Monday, June 13, 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 certified. That 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 USA Swimming recognition as a head coach even though that is USA Swimming's job to certify coaches.

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 coach training especially for the “high end competitive swimmers in the professional, collegiate, high school and club ranks.”

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 to 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?


Sarah G said...

In our society, most people want to know another person's rank. They want to know where a person stands. They have great confidence in numbers. It's especially prevalent with our children. We want to know how our children compare to others. ASCA's system of assigning levels meets obsession our society has and is financially rewarding for them to do so. USASwimming may require ASCA membership of its head coaches, but many other organizationa, even public schools, voluntarily participate. Managers, whether parent groups or athletic directors, want to know how their coaches stacks up, and feel more comfortable if someone with an official sounding name does the assessment. It's the emperor's new clothes. Send in your money, shut up, and play the game is the mantra for most. Except a few "nut cases" like myself.

Tony Austin said...

And therein lies the problem, they made it a "rank" in my opinion rather than a qualification certification. I owe you a phone call.

Anonymous said...

This is actually one of your best posts, in my opinion. You have some very good points and questions, and you have presented them well, without all the normal accusations and attitude that your blog normally sports.

Tony Austin said...

A very smart person helped me write it hence the removal of the majority of my personality which obviously rubs you the wrong way.

Super Coach said...

Great discussion! I just want to bring an additional point to it... Certification - means adherence to some professional standards and KNOWLEDGE. Coaches' education in the US is NOT a formal discipline, in essence anybody can be a coach. In swimming, it is even easier - you pay ASCA, take a joke tests and here you are - a certified coach! No foundations, no certified teachers, no scientific platform. The certificate is based ojn anecdotal stories and opinions of, sad to say, poorly educated ASCA leaders... sorry for possibly harsh comments - but that is a reality... If you want to convince yourself that there is VALUE in ASCA "education" - you may... but it is a hard task...

Tony Austin said...

I agree. I would like to see certifications cover specific individual standards.

I would like to see training materials which you can readily find online or in a library such as a rule book or medical text rather than being forced to purchase materials from a certifying body.

I would like to see group classifications rather than ASCA's "Pokemon-esque" levels 1-through-5.

Classifications should be individualized such as: Can coach toddlers, kids, age-groupers, adults, champions and even masters. Thus, a coach can specialize in all or simply one and not be deemed an inferior coach with a "level-1" status.

The way it is set up now is that a coach has to "level-up" like a "Pokemon" to get the most pay. I do not like that.

Sarah G said...

The classifications are more meaningful than the results of the swimmers.

The coaching standards set by USASwimming are for well organized, medium to large teams. Perhaps the standards improve the quality of some teams. But mostly they restrict the number of clubs who can compete. That diminishes the sport.

With USASwimming small town swimmers, and neighborhood groups, are most likely out. AAU allowed any group to be a team, or compete without a team. AAU provided competition opportunities to many swimmers; opportunities to swimmers who today would not be eligible to compete in USASwimming events.

livefreeswimhard said...

Sarah G. - You are absolutely right. What you just said sums up why the sport of swimming doesn't grow and tends to exclude those who can not "afford" to compete. Allowing any group to be a team would be a great first step.

P.S. - I am a fellow nutcase and proud of it.

Anonymous said...

The ASCA Levels are a complete joke. There are many coaches that are Level 5 coaches because they were simply an assistant coach at a large club or university. The head coach would tell them to "claim" that swimmer so they could "achieve" Level 5 despite occasionally or never coaching that swimmer. The same happens with "achieving" Level 3 and Level 4 too. Sounds like a great system doesn't it!

Tony Austin said...

USA Swimming should do it or a several sanctioning bodies should bid for the job rather than have it handed to the "I'll sue you and your little dog too" organization.

Anonymous said...

Just a couple of clarifications in your argument.

1. You do not need to do anything associated with ASCA in order to be a USA Swimming coach. The link that you include is just one of a couple of options for a coach looking to be the head coach of a brand new team that has absolutely no coaching experience. I do not know the statistics, but I would imagine that this applies to less than 1% of USA Swimming coaches, as most who start coaching are not those starting a brand new team with no coaching experience whatsoever. Coaches who have experience do not need to do anything through ASCA. The way I read the link is that this is a home study option for those with zero experience that either do not have the means or do not want to travel to in person clinics. I am not claiming to be correct in this statement, but I assume this home study option is precisely for those small start up teams that do not have the means to hire an experienced coach. Again, that is an assumption, but I could easily be wrong.

