Tech suits? Young NJ swimmers banned from wearing them
Beginning Nov. 1, competitive swimmers under the age of 13 in New Jersey can no longer get an edge over the rest of the field.
Following the lead of other states, New Jersey Swimming has restricted the use of suits designed to make kids swim faster during official meets.
The so-called "tech suits," often featuring bonded seams, kinetic tape and/or water-resistant material, can compress one's muscles and reduce drag in the pool.
"It does take a little bit away from the natural ability of the athlete, and instead it's kind of an artificial fix to certain things," Bobby Bartus, head swimming coach at the Hunterdon County YMCA, told New Jersey 101.5.
But he noted the suits are more of a mental boost among younger swimmers. Tech suits mainly work their magic on more developed bodies.
While Bartus would rather the controversial issue be policed by coaches within their individual clubs, he said some coaches are so focused on winning that the only solution would involve an across-the-board ban.
"There's a lot of parents and a lot of swimmers who will listen to every word their coach says," Bartus explained. "If their coach tells them to go out and buy a $200, $300, $400 suit because it's going to make them faster ... all they care about are results, they don't actually care about the process of improving."
The costly suits are designed to typically last eight to 10 swims; they're utilized by swimmers mainly during the most important meets.
According to the New Jersey Swimming policy, which only includes 12-and-unders, swimmers who race in a restricted suit will be disqualified from the event. If a swimmer is spotted wearing a tech suit before the race, they are able to change into an acceptable suit, but will not be granted extra time to do so.
A number of states over the past year have restricted the use of tech suits. Bartus said another 15 to 20 states have similar language in the works.
The list of banned and permitted suits will hit the New Jersey Swimming website by Oct. 31.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.