5 reasons why swim and dive isn’t a popular spectator sport

BYU swimmer Hayden Palmer swims the sixth length of his 200 yard I.M. (Universe Photo)
BYU swimmer Hayden Palmer swims the sixth length of his 200 yard I.M. (Universe Photo)

Packed football stadiums and stuffed bleachers at a basketball game are a common sight, but swim meets fall into a separate category of popularity.

There must be some explanation for the empty bleachers and lack of general fame, but one of the highest viewed sports in the Olympics is one of the less popular sports in the country, especially on the collegiate level. Grantland Reality TV Fantasy League writer Bill Simmons said Olympic swimming is one of the most-watched Olympic sports.

The 2012 Olympic Swim Trials were often held in front of sell-out crowds, or 18,975 full seats in the audience.

This contrast to the lack of excitement and public swim and dive support in the country begs the question of why audiences are only interested in swim and dive when the Olympics roll around.


Swimmers and divers don’t usually appear on American billboards. And news broadcasts don’t usually include information on swim meets. Swimming seems ignored compared to more mainstream sports.

“It’s not as well published,” BYU diver Kevin Dreesen said. “In China there are divers on billboards. It’s just not a big deal here.”

At fault could be more than just the country, but the swimmers as well as BYU swimmers and divers admit they need to make the sport more exhilarating and actively advertise.

“Maybe we should do more of that,” BYU swimmer Whitney Allen said. “Different sports teams do relays. We need to get people to come to at least one meet this year.”


Swim meets involve complicated technical terms and a scoring system that is hard to understand for new spectators. Those watching may have a hard time enjoying something when they don’t understand it.

“It’s a whole other language,” BYU diver Jordan Tuckfield said.


Swim and dive is one of the more individual players sports, even after being considered a team sport. There is an apparent amount of individual work. Swimmers and divers compete as a team in meets but swim or dive in individual events, with the exceptions of the relay races.

“People tend to see it more as individual races than as an individual sport,” said BYU swim and dive fan Kira Taylor.

With many other sports people can watch the whole team for the whole time, but not with swim and dive.


Swim meets can be long, and time tends to slow down for someone who doesn’t understand.

“People who attend swim and dive meets to see a friend end up seeing their friend for a total of 10 minutes out of the three or four hour meet,” Allen said.


In the end American culture may have something to do with the lack of swim enthusiasm.

“We just don’t thrive off of swim meets,” BYU diver Kevin Durison said. “To the majority of the population, swim just doesn’t excite people. Twenty events in the course of three to four hours. It’s not as exhilarating to watch; in fact, it’s slow pace.”

There are still ways to change the status quo. But until those changes start taking place, one option is for people to start attending the sporting events, learn the lingo and encourage others to come. Visit the official BYU swim and dive website for more information and schedule.

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