2. The ASCA levels require three components- education, experience, and athlete achievement. They also do have certifications specifically for a masters coach or a college coach or an age group coach. It is not just simply taking an open book test. I think there are many faults with ASCA's certification process, but I did want to point out that it is more than just paying for a binder.

Tony Austin said...

The job listings I saw at the ASCA USA-Swimming job boards demanded ASCA level certification in 100% of the listings.

Athlete achievement is a lame certification standard since an athlete at large would have a greater chance of becoming a starting player in the NBA than becoming an Olympic swimmer. Hence, having an athlete that makes the team can afford to go to Nationals is essentially like "winning the lotto" rather than developing talent. The gene pool is finite.

Anonymous said...

Tony - a rule book does not help because the rules only apply to those without connections.

An example would be Brendan Hansen entering the Santa Clara Grand Prix with times from 5/2008 even though the entry form states that the times had to be achieved after 01/2010. Yet some college swimmers with current times cannot enter.

I was told that times from masters meets cannot be used for USA Swimming, but if your Janet Evans your able to get the results of the meet sanctioned and loaded into SWIMS. Why not grant all masters meets a USA sanction? This double sanction would allow more participation - (that should be the goal of non-profits, but it clearly is not).

These organizations have rules in place to limit participation at all levels from the athletes to the coaches to the volunteers.

Tony Austin said...

I think you answered your own critique.

A coach that is sending a swimmer to an elite meet has to know the rules.

A coach teaching a toddler or a child would obviously have different issues to deal with.

Disclaimer: I acknowledged that you are more qualified in this subject than I am and your opinions have more gravity - BUT - it appears the majority of you, who are all posting anonymously, agree with me on some level but are seemingly unable to voice your opinions in public. This to me is sad. :-(

If you want to topple ASCA for something better, you got to go through Chuck Weiglus via a board that you all elect. He is weaker than John Leonard since Weiglus has a board that can fire him whereas... Ooops, "I might get sued!!!!!"

Sarah G said...

I suspect that when USAS became the governing body for swimming, people assumed it would also be the best organization to run programs for children. It probably was at one time, otherwise how would the big shift have happened. It's now become too expensive for the average swimmer and average community. It may be time for many clubs to shift back to AAU. Leave USAS and ASCA for the 5% or so clubs who have a need for those programs and standards.

Tony Austin said...

Sarah, your are so brilliant. the mision statement is primarily to grow swimming and put forth a national team. Soem where in there the children got missed. They do have a foundation to teach under privileged kids to swim but it is having a sketchy start.

Nonetheless, USA Swimming should not be setting up subsidiary foundations to help one class of kids, they should set up a foundation to assist ALL kids in learning how to swim.

I still owe you a phone call...

Sarah G said...

Tony, I'd like to write up some thing for you to include in a post. It's based on my experience with USAS as a parent and as a swim instructor. It's too long for a comment, but not quite related to my blog. Maybe you can add to it or edit it or call me to discuss it.

Do you know what the "I'll sue you and your little dog too" organization is up to? I haven't heard anything.

Tony Austin said...

I am always open to guest blogs

Anonymous said...

Criteria for full ASCA Membership includes an agreement to abide by the Code of Ethics.

The code of ethics and conduct includes Article #2, "All professional communications shall be conducted in an honest, open manner consistent with the best interests of the sport and profession. Integrity is a basic part of coaching, whether financially or in dealing with swimming events and entries."

Is John Leonard ASCA certified? Did he abide by this code of conduct when berating Sarah and Tony for stating the FACTS.

A 501(c)(6) organization must make available for public inspection, upon request, its exemption application, Form 1024 along with the following documents:
all documents submitted with Form 1024.
all documents the IRS requires the organization to submit in support of its applications; and
the exemption ruling letter issued by the IRS.

The historical basis for a 501(c)6 states "In so far as these organizations succeed in their purposes, they increase the incomes, not of themselves, but of the individuals in their communities, irrespective of membership in the organizations".

Basic characteristitics of a 501c6:
- Its activities must be directed to the improvement of business conditions as distinguished from the performance of particular services for individual persons;
- Its primary activity does not consist of performing particular services for individual persons.

