Expanding Scholastic Swimming & Diving with a proposal to form the I-League

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I Word Concepts



















A Proposal to Expand Scholastic Swimming & Diving with INCLUSION.

Introducing the “I-League”

From Coach Mark Rauterkus, Mark@Rauterkus.com, 412-298-3432

Background Terms:


Western Pennsylvania Athletic League, PIAA District 7



Pittsburgh's City League

All of the high schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools comprise PIAA District 8, often called “The City League.”

The City League includes the 9 high schools and one online school of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

PPS also has some elementary and middle school sports teams, and a few sponsor swimming teams. 

The WPIAL encircles the city.

Private and Catholic schools within the city are part of the WPIAL.


Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League with 12 districts and 20 sports.



International Swim Coaches Association, a nonprofit that holds meets and sponsors coaching education.

Swimming & Diving + Aquatics

This proposal's main focus is on swimming. 

Specific sections of the proposal address other activities within aquatics in systematic and holistic ways. The proposal supports, to some extent:

  • diving, 
  • water polo,
  • SKWIM,
  • lifeguard training,
  • swim lessons,
  • water safety,
  • open water swimming,
  • paddling and
  • triathlons.

Independent Athletes

This proposal does not intend to change the rules of participation surrounding independent athletes.

Schools & Pools

There are many different situations among schools, pools, teams, no teams and athletes.

Coop Teams

This proposal does not intend to change the rules of participation surrounding coop teams.

U CAN Swim

This proposal deploys a comprehensive swim curriculum, U CAN Swim, posted at LAP.SwimISCA.org. LAP is Lifespan Aquatic Programming.

Background Observations:

Shrinking Swimming in the WPIAL

Teams are departing the WPIAL.

Four schools that have been fielding swimming teams in the WPIAL are pulling out of the league. Triple AAA teams of Pittsburgh Allderdice, Pittsburgh Brashear and the AA Teams of Obama Academy and Carrick are shifting out of the WPIAL to reform city-league swimming. 

This is terrible news for all involved: residents, city-school students, swimmers and sports-reform advocates.

Concerns and conversations about this move have been raised with PPS Board of Directors as well as with the transition-team-leader (Jacob Pawlak) for Pittsburgh’s new mayor', Ed Gainey.

Shrinking Population in City and PPS

The City of Pittsburgh and its school district, Pittsburgh Public Schools, has seen its population and enrollment decline for many decades. Families often move out of the district, choosing to enroll in Catholic, private or charter schools or else re-locate to public schools in suburban districts. 


Past triumphs of PPS Athletic Reform are being reversed in 2022 

More than ten years ago, former PPS Superintendent, Mark Roosevelt, created an athletic-reform-task-force. One epic success shifted two of the top performing swimming teams, (PPS Obama Academy/Schenley and PPS Allderdice) out of District 8 and into District 7. 

Two years later, Brashear and Carrick also joined the WPIAL. 

Starting in 2022, all four PPS swim teams are departing the WPIAL, reverting to swim in the city league again, sadly.

  • Obama’s boy’s swim team defeated South Fayette to claim a WPIAL section title its first season in the WPIAL. For the 10 consecutive seasons, Obama’s boy-team qualified for both the WPIAL and PIAA Championship Meets. An Obama swimmer set a new Class AA WPIAL record.
  • In 2022, swimmers from Allderdice and Obama made it to the 2022 WPIAL meet. Furthermore, one Obama swimmer who is home-schooled, made it to the PIAA meet as well, a first-time occurrence since I departed as Obama's coach. 

WPIAL Swim & Dive Championship experiences should remain available to deserving city athletes.

The contrast between swimming in the city and swimming in the WPIAL is enormous.  

Covid's impact upon swimming and sports can not be ignored.

Re-building the sport and aquatic recreation is necessary, especially in certain age groups. Many teens have departed swimming. The ranks for future lifeguards has been depleted. More excitement and demand is building for swimming among the parents and guardians as well as the kids under the age of 13.

Human capital and swimming expertise needs to be rebuilt and fortified.

  • Lifeguard shortage
  • Coaches shortage
  • Officials shortage
  • Swimmers shortage
  • Facility access constraints
Pay rates for recreational positions have fallen behind.

Fast get faster. Rich get richer.

The trend in swimming, as in many other realms in society, is the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

  • In swimming, the fast are getting faster. 
  • In swimming, new participants are becoming hopelessly behind and the novice athlete, teams and coaches face severe disadvantages in race performances.

WPIAL schools have discontinued swimming. 

  • Serra Catholic dropped swimming two years ago.

