Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Flavio Bomio: FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee may have molested over 20-boys! - Coaching certification must be overhauled!

Swimming is suppose to be fun not dangerous!

Currently FINA has replaced Flavio Bomio who is suspected; (I am using the word politely), of molesting 20-boys.
Here is a snippet from his resume:

Flavio Bomio of Switzerland was formerly the director of the Bellinzona swimming club in Switzerland and the Honorary Secretary of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee (TOWSC) that is responsible for advising, analyzing, appointing, investigating, studying and recommending rules, regulations, protocols, procedures, equipment and specifications regarding the preparations and execution of open water swimming events sanctioned and organized by FINA, the world's governing body of aquatics.

First off, he obviously wasn't very good at it when you take into account the tragic loss of Fran Crippen due to high temperatures during an open water race in or around Dubai. Also there was that near fatal race at the 2011 FINA World Championships of Swimming.

Secondly, here is a guy that was lauded throughout his career yet he was absolutely the most dangerous coach you could put before a male child if the allegations "...of sexual misconduct with 20 alleged victims..." as posted at the SwimNews are true.

Both our national and International governing bodies are really good at both collecting money and event execution. They are all really bad at certifying coaches and setting up guidelines as to how to protect kids. Sadly, this statement is not hyperbole.

FINA, USA Swimming and the United States Olympic Committee must reboot how they do the business of certification. To do this reboot is simple: first they have to recognize that they are over their heads and the people they are paying to be competent at certifying coaches are as well. As for USA Swimming, do they really have faith in ASCA at this point after having to defend themselves in court?

Governing bodies must engage professional institutes such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) perhaps Sig Sigma, or even the Association of Test Publishers (ATP). They must recognized that training and certification are two different disciplines and must remain autonomous from one another.


The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Standard 1100, defines the requirements of meeting the ANSI standard for being a certifying organization. According to ANSI Standard 1100, a professional certifying organization must meet two requirements:
  1. Deliver an assessment based on industry knowledge, independent from training courses or course providers.
  2. Grant a time-limited credential to anyone who meets the assessment standards.


A real world example of the above: a student in college decides that they want to be a lawyer. They finish their basic studies, apply to law school, get accepted, complete their courses and get a diploma. The next step of the process is to go take the bar exam for their given state. It is here where an independent body steps in and tests their knowledge. Note that the law school did not offer certification but rather a diploma. It was an independent agency that offered the certification not the school itself.

USA Swimming has entrusted the American Swimming Coaches Association to certify coaches. They charge a coach for materials and then they test them from what I hear, in an open book fashion; (Correct me if I am wrong). Subsequently, a certification is then rendered.

Essentially the coach is paying the teacher to be the certification body and that sets up economic conflicts of interest. (Use your imagination here - in other words, why not just pay double and "buy" the certification without doing the training?)

The way coach certification should be done is to have two separate organizations, one that educates and one that validates that education through testing. The certification body could also be the vehicle to which background checks are conducted.

Granted, most coaches come from "mom & pop" swim teams and these coaches are not training to become brain surgeons. I accept that but a lack of competency and ethics for a sport that has so many problems has to be implemented. Joel of the 17th man in a private email said it best with this article:

"This is American sports' Catholic Church moment"
"... Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine. AAU president Bobby Dodd. Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist Bill Conlin.

And that's just since November.

ABC News revealed in 2010 that 36 swimming coaches had been banned by USA Swimming for allegations of sexual misconduct, including molestation and hidden videotaping of children in locker rooms. ..."

I took the photo above of the two brothers: The one on the right is currently diving across the SCAQ Blog masthead. The one on the left is studying to be an architect.


Lucas said...