In the following situations the 501c6 exemption was denied:
- An organization that promotes the publication of its members writings.
- An organization that furnishes particular information and specialized individual service to its members through publications and other means to effect economies in the operation of their individual businesses.

The rankings are a joke. Why shouldn't the wonderful, kind, ethical coach who enjoys working with younger swimmers achieve a ranking other than a 2?

According to most of the ASCA job postings, salary is tied to the ASCA level.

Another problem is the fact that the public does not have access to determine whether or not a coach is, in fact, certified. Once again, we're suppose to believe what we are told.

Tony Austin said...

Your last paragraph blows me away. That;s like telling a cop you have a drivers license rather than showing him and he has to believe you.

Anonymous said...

For several years, I have questioned ASCA and their certification process. I once asked ASCA the question, "If I was working at a swim camp, took a group of kids to a meet and was the 'coach of record' for those swimmers, could I 'claim' their achievements as part of my ASCA certification?"

The answer I got was - YES.

This bothered me. I explained to the ASCA rep that I had only been working with the athlete for 2 weeks, but yet I could take "credit" for another coaches work. How is that honorable?

As previously mentioned, there are many cases of coaches being certified to a new level because they inherited some talented kids. They didnt develop the swimmer(s), only inherited from someone elses work.

IMO, if a good coach who does a good job of developing a swimmer, and the coach moves onto another job, said swimmer will continue to be successful for at least 6 months before the new coaches training really begins to take effect. This is my opinion.

So, if a new coach comes in, that coach should be required to have worked with an athlete for a minimum of 6 months before being given any "credit" for that athlete's development. Then one will be sure if they really know how to develop swimmers.

Other than a newsletter, which always arrives sporadically, what has ASCA provided?

I have never been to a World Clinic and from what I understand, there isnt much to learn, until you go to the bars with coaches and throw back some tasty beverages.

As for USA-S, in terms of programs for athletes, perhaps the best things they have come up with of late include (in no particular order) - over-distance events for 14/Unders, IMX program, VCC program (although bigger teams will always be at the top), Club Excellence (I am proud to say that my club of less than 40 swimmers earned Bronze and finished in the middle of the pack, beating out some very large programs with amazing facilities) and Club Recognition (I learned a great deal about organizing my team when I conducted the Club Recognition paperwork).

There are other things finally being done right (or better) - Open Water Safety legislation, Water Safety Awareness, but the reality is some folks have some cleaning up to do.

USA-S became and organization separate from the AAU because of issues of corruption, if I understand the verbal history I have been given. Now, through a lack of accountability, intimidation, etc. USA-S has lost its way.

Its time for USA-S to be righted and I am sure the convention in Jacksonville will be entertaining to say the least.

Its time for a true coaches organization to be formed, with credibility which recognizes the struggles coaches go through to develop success in their swimmers and their teams.

Super Coach said...

I completely agree with your conclusion that ASCA certification and "levels" are created with one purpose in mind - to make easy money. Educational value of ASCA courses - is very questionable.

Legal and business issues apart, there is a bigger problem which we need to consider: it is not just a monopoly, it is a monopolistic organization involved in educational activities. As such, it is entirely up to ASCA leaders to decide what is good and what is not for USA swim coaches. Monopoly in education is a sure path to degradation since no new ideas coming outside of ASCA circle (i.e. – not making money for ASCA leaders) are allowed. ASCA manuals are about 30 years old and are based on very outdated sources and information. ASCA leaders are simply averted to new ideas which are treated as threat to their “leadership” and existence.

Just think about it for a moment: ASCA leaders today filters and cooks the knowledge which is offered to coaches. So, where this knowledge is coming from? Possibly from research they conduct? Or through partnering with sports science and training methodology experts? Unfortunately, none of this is the case…

This situation should raise questions about educational level of ASCA leaders as well as openness and integrity of educational sources. John has to decide whether he is a manager of a professional organization or servant, educator and contributor. Right now – he is the one and only. Which leaves all of us – well, doomed…

Tony Austin said...

Awesome. Your comment makes me want to package all these intelligent and well stated comments and send them to USA Swimming for comment.

Anonymous said...

Tony, while you're at it, find out why USA swimming website states, "In order to join USA Swimming, you must first join a USA Swimming sanctioned club."

