Wednesday, June 30, 2010

USA Swimming met with the "Child Welfare League of America" today to create a plan...

...and guess what, there still is no plan. To be fair I am going to post parts of the article favorable to USA Swimming and then contrast that to what, David Berkoff, has decided to do about this topic in Montana.

Also, out of extreme consternation, I have posted the salaries of several USA Swimming execs; (info that was obtained through GuideStar ), as a benchmark of what they are paid versus what they have accomplished

From the in Colorado Springs:

"...Background screening guru Barry Nadell is helping USA Swimming review its criticized program. The NGB also vows to hire staff at its Olympic Training Center headquarters to focus mainly on preventing sexual misconduct, and USA Swimming president Jim Wood is expected to name a special committee on athlete protection later this year.

USA Swimming probably will work with the CWLA throughout the summer, with Wood and executive director Chuck Wielgus serving as the NGB’s point men. New legislation won’t go to vote until USA Swimming’s annual convention in September in Dallas. ..."


September? "...New legislation won’t go to vote until USA Swimming’s annual convention in September in Dallas...." - Ye Godz!, September, and it has to be voted on?

One individual I bumped into at the Swimming World message board, David Berkoff, who sat down at his desk and two hours later came up with a plan to protect kids in his local area. It did not take him 9-months to write nor did he hire a swanky agency to coach him on how to do it, he simply bypassed USA Swimming and decided he would do what seemed best.

NOW! Here is what David wrote:

To: Montana Swimming Board of Directors

From: David Berkoff

Date: 4/12/10

Re: Sexual Abuse

Dear Montana Swimming Board of Directors:

As many of you are aware, ABC News-20/20 recently aired a story on sexual abuse within USA Swimming. The story was not flattering to USA Swimming and certainly overstated the issue of abuse as pervasive for purposes of ratings. And while the story focused on Andy King, a 63-year old Jan Jose Aquatics Club coach with a 30-year history of sexually abusing kids, this story is much deeper. In my opinion, one of the worst aspects of USA Swimming has been to turn somewhat of a blind eye to abuse.

When I was competing, there were two very prominent coaches who were well known to have abused or had sexual relationships with their athletes. Both still are active in swimming and one of these men runs one of the largest clubs on the east coast. That coach settled a lawsuit out of court with his victim, a national team member that I swam with. I also personally knew two coaches who were later convicted of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania. One of these men, John Trites, is now on America's Most Wanted's Top 10 fugitive's list. John was convicted in absentia of secretly videotaping female swimmers on his 100-plus member team in the team's locker room.

I was disgusted enough by the over behavior of one coach (he was "smart enough" to only have sexual relationships with his 18&up swimmers) that I asked USA Swimming to form an abuse committee in 1991. That year and the following year, the subcommittee discussed abuse in USA Swimming and designed the first Code of Conduct as to physical and sexual abuse. I proposed background checks of all coaches, but this idea was rebuffed as technologically impossible at the time. As you know, background checks are required now but this mechanism still cannot discover unreported abuse, civil claims, or ongoing abuse by coaches.

I believe that USA Swimming's culture of quiet on the issue is many-fold. On the swimmers' side, discussion is limited because of our culture's somewhat neurotic approach to sex. We are inundated with images of sexuality on TV yet we have a culture of discomfort when talking about sex in a more candid manner, especially when it comes to abuse or violence. There is also the stigma of being a victim and that lack of knowing what to do when abuse occurs. That was patently clear in the 20/20 story, where one of the victims of Andy King stated that she was told that if she reported the abuse she would no longer be allowed to swim. I feel that the first step to preventing abuse is t to be educated swimmers properly about their rights as athletes when it comes to sexual abuse. When swimmers know that abuse is not right and that they can report it without fear, abuse will be less likely to occur.

On the coach side, there is little in the way of mentoring, training, and remedy. I was lucky enough to have a great coach in Dick Shoulberg as my coaching mentor. He sat me down one day and said several things that stuck with me over the years. He said, at meets, never have a swimmer of the opposite sex in your room alone; always have the door propped wide open; and never, never, never touch a swimmer inappropriately. Pretty obvious advice, I know, but there are few coaches out there saying it.

