Nov. 3, 2005
IOWA CITY, IA – The University of Iowa swimming program experienced a drastic change during the off-season.
Instead of being divided into a men and women’s squad, the teams are now combined, practicing together, using the same facility, and even sharing coaches.
“This is very unique to Iowa but not to swimming in general. The teams who are winning are those who are combined, such as Georgia and Florida,” said Head Coach Marc Long.
The change stems from a thorough investigation as to what is going on in the Big Ten as well as with other swimming programs throughout the country.
“We always look at many things to make the program better. We did a thorough study of other programs and talked to other people in Big Ten with combined programs,” said Jane Meyer, Senior Associate Director of Athletics.
Prior to Iowa making the switch, four other Big Ten schools had combined programs.
“We evaluated what’s happening nationally in deciding what to do with our swimming programs. We evaluated what top programs were doing, how they were administered, how the coaches were assigned. We assessed that a large majority were combined programs.”
Senior Associate Athletic Director Jane Meyer
Another factor that came into play was how the athletes trained when they were growing up.
“In swimming, as a club swimmer from age 6-7, you train with men and women, boys and girls,” said Long. “They’re used to training together. It’s actually unusual to split them.”
Meyer also wanted to make a change that would help Iowa compete with the best in the nation.
“We evaluated what’s happening nationally in deciding what to do with our swimming programs. We evaluated what top programs were doing, how they were administered, how the coaches were assigned. We assessed that a large majority were combined programs,” she said.
After the initial evaluations were made, finding the right coach to take on the challenge was easy. Iowa looked no further than Marc Long, who was the women’s interim head coach at the time and a former all-American for the Hawkeye men’s team.
“It was not only his swimming knowledge, but Marc has a good handle on what it would take to make the Iowa program successful. He is in long standing as an athlete and has an understanding of the facility situation we are in now. It’s his connections with different clubs and his ability to go out and seek recruits,” said Meyer.
Along with Long, Iowa utilizes three assistant coaches and a diving coach for practice. Instead of practicing by gender, the teams practice according to the event they compete at.
“You could divide the tasks up based on races, which is very similar to what our other programs do. Look at the football program, one person coaches the offensive line. But in swimming you divide by length of race or stroke,” said Meyer.
In order to make the change successful, the coaching staff has worked together to make sure their goals are accomplished.
“Due to the sharing of resources and staff, we’re essentially all on same path,” said Long. “We had a lot of meetings and we still do to make sure we are on target.”
Even though the coaches are still learning how to run a joint program, they can already see the benefits for the future.
“It’s been very exciting atmosphere. We’re very energetic,” said Long.
By Jennifer Bissell, Iowa Sports Information