Wow! What if a person can't afford to join a club?

Many athletes continue their USA memberships even though they're not attached to a swim club.

Is this a preview for what's ahead - unattached athletes can no longer participate?

This requirement is another way to limit participation - anybody should be allowed to join USA Swimming without joining a sanctioned club!

Once again, a rule put in place to bring money into the clubs!

Tony Austin said...

I want to bundle all these comments and send them to someone there. However, when I went to the USA Swimming contact directory there is no sort of Coach Certification Chair nor a Coach Rep. I kid you not:


So, as you can see nobody is overseeing the coaches or the coach certification program which is bewildering since that one of USA Swimming's duties.

I would love some suggestions: I am leaning toward contacting: Sandy Vollmer: 719.866.3575 - the Member Services Program or Manager or Mike Unger: 719.866.3547 - the Assistant Executive Director. Both of these people are listed under Business Ops/Member Services.

The premise will be that there is apparently severe discontent with ASCA and USA Swimming should perhaps look for a solution or an alternative.

How does that sound?

Super Coach said...

Tony, while you are absolutely correct about the need to bring this (and other!) issue to the attention of USA Swimming, reality is that USA Swimming IS NOT interested in coaches' education, does not have specialists or resources in that area and believes (and I am quoting national team director) that education of coaches is a prerogative of ASCA. USA Swimming is in business to select and support national teams, period. USA Swimming does not currently employ one single specialist with sport science or sports education background (unlike any other national federations). With all the legal mess in the USA Swimming, regular coaches' needs are hardly a priority.

This internal situation in the USA Swimming allows ASCA leaders to do whatever they want and basically control the field.

Long story short: in my opinion, the only person who really has the power to make change is a new National Team Director Frank Busch. I have a lot of respect to Frank, but I am afraid that just 12 months before the next Olympics, anything other then national team preparation is hardly a priority to him, fairly so. From the other hand - Olympics can be used as an excuse to keep "Status Quo"... After all - our leaders are comfortable... They have no reason to change ... So, I do not know the answer. But I would most definitely will not rely on current monopoly to change itself. it is not going to happen that way.

Anonymous said...


I am not employed by USA Swimming and am by no means an expert, but I will do my best to answer some of your questions.

USA Swimming is divided into geographical branches called LSCs. I believe you swim Masters, and these are similar to LMSCs. Each LSC has a registration person who handles monitoring coach certifications. Some are paid positions hired by the LSC, and some are volunteer position. There is a registration chair workshop at convention, but I cannot tell you the percentage of registration chairs who attend.

Each LSC also has the option of having a coaches rep (in all of the LSCs where I have worked, the coaches voted on this rep), and each coaches rep has a vote at the USAS convention.

The anonymous poster who said that ASCA levels are not public is incorrect. I have been a member of several coach search committees, and every time we have called ASCA to check the levels of our top candidates, we have received an answer. This has never been a problem.

I also want to point out that USA Swimming has an outreach program to help underprivileged athletes participate in the sport. In one of my old LSCs, the USAS registration was dropped to $5.00, and the LSC reimbursed meet entry fees. Obviously it is up to clubs as to whether or not they will reduce dues, but I know of several clubs across the country that have financial aid.

Tony, I am not sure if this helps or not. I am also not completely clear of the questions you are looking to ask USA Swimming, so I am not sure who to suggest calling. If you can give me a better idea, I will try to make suggestions based on my own personal experiences.

Tony Austin said...

What I want to do is bundle these comments and forward it to the person in charge of interfacing with ASCA. I think they should understand the tremendous discontent with ASCA. My only request will be for USA-S to look at these messages and either audit ASCA, or have coach certification be a bid for contract rather grandfathered in monopoly.

USA-S is an organization primarily funded on the backs of 12-to-14-year old kids. I will take your word on that they are assisting lower income kids but I am also hearing form coaches they need to do more.


Tony Austin said...

Super Coach: Thank you for the compliment. It's obvious I have very little understanding how the organization is run but when you look at the USA-S directory it did surprise me that they seemingly have no one to interface with the organization that is educating their coaches.

I was told by a very bright person in the industry that if change is going to happen with ASCA, it has to happen at USA Swimming first. That the CEO has to hear from you and the board has to hear from you too. Thus, if the board gets the idea that this is an issue that can get them voted out, it will be that moment when change will happen.