Hey Tony,

This is another attempt of mine to try to explain how ASCA is actually not entrusted by USA Swimming to certificate coaches. I guess using the example you gave, ASCA would actually be the law school, but it turns out nobody really needs to be certified by ASCA (or pay for the law courses). In order to be able to coach, you actually need to be certified by USA Swimming, passing certain tests (Safety Certifications, Background Check, Foundations of Coaching, and the recently introduced Athlete Protection Training). With the exception of part of the safety certifications (lifeguard training), USA Swimming is actually responsible for all tests (so it would be your bar exam). You can check the link on becoming a coach here: http://www.usaswimming.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabId=1677&Alias=Rainbow&Lang=en

I guess the confusion comes since ASCA also calls its educational levels certification. While I understand the system and think it is more a matter of semantics than anything, it looks like it should just be called that: ASCA educational/achievement levels. Maybe that would make the whole system easier to undertand. One of the links you referred to in the past regarding coaching requirements actually dealt with requirements for new clubs, in which case USA Swimming requires a certain degree of education and achievement (as measured by ASCA).

Yes, I understand the two organizations work with each other in many instances, and there seems to be some overlap here too (the Foundations of Coaching test can be taken with ASCA, and used for USA Swimming as well, but you do NOT have to be an ASCA member to take it, and you have the option of taking the test with USA Swimming instead, for free), but it is not correct to say USA Swimming has entrusted ASCA to certify coaches. ASCA has taken on the educational responsibility, but membership to ASCA or being 'certified' by it is not a requirement to coach with USA Swimming. USAS itself is entrusted with certifying its coaches.

I think you are spot on in many of your expectations from USA Swimming: more transparency, better governance, more of its money going towards athletes and less towards executives, etc. But I think your understanding of coaching certification is not correct. Hope this anology helps, and keep up all the good work!

Tony Austin said...

Go to theis link: http://www.usaswimming.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabId=1859&Alias=Rainbow&Lang=en

There is no coaching job that does not ask for ASCA certification. i.e. Level 1-5

Next, if an association is going to to throw out that fancy word called certification, that in itself implies a "license" if you will. It means you are certified to coach.

Certification is the term they chose and ASCA indeed threatened a coach to pull said certification. If you live by the sword you should die by it. Certify per the standard.

Thank you for the nice words in between. :-)

Tony Austin said...

Go to theis link: http://www.usaswimming.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabId=1859&Alias=Rainbow&Lang=en

There is no coaching job that does not ask for ASCA certification. i.e. Level 1-5

Next, if an association is going to to throw out that fancy word called certification, that in itself implies a "license" if you will. It means you are certified to coach.

Certification is the term they chose and ASCA indeed threatened a coach to pull said certification. If you live by the sword you should die by it. Certify per the standard.

Thank you for the nice words in between. :-)

Lucas said...

Although all (or at least the vast majority of) the job posts you look at list a certain certification level they are looking for, those are there much more to give a ball park of expected experience and education levels than an actual requirement. I have now been employed by two different clubs, both of which listed desired ASCA certification levels, but I'm pretty sure it was never checked (maybe they should have). There are coaches who openly disagree with ASCA's structure, and choose not to be affiliated with it or go through their certification process, but can still get jobs since they have equivalent education in experience. Now that I think of it, even posts at the ASCA website (which I think is a much better resource to find jobs than the job board at USA Swimming) has posts that list: "desired certification level (or equivalent education and experience)".

Looking at your latest post (and reading the story at Swimming World), I see you are not the only one who thinks the process should be better. Their follow up on the story post-press does show that there are a lot of things that are better than they expected, though. Again, I really think there is more confusion due to them using the word certification than anything else. For some reason, it always made sense to me, but I guess that is since I always wanted the education anyway, so just taking the tests and paying for membership (which also has a lot of benefits, IMO) was always a no brainer.

Just as a side story, I am also certified as a strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). If you were to work as a personal trainer, certain gyms require you to be certified, certain ones don't (and certain ones only accept certifications from a few select organizations, such as the NSCA). That certification is only valid for two years, after which I need to apply to extend it (must have earned continuing education units, from various categories, and PAY for recertification - http://www.nsca-cc.org/ceus/recertification.html) or else I cannot represent myself as a CSCS by NSCA. I guess you would also argue that this system is not right. Maybe you are right, but to me it always seemed fair and correct.

Hope you don't think I'm trying to 'school' you on this. I find it hard to avoid sounding (or reading) preachy, but I just thought, as someone who's been not only through the certification processes but also through job interviews and such, I could help shed more light into how the system works (or doesn't?). As for the nice words in between, I meant it.

Tony Austin said...

I take everything you say seriously; you should know that. I don't mind being "schooled - much of the time I deserve it.