Dick understood that fact that a coach is in a position of trust and authority that sometimes is even more influential that a parent. Despite Dick mentoring his coaches, he has had two incidents of coach abuse associated with his team. It was discovered that one of his assistant coaches was having a sexual relationship with a 14-year old swimmer. That coach went to prison for three years and it led to a lawsuit. The other coach was John Trites, who was a summertime assistant for Dick. John was actually the assistant men's coach at Harvard when I swam. I was pretty stunned to learn that he had done what he had done.

The long and short of it is--if this kind of incident can happen where the head coach is paying attention and being a mentor, imagine what can happen where there is no one watching! I would recommend that step two is developing a system of specific coaches training sponsored by Montana Swimming, and intra-club mentoring. The MAC coaches plan to sit down at our next coaches meeting and have a discussion about the 20/20 story, abuse in the sport, and come up with our own guidelines.

The third way to prevent abuse is to make sure we, Montana Swimming, follow-up and follow-through on accusations of abuse. For a pedophile, swimming is the Wild West. We are fairly trusting of our coaches and our kids are running around almost naked. Unless we follow-through on a claim, there is little likelihood of an abuser being stopped.

As the 20/20 report discussed, many abusers run from club to club escaping investigation and/or prosecution. I believe that most clubs who suspect abuse by a coach are simply happy to have to that coach leave town after being confronted, never to darken their doorway again. But this does not solve the problem. A club that allows an abuser to go elsewhere is guilty of allowing the next act of abuse to happen. I think we have a moral obligation to make sure that coaches who abuse kids in our LSC are investigated properly, and if there is merit to the claim, that those coaches are prosecuted.

We are in a position of incredible trust and authority. We owe it to our swimmers to make this great sport as safe as practicable. Based upon the foregoing, I propose the following legislation.

David Berkoff
MAC Sr. Coach 

1. Sexual Abuse Policy.

Sexual abuse of children is a serious and unacceptable problem occurring across the United States. Montana Swimming recognizes that swim coaches, officials, and volunteers are in a position of trust and authority over minor children, and that this disparity in power leaves children in a position of being vulnerable to acts of abuse.

As the governing body of swimming in Montana, Montana Swimming desires to use its best effort to prevent future abuse of children in our sport through implementation of the following rules and reporting mechanisms. Reporting of abuse shall be mandatory.

Montana Swimming also encourages all accredited clubs within this LSC to implement its own training and mentoring programs for its volunteers, coaches, and swimmers to supplement this Policy.

2. Montana Swimming Sexual Abuse Reporting and Investigation Rule.

A. Definitions.

(i) "Coach" shall mean any person who is an USA Swimming accredited swimming coach, or any person who is in the process of seeking USA Swimming accreditation to be a swimming coach conducting any act within this LSC.

(ii) For purposes of this rule "Consent" cannot be given by a person under the age of 18.

(iii) "Member" shall mean any registered or accredited member of United States Swimming.

(iv) "Official" means any person serving, in any way, as an official or official-in training at any Montana Swimming sanctioned event.

(v) "Sexual Abuse" shall mean intentional physical contact or touching of a sexual nature without consent of the recipient; surreptitious videotaping, recording, or photographing of swimmers, parents, or volunteers inside of locker rooms, bathrooms, or any other place of privacy where nudity could occur; texting, instant messaging, and oral or written sexually explicit material or comments to a swimmer without consent; or any other act of sexual misconduct that constitutes a state or federal felony.

(vi) "Swimmer" shall mean any athlete member or potential athlete member of United States Swimming found within the Montana Swimming LSC.

(vii) "Volunteer" means any person who has provided services free of charge at any Montana Swimming sanctioned event for the purposes of furthering that event.

3. Sexual Abuse Prohibited; Reporting Requirement.

A. Prohibition. Sexual abuse by any coach, official, volunteer, member, or swimmer against or by another coach, official, volunteer, member, or swimmer, at any swimming-related function, meet, practice, or event is prohibited.