Anonymous said...

To list a position in the ASCA job service: Step 3 - We STRONGLY encourage all coaching positions listed in ASCA's job service to request an ASCA certified coach in their ad. (Does this sound optional!)

If I am wrong and the certification levels are public, I apologize. I was under the impression that only members or employers could request this information.

The number is 1-800-356-2722. I'll give it a try. With modern technology, a website listing would make more sense.

Anonymous said...

The term "education" in swimming is a bit of a misnomer; in the sense that with regards to stroke technique and the way to swim a race you can't tell me there is one, two or even three ways that are the only ways to do things. Even physiology can be interpreted differently, people look at the same sets of data and come up with different answers all the time. Thus education is on coaches themselves; for instance I take it upon myself to watch other teams during warmup, their stroke techniques and whether I see certain things that continually appear, and I read alot on things that effect the body. I have chosen to NOT take the level 3 class, but that doesn't mean I'm not educated on the subject matters, rather I've taken the old fashion way and educated myself instead of paying some gasbag money to "teach" me some hard fast truths. I just wish more coaches would see this.

Tony Austin said...

As a swimmer my coach told be to look when I swim free and I swim faster. The head down thing does not work for my body type.

I have very tight shoulders and a challenged streamline. When i look up, I can start my catch earlier.
Thus, I like your point of view regarding interpreting physiology.

Anonymous said...

I just phoned ASCA to confirm certification for particular coaches.

I was told the request had to be in writing and that the information is not public information - the information in available for employment purposes only.

Tony Austin said...

"Employment purposes only..."

So, you can only be identified as an ASCA coach if you are validating a resume.

Also, takes a week to find out by mail.

Also, it validates that ASCA is a de facto passport to employment

Sarah G said...

There are things that can't be measured.
Back in the 70s, there were no automatic timers. You had to get your splits from your coach. My college coach's (level 5, and this years ASCA Hall of Fame inductee) most memorable statements to me, "Oh, Sarah, did you swim in this race; what lane were you in?"
She inspired me to switch to rowing.
On the other hand, my favorite coaches never got an ASCA rating and, sadly for new swimmers, are now longer coaching. I hear they are now an artist, a musician, and a dentist.

Those with the most heart don't seem to last.

Anonymous said...

All interesting posts, all pointing to the obvious flaws of ASCA's education system. One model I think we should look at is perhaps Australia, whose coach education is WAY more stringent from what I understand (again, this is from my chats with Aussie coaches, don't know firsthand). Even if the system is more in line with proper and systematic education, there STILL is always going to be a hierarchy of sorts within the organization, just the way it is.

I myself am an ASCA coach, Level 5 (both educated AND from swimmer performances, no shortcuts or political bs), and I DO think there are some merits to the Level schools. The handbooks contain some info that was indeed in there 30 years ago, but much of it has been updated over the years as well, just want to throw that in.

So if people aren't happy with ASCA, why doesn't someone step up and start the "US Swim Coach Educational System" (or whatever). As with ASCA, there would have to be some meetings with USAS to try to make this an alternative educational option, but this has already been done with the example of the safety requirements that USAS requires (ex: CPR not having to be JUST by American Red Cross, but also accepted by the American Heart Association).

I don't mind reading about the pros and cons of ASCA and USAS (they both vary a great deal), but unless I start seeing some great ideas on how to make the system better, it's beating a dead horse...

Enjoy the blog!

Tony Austin said...

Could you send a link. This sounds awesome!

Tony Austin said...

HAAHHA - I was just reading all this comments one more time through. God, I am so stupid compared to all of you.

Anonymous said...

Here's the problem:

For most people, the health and welfare of their children IS the most important thing in the world. Parents sacrifice alot to provide opportunities for their children.

When people hire contractors, electricians, plumbers, lawyers, etc., they are advised to check the licenses/certifications of the people they hire. This information is available online.

If an ASCA certification is so important, I would think the ASCA certified members would want their certification levels publicized and encourage people to look up the information, otherwise, anyone can claim to be ASCA certified.

Sarah G said...

Based on the comment of anonymous, I posted a strawman concept for a Swim Coach Education Alliance. I previously have focused on issues with my school district, but I continually get pulled in the swimming direction. I hope people will go to my blog and comment. I have been out of swimming for decades (except teaching a few lessons). But sometimes it takes an outsider ...

