn’t for the benefit of the clubs they govern. I’d say they made their decision with very little thought for American swim clubs.”
One of the coaches added that clubs are not in a financial position to turn away swimmers coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that seems “to be what USA Swimming has imposed on teams” who are struggling to cope. to re-establish.
“It’s almost like our NGB wants teams to fail,” they said.
A third coach mentioned that the sign-up process is pretty straightforward for some, but less “tech-savvy” parents have “practically been in tears and spent hours in a loop that they struggled to get out of.”
“The instant nature of parents signing up their kids is nice, but we’re certainly pursuing a number of parents and even holding calls and meetings to help them through it,” they said.
“I wonder how much USA Swimming really pitched the tires and tested before going ahead with this method.”
The American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) issued the following statement to SwimSwam about USA Swimming’s message, saying it was “untimely” and “tone deaf”.
“USA Swimming’s announcement today regarding insurance liability was untimely and poorly communicated. threatening and without acknowledging the frustration it causes is just plain deaf USA Swimming needs to provide support to the many clubs that are still struggling to register swimmers, and also communicate the steps it is taking to address the issues created by SWMS 3.0 Liability insurance issues have many implications for teams that should have been discussed and addressed months ago Constant barriers for coaches and clubs are hurting the growth of our sport We urge USA Swimming to work collaboratively with the ASCA to find solutions that reflect the needs and ideas of our frontline coaches and all stakeholders. are grassroots participants in the sport of swimming.
USA Swimming has been working on the bugs recently, including having TeamUnify in their offices for a few days, and says they will host webinars for any team whose parents are struggling.
Shinofield says the organization proactively identified clubs that had downsized this year and contacted them to see if they were having trouble getting parents to complete the new registration and contact them. He acknowledged that they hadn’t contacted clubs that had seen membership rises, so if those clubs also had parents struggling to sign up, they wouldn’t have been proactively contacted. But he encouraged any club with struggling parents to contact the Team Services department.
There are currently eight people who are responsible for 6 to 8 LSCs each, whom members can contact in case of difficulty. Their information can be found on the Team services page here. They can also contact Brendan Hansenwho is the director of team services. Shinofield said these types of issues are best resolved by the Team Services group rather than submitting a technical ticket, because in this case the software works fine, but the need may be more end-user support than a specific technical upgrade. .
He also said the organization has expanded its Team Services group to help address such issues.
Shinofield was willing to admit that he would have done some things differently knowing what he knows now. One thing he said they learned through this process is that many parents didn’t know they were members of USA Swimming.
Part of the new membership process involved changing all member IDs — which Shinofield said had to be done because old IDs included personally identifiable information like names and birthdays that became widely available. When the parents went to register their athletes, they were asked if the old ID was their ID, and because they didn’t know they were registered, they said no.
This created duplicate IDs in the system. In hindsight, he says he would have conquered one thing at a time – having parents register athletes directly with USA Swimming, then on a specified date, changing each person’s legacy member ID from one with personal informations.
Shinofield highlighted the fact that since September, when the new system was implemented, more than 300,000 people have successfully signed up for the new season.