As you might have heard, USA Swimming has passed a new rule regarding tech suits. This rule will not go into effect until September 1, 2020. Once it does, swimmers age 12 and younger will no longer be allowed to wear certain kinds of suits unless they are at one of the following meets: Junior Nationals, Pro Swim Series, US Open, National Championships, and Olympic Trials. Suits that have bonded or taped seems will not be allowed and suits made of a woven fabric that extend to the knees will not be allowed. I am not an expert on materials, but my understanding is that practice suits and some racing suits are made of a knit fabric, this would mean those suits will still be acceptable for racing. At this time we still don’t have all the information. In the next two years we expect to have a list of suits that are and are not acceptable for 12 and younger swimmers to wear at meets. Until September 1, 2020 there will be no change to the existing rules.
Let’s talk about tech suits in general.
Do you need one to swim fast?
The simple answer is no, a tech suit is not required to swim fast. Swimmers on our team swim fast without tech suits all the time. Many of our swimmers swim at or below best times in practice. Eventually swimmers will get to a level when a tech suit can really make a difference physically and mentally. At higher level meets, Sectionals, Futures, Jr. Nationals, Nationals, etc., you will see almost every swimmer wear a tech suit. These swimmers have worked for years to get to this level and in some cases, Jr. Nationals, and Nationals, swimmers are given a free tech suit through their team’s partnership with a suit manufacturer. Anecdotally, there are some swimmers I know who never purchased their own tech suit. They started wearing them when they got to a high enough level to get them for free.
What meets should I wear one?
If you do decide to get a tech suit, the best meet to wear one at is a championship meet. Particularly one with trials and finals. Tech suits have a limited lifetime, so the suit should be saved for when it counts the most. If you can swim fast at your in-season meet without a tech suit, then you know that when you do wear a tech suit you will be ready to go even faster.
What kind is the best?
There are many different tech suit manufacturers. Adidas, Arena, Speedo, Tyr, Finis, Mizuno, Blue Seventy, Jaked, and more. In general, swimmers seem to find a suit that they personally prefer. I think the the first two things to consider for most of our swimmers are durability and fit. Cost can also be a factor. Some brands are more expensive than other brands. Some brands have a range of suits with different prices. The most expensive suit is not necessarily the best. Again, I think fit and durability are what matter most for most of our swimmers. The price of the suits makes the durability important and the fit makes the suit function well.
How to size one?
Most suit manufacturers have a sizing chart, each brand makes suits with different dimensions. Before purchasing a suit online, be sure to check the companies’ size chart. I would recommend rounding down in cases where you are in between sizes. If you can, go to a store where you can try on multiple suits to find one that fits correctly and feels right to the swimmer wearing it. “Fits correctly” does not mean comfortable, tech suits should probably always feel uncomfortable. They are not something you should hang out or take a nap while wearing. The fit should be tight and snug without room
Using a tech suit at a meet:
A tech suit is meant to be worn for a short period of time. The top swimmers in the world may have different habits because they get suits for free, but the fact is tech suits will eventually stretch out and lose their advantage. This means that they should be worn as little as possible at a meet. Ideally swimmers put the suit on after their race warm up, race in it, take it off and then warm down. This is not always an option. Sometimes events are back to back or the meet is running quickly. In these situations it is ok to wear the suit for warm up and/or warm down. Swimmers should not be spending an hour or more sitting around in their tech suit at a meet. This will wear the suits out and possibly cause damage to them, tears, stretching, etc.
What should a swimmer be able to do before they get a tech suit?
I think an interesting idea to consider is setting a standard for a swimmer to achieve before they start wearing a tech suit. This is not a rule for everyone, but to me, as a coach and former swimmer it makes a lot of sense to have standards in place that a swimmer can achieve in order to “earn” a tech suit.
Here are five standards that I think should be consider before getting a tech suit:
1. Practice attendance: Does the swimmer attend 100% of all practices? Does the swimmer attend 90%? Does the swimmer meet their groups practice requirement?
2. Streamline: Does the swimmer streamline off the wall every lap?
3. Time standards: Has the swimmer achieved AAA, or AA or a time standard for a specific championship meet?
4. Dolphin kick : Does the swimmer always dolphin kick completely past the flags, 7 meters, in meets and practices?
5. Set and know their goals: Does the swimmer set their own goals and can they recall them and tell you what they are? Achieving these standards will help a swimmer improve significantly. Probably much more so than wearing a tech suit.
In my opinion if a swimmer has achieved all of these they have definitely earned the option to wear a tech suit. Maybe there are other standards that swimmers should have in place such as, good nutrition, improving sleeping habits, perceived high levels of effort at practice, etc. I am sure you could come up with some yourself.
Finally if you have any questions please reach out to your swimmer’s coach or one of our other coaches. We would be happy to talk to you about tech suits and try to help you with your questions.
Below you will find three links for more information about the tech suit ban from Swimswam.com and USA Swimming.