Tony Austin said...

I have a very serious question for all of you coaches. You can either post here anonymously or send me a private email. Note: If you post anonymously I will not know who you are and there is no way I can find out.

Here goes:

Have any of you coaches been denied a USA Swimming coaching credential because of what I perceive as the ASCA monopoly?

Were you force to join ASCA so you could coach a USA Swimming Club for a living?

Were you denied a coaching position because your ASCA level; (level 1-5), of accomplishment was too low?

Finally, were you denied a job at all because you would not join ASCA or did not have an ASCA credential?

I am preparing a letter...

Anonymous said...

I have never been denied a USA Swimming coaching credential because of ASCA; that is absurd. I was never forced to join ASCA. I was never denied a coaching position due to my ASCA level. And I have never been denied a job due to anything related to ASCA.

Tony, I know you have good intentions, but you are way off base on this. There are many elite coaches who are members of ASCA and many elite coaches who refuse to be a part of ASCA. Their relationship with ASCA has never had any affect on whether they were chosen for national team staffs or given awards or anything else.

To the person who said that USA Swimming is relying on ASCA for coach education, that is simply false. Have you noticed how much more USA Swimming has offered over the last five years in terms of coach education? Just to list a few- free online seminars every two weeks (yes, some ASCA members have given some of the talks, but the vast majority are club coaches), numerous Regional coaches clinic ($60 for one coach or $120 for your entire staff); they will even send one of their sports performance consultants to your club FOR FREE and talk about the topics that YOU CHOOSE regardless of the size or competitive level of your club. They offer to run swimposiums for your LSC that has an education track for swimmers, coaches, and parents. They have sport development consultants that are on the road over 120 days per year doing club visits, again addressing topics that the coaches choose. For board members, there is the Club Leadership and Business Management School which is offered numerous times throughout the country (again this is FREE). Every year clubs are sent several free DVDs ranging from race footage at nationals to coaching developmental/ entry level swimmers, to coaching open water, to designing a parent education program (in conjunction with some of the other NGBs). If you notice a pattern, almost all of this is FREE.

While neither organization is perfect, I have seen a tremendous push from USA Swimming over the past 5-7 years on coach education, parent education, and club management education. While they have partnered with ASCA on some things, the vast majority has been independent of ASCA.

I appreciate your passion for improving our profession. My suggestion is to redirect your energy towards the flaws in the ASCA certification process. It is horrific to see coaches who haven't done anything in 20+ years still be a level 5 because they had one talented athlete a few decades ago and still ride those coattails. For the clubs that continue to hire these coaches, shame on them for not calling references. And shame on any club who would ever hire someone solely on an ASCA level. To me, this is a greater sign of club instability and would be a big warning flag to me to run the other way.

Anonymous said...

If you are really looking for coaches whose careers were affected by not joining, or were force to join ASCA, you should probably make another post focusing on that. Right now your request is buried in the comments of last weeks post.

Tony Austin said...

I am flattered by your compliment and you provided a very thoughtful comment. Normally I would have said "you showed me," however, my personal experience with the ASCA "boss man" was quite negative and is definitely getting in the way of agreeing with you.

You are obviously a coach with what I am guessing is a lot of experience. I suspect you read through the lines of my question and made a very fair rebuttal. Yes, I am up to something.

Keep in mind that you have written to someone who was threatened aggressively and even name called by what appears to be the sole proprietor of ASCA. I found the man to be boorish and seemingly unable to manage his business papers.

The fact he apparently has a certification stranglehold leaves me to believe that the job of certifying coaches should go to the better organization and I am sure there is one out there which is more preferable to "grandfathered in" monopoly. I would even accept USA Swimming to do it.

Your mileage obviously varies.

Ever since I have started this blog I have been told to work through the swimming organizations to get change implemented. It doesn't work. Look how many people here post anonymously and that leads me to believe that people have too because of the politics.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarah G said...

I agree with the anonymous comment that shame on the clubs who require ASCA certification.