Swimming participation among teams has diminished.

  • Plum High School has plenty of girl swimmers but only four guys on its team. 

Facility Investments


  • In the year 2000, Pittsburgh’s Citiparks operated 32 outdoor pools. In summer 2021, 8 opened. 
  • A dozen school pools have closed: Schenley, Reizenstein, South, South Hills, Connelly, CCAC, Downtown Y at Blvd. of Allies, Downtown YWCA (x2), Downtown YMCA Salvation Army, Carlow.
  • Many suburban summer swim clubs and country clubs are gone. In the 1990s, the Eastern Swim League had 4 divisions, each with 8 teams. Now the league is with one division.

New facilities have been built. 

  • Thomas Jefferson High School

New, upgraded, replacement facilities:

  • Moon
  • Mt. Lebo
  • Upper St. Clair
  • Peters Township
  • Fox Chapel
  • West Allegheny
  • Beaver Area (rehab started in April 2022)

Swimming is suffering in some sectors. 

The unvarnished truth speaks of some instances that are not flattering in terms of access and inclusions given private clubs, expensive fees and a compilation of ills that go beyond zip code data.

These are the times to be courageous enough to speak of privilege, power and make plans that are not slightly different from what we got today. Systemic changes for some are necessary. Those who have been excluded can’t only play catch-up. And, those who are with successful programs can’t be made less for the sake of mediocrity of equity.

Voices and outrage of dissent to the status quo in these instances are hard to illustrate. One can not point to these characters, because they are absent. None can shine a light upon the the struggles of the 30 swimmers at Perry High School (a public school on Pittsburgh’s Northside), because there isn’t a team there any longer. Programs have evaporated.

The unheard, the marginalized, the often despised are, perhaps, best left to their own ways. Extra heats for those that can’t do flip turns are not situations where anyone wins. Perhaps there is little interest in these people in joining the established meets. Amen. But with more creative, more aggressive, and more thoughtful situations, all can make gains, improve and win.

At times, a divorce is the prudent wathway. This venture and proposal is a practical arrangement that leans upon the established, without getting bogged down and in its way. This arrangement aims for re-uniting the programs back into the fold of the WPIAL and PIAA, as an end game.

Few would think that 30-years from now fertile swimming programs are going to be in facilities and neighborhoods of presently vanquished aquatic spots.

Head injuries.

If the city league comes into being again, what other teams might want to join if we did something special?

No co-ops. Compete as your own school


  • McKeesport.(scored points in 2022)
  • Penn Hills,
  • Valley,
  • Steel Valley,
  • Sto Rox
  • Clairton
  • West Mifflin, (??)
  • Duquesne
  • Seton LaSale,
  • Serra Catholic
  • East Allegheny
  • Kiski Prep,
  • Baldwin,
  • Cornell,
  • Bishop Canevin,
  • Connellsville
  • Frazier
  • Monessen City School District
  • New Kensington–Arnold School District
  • Jeannette
  • Yough
  • Allderdice,
  • Obama
  • Carrick
  • Brashear
  • Sci Tech (apart from Obama)
  • U-Prep (apart from Obama)
  • Perry
  • Westinghouse
  • Propel schools
  • Urban Charter
  • City Charter
  • Environmental Charter
  • Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh
  • Community Day School
  • Yeshiva School

Eligibility for Grades 6, 7 and 8

Other states, Kentucky, do this for some sports, such as golf.

SKWIM and Water Polo in fall

Automatic or qualification entry into the WPIAL AA meet.

Combined meets / Invites

Different events

  • 50-yards of strokes
  • 100 IM

Swimming lesson programs and athletes serving as teachers in those programs.

Swim lesson program can help to finance operations.

to Florida for Jr. / Seniors who qualify for an ISCA Senior Cup meet. Sorta like the Pittsburgh Promise where kid would have to do A,B,C to earn that subsidized trip to a meet.

ith nonprofits have fire in their bellies to make things right. Whatever those things are. They have special glasses and see injustice more clearly. So reason #1: Nonprofit leaders already have the passion to do hard things.

Nonprofit leaders are driven to be very good at their work. To make a real impact. To change the world. Without lived experience crawling all over your organization — including its staff, board, and volunteers — you can’t be really good at it.

Homogeneous thinking and decision-making NEVER drives innovation. Think about that board I described at the beginning. Homogeneous. Their high-level discussions were polite, most folks in sync on issues that could have generated exciting, messy discussion and innovative ideas. That is what is possible. I talk about diverse boards like the best dinner parties you have ever been to. With people so different from you talking about issues from a perspective you had never considered. Respectful disagreement. People building on top of one another’s interesting ideas. Messy in the very best way (hold the food fight).

