Professional swimmer Rowdy Gaines takes role of Director of Community Engagement

In late September, the Aquatics Coalition, an alliance of more than 30 water safety, fitness, rehabilitation and competitive sports organizations, issued the following statement encouraging public officials across the nation to reopen indoor pools so their communities can have access to the year-round health and safety benefits of purpose-driven aquatics:

“We have learned that physical activity plays an important role in combating COVID-19, making access to pools and aquatic exercise more critical than ever. Significantly, it is seniors – the most vulnerable to the virus – who rely on pools for low-impact aquatic movement to stay healthy. They, along with those of all ages who rely on pools for rehabilitation or life-saving resources like swim lessons, can safely take part in aquatic activities as the CDC confirmed that the virus is not transmitted through chlorinated water. Pool facilitators are more than willing to work with their local public health officials to reopen with proper safety protocols such as social distancing, wearing a mask when not in the water, and frequent sanitation,” Shana Ferguson, chief commercial officer of USA Swimming and Aquatics Coalition representative, said. “We realize that despite the clear benefits of purpose-driven aquatics, the decision to reopen pools remains difficult. It is the reason the swimming community united to offer its guidance and best practices for a safer return to the water.”

The coalition’s best practices guide to how to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in swimming facilities, while promoting a safer, phased reentry into the pool can be found on their website at

USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport of swimming in the United States, also announced the transition of three-time Olympic gold medalist and USA Swimming Foundation ambassador Rowdy Gaines to the role of director of community engagement.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist and USA Swimming Foundation ambassador Rowdy Gaines will continue his advocacy for the sport as he takes on the role of Director of Community Engagement. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Active as an ambassador of the USA Swimming Foundation since 2011, Gaines will continue his advocacy for the sport and fundraising efforts and will collaborate with organizational leaders to develop and deploy a robust community relations strategy.

“I have had an amazing relationship with USA Swimming dating back to its inception in 1980 when I was at the height of my career as a swimmer,” Gaines said.  “It literally has never stopped. This is another step in trying to give back to the sport that has given me so much the last 40 years. I was a full-time employee from 2003-2008, and I helped start the USA Swimming Foundation so in many ways this is just a continuation of immersing myself in our swimming community… our swimming family.”

During his competitive career, Rowdy’s name became synonymous with American swimming. Between 1978 and 1984, the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and International Swimming Hall of Fame member set 10 world records. In addition to his three Olympic gold medals, he has also tallied 16 total medals, with 12 gold medals, representing the United States at the World Championships and Pan American Games.

Gaines has had a long history with USA Swimming out of the water as well. His work with the USA Swimming Foundation dates to 2003, when he helped launch the Foundation and served as its executive director until 2008. Most recently, he served as the vice president of aquatics for the YMCA of Central Florida in Orlando.

“It would be difficult to find someone who cares more about this sport than Rowdy Gaines,” Ferguson said. “And while many know him as the face and voice of competitive swimming, even more notable is Rowdy’s fierce devotion to increasing swim lesson opportunities for young children. Swimming is a life-saving sport for all ages, and no one embodies that mission more than Rowdy. We are lucky to have this champion leaning in even more with our work here.”

For more information via social media pages, follow the Aquatics Coalition on Twitter and Facebook.

Article contributions made by Valeria Zanetti.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at