Have you ever performed in a paid exhibition? Have you ever received compensation for teaching a synchro lesson or judging? If so, you may not be eligible for varsity competition at the collegiate level.
In 1995, the National Collegiate Athletic Association dubbed synchro an "emerging sport." As U.S. Synchronized Swimming drives toward full sanctioning by the NCAA, college-bound synchro athletes need to be aware of the potholes, road hazards and curves ahead. The following notes apply primarily to athletes looking at varsity synchro programs, but USSS supports compliance with these standards for ALL collegiate synchro swimmers.
Don’t Go Pro
As of the 1996 collegiate season, USSS requires ALL college synchro athletes to maintain amateur status as defined by USSS, FINA and the NCAA (Rule V, C, 3, a.-f.). The NCAA’s definition of "amateur" is much more strict than either USSS or FINA. Following are some guidelines to help you determine if you are an "amateur", or have knowingly or unknowingly achieved "professional" status.
- The NCAA says you are a "professional" if you:
- Are paid (in any form) or accept the promise of pay for competing in an athletics contest.
- Sign a contract or verbally commit with an agent or a professional sports organization.
- Use your athletic skills for pay in any form, i.e., you are paid for an appearance in a TV commercial, exhibition, demonstration or clinic.
- Participate with a professional team.
- Participate on an amateur sports team (club or National Team) and receive any salary, incentive payment, award, gratuity, educational expenses or expense allowances (other than competition and training apparel, equipment, and actual and necessary travel, room and board expenses).
- Before enrolling in college, you may:
- Tryout (practice, but not compete) with a professional sports team at your expense.
- Receive actual and necessary expenses from any professional sports organization for one visit per professional organization not in excess of 48 hours.
- Receive a fee for teaching a lesson in the sport.
- Note: Each school is a member of an athletic conference, and each conference may have additional regulations about recruiting, eligibility and financial aid. Ask your recruiter about these rules.
This Clearinghouse won’t win you one million bucks, but it will be the first step toward earning your college education while competing in varsity synchro (or any other varsity sport).
The NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse will certify your athletics eligibility for Divisions I and II. If you intend to participate in Division I or II varsity synchro as a freshman, you must register with the Clearinghouse. It’s best to register after your junior year of high school, though you can register at any time. If you register late, however, you may face delays that will prevent you from participating early on.
Your guidance counselor can obtain the materials by calling (317) 917-6222. Please note that initial-eligibility certification pertains only to whether you meet the NCAA requirements for participation as a freshman in Division I or II and has no bearing on your admission to a particular university.
Each Division III university will certify you based on that university’s particular standards.
Who Can You Call?
Navigating the NCAA highway is treacherous at best. You should never interpret rules on your own without consulting the NCAA or a university compliance representative.
- If you have questions or concerns:
- First, consult with your high school’s athletic director or guidance counselor. Ask for an "NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete" and a "Making Sure You Are Eligible to Participate in College Sports" brochure (they’re free). The guides will answer many common questions, and also discuss academic requirements.
- Second, if you are being recruited, tell the recruiting coach you want to talk to the compliance officer at that university. Discuss any concerns you may have, and ask the compliance officer to discuss any potential problems with you and your recruiter.
- Third, for general questions, contact the NCAA Membership Services division at (317) 917-6222.
Please understand that though you may be eligible to compete under USSS and FINA rules, the NCAA or your university has the final word on your eligibility status.