Maybe USAS doesn't require coaches "in good standing" to be certified. But I inquired about having my students participate in a USAS meet last year and new coaches must go through ASCA. USA Swimming was very informative, very willing to work with me, and even offered to override the LSC vote required to help me operate a summer season from May to Sept. (Alamo Area Aquatics Association has 75% of the swimmers in the South Texas LSC, so makes 100% of the decisions. It is headed by Northside ISD Aquatics Director Scott Zolinski. This guy can't take a dump w/o permission from John Leonard. He was the one to identify me as the author of the Curb Northside ISD blog, and gave my email address to John. So all those emails you posted were due to douche bag extraordinaire Scott Zolinski.)

Back to USAS. Awesome customer support. The problem was the disconnect between my needs and USAS mission. The anonymous author obviously has the elite team USAS wants. That's great. It's a good fit for him. USAS obviously serves the needs of many clubs. That doesn't mean it serves all swimming needs. Why should the rest of the country should try to work with USAS?

Tony, it seems you belong to an elite club, so we have different motivation for wanting to see different organizations in charge. But believe me, there are a huge number of swimmers left out of competitive swim programs that were included 20 years ago in AAU. It's odd when other sports programs have ten-fold or more participation rates since the 70s, yet swimming has a marginal increase.

Anonymous said...

The Houston Swim Parent email is not appropriate for this thread. This is the result of a very heated and passionate battle between a strong willed board and a strong willed former coach; it has nothing to do with ASCA or their terrible certification process (Sharon has had dozens of athletes score at nationals over several decades and knows her stuff), and many of the accusations made from this swim parent are slander.

Tony, I ask you to reconsider posting an angry swim parent's email with false information. I also thank you for going after ASCA. It has been a long time coming.

Tony Austin said...

I think you may be right. I will delete the comment.

Houston Swim Parent said...

Tony, if you're going to censor me, you should probably censor those posting made-up fluff as well. "Sharon has had dozens of athletes score at Nationals..." Oh yeah? I'd like to hear you name those "dozens". I'd be impressed if you could name even, say, 5!

Sarah G said...

I read the comments by Houston Swim Parent before you deleted them. I wrote a post on my Curb Northside ISD blog addressing the high cost of swimming.

To Houston Swim Parent: I disagree with about attributing the blame to ASCA's flawed certification process, but I may have addressed your underlying issue. If you are still following, check out

Tony Austin said...

Swim Houston, everything you say I may be potentially liable for even if it is 100% true.

I think you have a lot to say; a lot of valuable things to say but I feel you could accomplish more by measuring your words and talking in specifics perhaps with references attached as well. Currently your rhetoric is way to hot even for me.

I hated the fact that I had to delete your comments. I have never done that before and the frustrating part is that I believe all of the stuff you said could have been packaged in a way to make the point and not get either of dragged in court to validate your points of view as true.

In my opinion the courts do not like bloggers. So, since we can't plead the 1st amendment, we have to either plead the fifth or put up demonstrable, bullet proof, verifiable, evidence and links to back up what we say. That is what I am asking you to do as a favor to me and the readers.


Chris DeSantis said...

FYI for everybody Sharon Power was Ian Crocker's club coach when he was growing up in Maine.

Anonymous said...

Houston Swim Parent - Don't feel bad - a couple of my comments were deleted as well!

Tony Austin said...

What a "troll" comment and it is certainly not true - I have a history of posting everything, even comments calling me out or blatantly insulting me. In fact, I posted your "troll" comment as well.

Swim Houston had the courage to use a moniker that could easily lead to their identity been outed. Only stuff I deleted contained names and opinions SH wrote that I felt were too hot an not easily verified on my end. In fact, I made that publicly known. Other stuff I deleted is spam.

Anonymous said...

WOW! I had responded to Houston's post regarding the high cost of swimming in my area and the fact that many people who are NOT underpriviledged cannot afford the club fees.

When you deleted her comment, mine was deleted as well - just saying!

Sarah G said...

Tony, I hope your not taking any troll comments to heart; actually, the one you called troll didn't seem so bad to me. I just figured out how to enable comments yesterday and got called a "malicious, vicious bitch" within hours. A bit shocking. I had to remove the post and post an edited version of it to remove a coaches name. I'm not sure of the ethics or protocol for that. I believe we have touched a raw nerve, connected to a dozen other raw nerves, and can expect more personal attacks.

Tony Austin said...