Nonprofit organizations rely on a volume of people to have an impact. I say that people = power. Nonprofit leaders need to build armies of engaged citizens across all races and identities — because BIG armies affect change. During an engagement, a board member said (yes, literally), “If we can just find a billionaire, we will be successful.” That is just plain not true. Every organization needs to build a movement at the grassroots. And with the changing demographics of our society, nonprofits must engage with diverse communities to bring them closer. There won’t be an army without them.

There are not enough models of organizations that are really getting it right and the nonprofit sector has the intrinsic values built into it to be the model for other sectors. A game-changing kind of leadership if you ask me.

I could say a lot more and my friend and fellow blogger Vu Le has lots to say on this topic, but I wanted to share something with you that my friend Ken Cloke shared with me during my vacation in southern California. Ken runs Mediators without Borders and has mediated gang disputes in east L.A. and with the Cuban government.

He trained me to be a certified mediator.

We were talking about differences, about conflict, about tensions in neighborhoods and around the world, and he said, “It all boils down to this Joan. All of these conflicts and tensions revolve around the concept of us vs. them. And the work of leaders in families, in towns, in nonprofits, and in all those places you find leaders is to keep reminding people that there is no them.”

“There’s only us.”

Want to learn from a growing community of nonprofit leaders and get exclusive access to content from a variety of experts? Click here to learn more about the Nonprofit Leadership Lab.

= = = = = = = End matter = = = =

USA Swimming’s “Developmental Competition Events” are geared towards entry-level athletes. They aim to provide efficient, fun and positive swim meet experiences. In 2023, swimmers can do up to four meets in each of these periods:

January 1 to April 15,

April 16 to August 15, and

August 16 to December 31.

The problem: These events are only for those ages 12-and-under. The I-League events should be for any scholastic age student athlete.

Development competitions may operate as multi-day or multi-session meets. Sessions shall be planned to allow the events not to exceed two hours in length. Athletes shall only participate in one session per sanctioned competition.

Development competitions may be offered at the option of the Local Swimming Committee (LSC), but are not required. LSCs may pick any 10 weeks that fit within the season time frames listed above. The purpose for the larger time frames is to allow the LSCs some flexibility when selecting their specific dates.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Dana Skelton at dskelton@usaswimming.org.

Inclusion & Diversity Camps

Background: Lesson by Hannula: Organize Your Own Clinic

Fitter & Faster, among others, are expensive

Australian example, Tip Top Camp


August slump

Heads into water polo season

Heads into open water swimming (season)

Vacations, for coaches and affluent


First responders





Parole officers

Security guards

School police

Coast Guard

Military people seeking to pass swim tests

Police union

Harbor patrol / River Rescue

College students / swimmers

Community service

Learn & Earn


Police retirements

Lifeguard shortages

Community oriented efforts

PALs, Police Athletic Leagues

Human capacity increases


River rescue

Flash flooding


Empowering with special offer

Access Global Library for ISCA MEMBERS

Proposed, $25 for 4 years, with proof of status / selfie

Department-wide enrollment with club support / sponsorship

LSC swimmers not attending Zones

Sign up in advance

Varsity & JV population

Dumped from sport in Canada

Lifeguards and swim instructors and more!

Group of guests


Camper All stars

Y Team(s)

Church group

After school group

Pee Pee Basketball / Football / Cheer camp group



Summer swimmers in a league / lessons

School district

Lifeguard recruited

Year long recruitment and relationship building

Stories of water, a challenge for reading and perspectives

Host CLUB with ISCA LAP designation


Pre camp

Group of guests given perspectives about water safety, S6.

Benefactors help to subsidize program costs


Returns from ongoing operations of ISCA's LAP

Relationships with staff and swim lessons


GM oversight with executive head coach

First responders step up to coach

Provided with lesson plans

Provided with head coach as GM

ISCA / LSC coaches on contract

Half swimmers and Half guests

20 / 20

Ideal ages, 12 to 14

Activities, To Do

Game play


Water polo

Under Water Hockey

Test sets

Guests kick w fins

digital badges


First Aid

Nipper / lifesaving

Course: I Can Teach

Course: Lifeguard Identity and Volunteering / Careers and Aquatic Jibs

Course: Oncore (meditation)

Course: Paddle

Course: Know Before You Go, social justice

Trams informed, culturally sensitive

Blue mind summit

High quality lifestyle

Turns fear into fun, play

Barriers to participation

Often a captive audience

Stats are scary

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