B. Reporting.

(i) Any coach, official, volunteer, member, or swimmer who becomes aware of any alleged act of sexual abuse in violation of this Policy must immediately report the alleged act of abuse to the Montana Swimming Board of Review ("Board of Review") in writing.

(ii) The written sexual abuse complaint to the Board of Review must provide sufficient detailed information about the alleged act of sexual abuse and persons involved, and must include the name of the person making the report.

(iii) Any coach, official, volunteer, member, or swimmer who makes a report of alleged sexual abuse in violation of this Policy in good faith shall not be subject to any adverse disciplinary action by the Board of Review.

(iv) Any coach, official, volunteer, member, or swimmer who submits a purposefully false report of sexual abuse shall be subject to disciplinary action by the Board of Review, up to and including expulsion from Montana Swimming.

(v) Any coach, official, volunteer, member, or swimmer who fails to report a known act of sexual abuse may be subject to disciplinary action by the Board of Review.

4. Investigation; Discipline; Reporting to USA Swimming and Police.

A. Initial Discussion.

(i) Upon being provided notice of a written complaint of sexual abuse, the Board of Review shall promptly convene by teleconference or in person to conduct an initial discussion and review of the complaint. The Board of Review may elect to keep the complaint confidential at this stage of the investigation.

(ii) After the Board of Review conducts its initial discussion, the Chairperson of the Board of Review shall immediately contact the person(s) against whom the complaint has been made, inform that person of the investigation, and notify the person that he or she shall have no contact with the alleged victim(s) of the abuse. Notice shall be given by verbal message and/or written correspondence.

(iii) The Chairperson of the Board of Review may elect to communicate with, or provide notice to, any other person who may be involved in, or necessary to, the investigation of the sexual abuse complaint.

(iv) After the initial discussion, Chairperson of the Board of Review may implement any interim order or decree to: (a) protect evidence or information necessary to the investigation; (b) prevent contact between the victim(s) and alleged perpetrator(s); (c) secure testimony or statements from witnesses; or (d) assure proper investigation of the complaint.

(v) If, after the initial discussion, the Chairperson of the Board of Review believes that the complaint is of the nature that there is an imminent risk of harm to the abuse victim, the Board of Review may elect not to notify the person being accused of the act of abuse, or any other persons involved, and immediately contact the appropriate law enforcement authorities. Involvement of law enforcement authorities by the Chairperson of the Board of Review shall not eliminate, or prevent, the requirement of any investigation of a complaint of sexual abuse by Montana Swimming.

B. Board of Review Investigation and Hearing.

(i) The Board of Review shall follow the standard Board of Review rules and procedures as adopted by Montana Swimming and is responsible for determining the appropriate disciplinary action. The Board of Review may elect to keep the names of the alleged victim(s) confidential.

(ii) The Board of Review shall produce a final report into any complaint of sexual abuse, which shall include: (a) the initials of the victim(s); (b) the name of the alleged perpetrator; (c) the names or any witnesses who provided testimony; (d) a list of documents reviewed; (e) the Board of Review's findings of fact; and (f) any disciplinary action.

(iii) If the Board of Review determines that there is either: (a) insufficient evidence to determine that an act of sexual abuse occurred; (b) the complaint has no merit, or (c) the complaint was made in bad faith by the complainant, the Board of Review's findings of fact shall state so.

(iv) All complaints of abuse shall be forwarded to USA Swimming for concurrent review. Those complaints forwarded to USA Swimming and are found by the Board of Review to be inconclusive, having no merit, or made in bad faith, shall attach a copy of report from the Board of Review to USA Swimming.

(v) All complaints of abuse which are deemed to have merit and which warrant expulsion from Montana Swimming shall be forwarded to the appropriate local law enforcement authorities.

(vi) Any person deemed to have committed an act of sexual abuse as defined by this policy shall be banned for life from Montana Swimming and such action shall be reported to USA Swimming.

C. Training and Review.

(i) All coaches, officials, volunteers, members, and swimmers shall submit to any sexual abuse training and certification adopted by USA Swimming. In the event that USA Swimming does not adopt a sexual abuse training and certification program by the end of 2011, Montana Swimming will adopt such a program.

(ii) Accredited clubs within Montana Swimming are strongly encouraged to adopt internal training, rules, and reporting mechanisms related to sexual abuse.