Sorry, my bad anon. :-(

I get all the anons mixed up. :-(

58 degrees is awesome! Thanks for the link. :-)

Parents need to know that it is easier to become a pro golfer then it is to become an Olympian and that both USA-S and ASCA are doing nothing to stop or encourage colleges from shuting down their swim programs thereby lessening a child's chance at a schlorship.

I hate the fact that swimming probably costs more than tennis.

I am in San Francisco typing on a nook

troll said...

With the money they're raking in, they should help fund some of these college programs!

Sarah G said...

Troll, glad you didn't get discouraged from posting. And you now have a way to distinguish yourself from other anons.

Cliff Murray said...

Without reading through the whole thread of comments I just thought I would put in my 2 cents, and I am by no means an ASCA apologist:

You can take all 5 levels of the ASCA courses, but that in no way certifies you as an ASCA level 5 coach. There are also performance standards that must be met in order to reach each of the levels 3-5. If you have a swimmer achieve NAG10 ranking, or if you have a swimmer achieve a Jr. Nat cut that gets you level 3 (if you have also completed the tests through level 3).

There are achievement based standards for level 4 and 5 as well. They are arbitrary, but they do provide some basis for a "ranking", which is needed to a certain extent if you are going to determine a coach's worth monetarily.

Having said that, I think that the SWIMS database could be used for much of this. Indeed, we already award Level 1-4 teams and Bronze, Silver, and Gold teams. Why not attach each swimmer to a registered coach on each club. The greater your percentage improvement, the higher your ranking.

There could be any number of ways to tie coaches to the performance of their swimmers, but this is just the most obvious.

Let me know what you think.

Mariners Blog said...

WOw, while I have not read every single line here, both asides bring up great points. I suppose my $.02 is this. At least ASCA is putting a product out there, you may not like it, but it is the only one. To take it one more step, if you are not willing to help or change then you don't get to complain about it.

I find that many experience coaches like ASCA and the conventions because it is a lot of shop talk for coaches that are very interested in thier craft. The tests are a minmal guidline and attempt to direct coaches in a good progression. I agree that they can be sophomoric tests(in that they claim to be the best, but are really rudimentary). ALso in order to actually achieve a "ranking" of 3 or higher you ahve to have physical results as well.(you swimmers swimming at certain levels)

However I have also taken all of the tests and find that snippets are very helpfull. As with all of thier classes, you can find something to use.

If ASCA is a truly poorly run program, the coaches that are in volved with ASCA would not be involved.

Bottome line, I think it is a good place to keep the coaching community involved with each other. Especially on a national level.

I have my gripes with ASCA and its testing, but at least they are providing a service. Is it perfect, no, but nothing ever is.

Tony Austin said...

They have an inferior product but Have been granted a monopoly. In no other industry recognized a standards institute allow a an educational body the right to certify as well. The obvious is reason is a conflict of interest.

You want a great product or an educational resource, in unparalleled. They should be doing the training and a separate testing body should be doing the certification.

Anonymous said...

Mostly everything from Level 3 school book is taken from Doc Counsilman's book "The Science of Swimming" original publication. ASCA is about as original as Milli Vanilli is to music. I used to work for SwimMAC Carolina and we went to a clinic last year and it was a joke. They were teaching such outdated, one sided material from the early 2000's. What fast swimmer has John Leonard produced? Internationally? Nationally? He's always on deck at the big meets, but what is his true credentials as a swimming coach? On the DVD he portrays about as much teaching ability as a newbie coach, why does he get to decide on who "meets the requirement" He even admits he was at one time a track and field coach. I feel ASCA is a disservice to Coach Counsilman's name and service to the sport.

As a coach, the further I step away from this ranking system, the better I get and more I appreciate and love the work. I meet a lot of egos on deck and a lot of unethical coaches who are so NEGATIVE toward their athletes it is astonishing. I wonder how the kids we coach would "rank" us?

Tony Austin said...

Very astute and a great catch - USA Swimming needs to hear this sort of stuff.

Regards, and Bravo!

Anonymous said...

You have to be a member of USA Swimming to compete in USA Swimming run meets. That does not mean you have to be a member of a USA Swimming affiliated team. There are plenty of athletes who are athlete members of USA Swimming and are not affiliated with a specific team. USA Swimming refers to such athletes as "Unattached". The only barrier to entry is the yearly $45.00 and the opportunity cost of filling out the application.