One correction, to coach a USA Swimming sanctioned program, you need to have ASCA certification.

I will try to be laconic:

I do think the coaching process should be as bullet proof as possible. I say that because children are involved. The process should have guidelines and procedures that inspire safer, better, training. Also protect both kids and adults from real or imagined allegations. That is the goal!

The bar is higher for doctors and lawyers than it is for swim coaches whose primary concern is CPR, defibrillators, and such so additional fees in my opinion are suspect.

If I am going to criticize, I have to mentioned some better way: I was looking at the Project Management Institute (PMI) as a process model for USA Swimming and I was impressed. PMI has set up a process that is very "free market" oriented. They have over 1,000 educators that have been "sanctioned" to teach the various aspects of project management. PMI does the testing; the vendors do the educating. This allows flexibility, a decentralized educational base, more specialization for different types of students and/or languages, and best of all competition to provide better and more meaningful training.

We talked about process on the deck of Santa Monica College pool. I thought about what we talked about for weeks; (automation versus Chinese labor and the effect it will have on the middle class), I don't see a solid free market process here with ASCA, I see a monopoly "winging it."

For instance, I am a major fan of Glenn Mills, in fact why can't he be a licensed educator and set up a program? this could apply to other coach training modules as well from the Red Cross, AMA, and child protection agencies.

Specialize with a singular organization and you breed in weakness. Diversify specialization and you breed in strength.

Always a pleasure. I take you very seriously. :-)

Lucas said...

You do not need to be an ASCA Certified coach to coach at a USA Swimming Sanctioned program. I'm in my second USAS Swimming team right now, and in my previous team we employed about 10 part-time coaches during the time I was there, none of which were ever ASCA Certified, or ASCA members. In fact, prior to me getting there, not even the head coach was an ASCA member (he'd been in the past, but let his membership lapse for a couple years before re-activating it). Currently, the team I work at has two full time coaches (including me), both of which are ASCA certified and members (the club pays our membership, since it makes registering for the world clinic, which we both attend regularly as professional development, cheaper), but we also have two other coaches who are not ASCA certified or members. Again, both these clubs were and are USA Swimming Sanctioned programs, and following the rules. In order to coach at a USA Swimming program you need to be certified with USA Swimming (check the link in my first comment here).

I agree, though, that there could be more options out there for standardized education. I guess part of the reason I always accepted and followed ASCA's is because they are the only ones that seem to have a progression and benchmarks model, which might also be why clubs simply use it when announcing job openings, even though they are not as strict as actually having the 'certifications'. I am, too, a huge fan of Glenn Mills, and probably use GoSwim as a resource a lot more often than I use any ASCA material, but it's hard for me to use those to build a resume or portfolio, since they are not 'courses', but simply instructional DVDs and articles.

I guess I now have a better understanding of what you are advocating for. It looks as if any organization assumed the responsibility of testing, coaches could choose to get their education wherever they want. However, there are two organizations testing two different things here - USA Swimming serving as the one who allows you to get on deck (passing with them is akin to passing your bar exam) and ASCA basically measuring education and achievement levels (sort of a curriculum evaluation).

Tony Austin said...

I am going to check out the first paragraph you wrote and submit a reference. I am basing it upon job boards and a reference I thought I saw at USA Swimming. I will confirm for sure. I am starting to feel less confident about my assertion.

Next, this was just sent to me by a coach who let his ASCA membership slip and the reply he got back after asking if his status could be reinstated is pretty damning if true:

"...I specifically emailed ASCA and asked, when prompted to renew, if I let it expire, then renewed at a later date, would I regain my status., This was about a month ago. This is what I got back:

"Once, you renew your membership your certification level will be reinstated, as certification is a benefit of membership with ASCA.

Thank you for your continued support and membership with ASCA!" ..."


I am asking for the actual email, headers and all.

On face value ASCA certification must mean something if it is to be "reinstated" but it also suggests that it is something you can purchase to maintain said certification rather than proving your skills current.

That is not an acceptable standard. To reiterate, "..I see a monopoly winging it."

I think USA Swimming should consider the the Project Management Institute (PMI) model. It would bring in more revenue and create better coaches.