D. Supplementation of Rules.

(vii) Montana Swimming shall immediately adopt, and use as a replacement to the policies stated herein, any and all rules and procedures related to sexual abuse claims hereinafter enacted by USA Swimming which are inconsistent with the rules enacted by USA Swimming. ..."

Now ask yourself this, should, David Berkoff, be making, Chuck Wielgus', $636,000 annual salary or what?

I want, David Berkoff, on the USA Swimming board or as President and you should too!


Bill Ireland said...

That is a very impressive letter and I completely agree with the idea that he should be on the USS Board as a coaches' representative.

Tony Austin said...

There would be no "Michael Phelps dolphin kick flip turn" without David Berhoff. He is the .Phd of the turn

coach mark said...

A couple of thoughts - what do the execs salaries have to do with anything. While this issue is supremely important it is not the only responsibility these folks have. I actually think they are doing some good things and while the process may not be moving fast enough for many of us. Steps are being taken and their are limits to what can be done without a vote at the House of Delegates. Including the changing of the volunteer leadership. I hope David considers a run for the Board.

I applaud David's work (as well as his swimming career). The recommendation seems to be well-thought out and a great starting point. I am wondering why the policy only applies to interactions at "swimming-related events" I would think the location is much less important than who is involved. Also, nowhere does he state that this policy was adopted by Montana Swimming which I hope is the case
David outlines some sad history on the issue. Settlements have probably happened a lot more often than we know. It is unfortunate those past events were not all prosecuted. We might be a lot further along at this point.

Katie Kelly said...

I just had lunch with a good friend of mine who works in CPS (Child Protective Services). She says that the CWLA has to do with CPS, and has nothing to do coaching in sports. The CWLA and CPS are groups who deal with child endangerment issues, putting kids into foster care, dealing with drug problems, and so on.

I've got some problems with David Berkoff's proposal. I'm not sure if leaving comments on a blog is the right place for this. But for example, David, you're defining "sexual abuse" as anything that is not consensual. Not so. If a child is under the age of 18, it is not consensual.

I couldn't find anything in there about calling the police.

This isn't to say you're not on the right track. But these things really have to be spelled out very carefully. I question the logic behind choosing the CWLA of all groups to "partner" with (sounds like a business deal to me!), but I don't mind waiting 'til September. What the heck, we've waited this long. What's a few months more? Just as long as they get it right. But forgive me for my cynicism. I'm doubtful.

Tony Austin said...

Coach Mark, I hold you in high regard. I just don't think their salaries justify their accomplishments as of late. $636,000 is more than the President of the United States makes.

The Average American CEO makes half of what Wieglus makes:

the Average Fortune 500 company CEOs who actually generate their income via product and serivces, and these are the top CEOs on the planet, make $9-million in bonuses and stock options on average.

It is my opinion that since USA Swimming does not generate income via a purchasable product or service other than certifying clubs and subsequently collecting half of their income from parents of age groupers, I think Wielgus deserves a pay cut for being demonstrably ineffectual in coming up with a child protection policy.

If David Berkoff Blast can do it in two hours, why are they taking 9-months plus?

Tony Austin said...

hi Katie, I guess this issue has to be "crowd sourced" in that we contribute input and move forward as best we can till it's "wired."

USA Swimming is press release and no rules!

Katie Kelly said...

I stand corrected. "Consent" was defined just above. It's hard reading this stuff on a computer screen!

coach erik said...

I have not read deep into the bylaws, but I can only venture a guess that an emergency meeting or vote can be brought forward if key positions agree to the need and it is brought forward to the rest of the board for approval of such a meeting/vote.

This is a great start and needs to be broadcast to every LSC in the nation. Waiting to approve this does nothing to protect our athletes (and coaches). Having other lawyers in your LSC to make sure everything is covered is all that is needed in my opinion.

Coach, if you run, I will vote for you in September.

Erik Wiken
Age Group Chair
Midwestern LSC

Tony Austin said...


Should that be my next post? I am serious.

coacherik said...

Go for it Tony.

livefreeswimhard said...

You on vacation Tony?