Friday, June 03, 2011

Someone Explain: Is ASCA a union, an association or is it a monopoly?

It all started out so simply: USA Swimming was set up as the "National Governing Body" (NGB) for the sport of swimming by the US Government after the Senate recognized it via an act of congress. This act of congress is known as the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act; a federal law that establishes certain basic standards for certifying coaches and governing the sport of swimming.

Here is a USA Swimming link as to how coach certification is done but note you have to go to a second party to get ceritfied. hat second party is the American Swimmers Coaching Association (ASCA): [Link]

Note, the link says that if you want to become a coach certified by USA Swimming and you don't have the necessary educational requirements and experience; (i.e. USA Swimming Member, Safety certifications, coached a USA Swimming club before 1998, back ground check et cetera), you are essentially compelled to obtain ASCA certification. Compelled to go to ASCA

Essentially there is four steps:

  1. USA Swimming Coach Education Requirement. The coach will need the following texts to pass the first year coaches’ test: Progressions for Athlete and Coach Development, Foundations of Coaching, and the current USA Swimming Rules and Regulations. The revised test for new coaches is available online through USA Swimming.

  2. The coach must also have current safety certifications in First Aid, CPR, and Safety Training for Swim Coaches (or Lifeguard Training equivalency)

  3. Completion of USA Swimming Background Check Requirement

  4. Completion of the American Swim Coaches' Association Level 2 Stroke School, and completion of ASCA Level 3 Physiology School. Level 2 and Level 3 may be waived with three years experience working as an assistant in a USA Swimming member club.

Why is it that you have to go to ASCA? Why is it that they get the sole contract with USA Swimming to do this? Did USA Swimming simply offer them a no-bid contract and say "make the coaches pay you too?

Now stay with me and read this really slow:

USA Swimming was legally established as a governing body monopoly for the sport of swimming but how did this make it ok for them to create a secondary monopoly beneath them for coaching?

I have not found any other agency or entity aside from ASCA that can provide the “ticket” to USAS recognition as a head coach even though that is their job.

Now, if you go to the job boards for coaches at either USA Swimming, ASCA and other websites seem to confirm that without the ASCA "ticket" or his ASCA's terminally silly Level one-through-five coaching rank you probably need not bother to apply.

Here is how it works: ASCA has these "ninja levels" that rate a coach from Level 1-5. Now these ratings are essentially star ratings that you would see attached to a hotel score or a movie review and I suspect one's income depends on which level they are.

Level one: You have finished a course called the foundations of coaching.
Level two: You learn about swim technique
Level three: Physiology school
Level four : Administration school
Level five: Leadership school

So, send in your money and climb the five rungs of the ASCA ladder and you can command a higher salary. Does this sound like an old fashioned “closed shop” without formal recognition as a union?

Maybe one of you labor lawyers out there can weigh in. And speaking of lawyers – which I am most decidedly not – if an applicant is effectively prevented from securing a higher paying head coaching job without ASCA certification does this constitute a restraint of trade?

In the 2009 lawsuit TYR brought against Speedo and USA Swimming the Court found the “high end competitive swimwear market” to sufficiently define a “relevant market”, which means it satisfied one of the steps in considering whether there was a possible violation of antitrust laws. TYR had proven that the market was big enough and important enough that actual trade issues were a point of law in this lawsuit.

If that is a relevant market for swimwear then the next logical assumption is that it also describes the market for coaches training especially for the “high end competitive swimmers in the professional, collegiate, high school and club ranks”, who are the target customers for that market.

Since I am not a lawyer – that I am productively employed instead ;-) – I welcome your comments so I can learn if my supposition is “all wet." I don't think it is. I think USA Swimming needs open up their possibly "closed shop" and actually have qualified institutions bid for this responsibility of training coaches.

In fact, I suspect it is a point of law that they should, but please educate me?

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