Soon thereafter, USA Swimming obviously decided to outsource the job of certifying their coaches to the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA). This action was executed presumably to allow the core management of USA Swimming to focus on event planning and national meets rather than coach education & quality control.
I suspect lawyers recommended the following criteria for establishing an outsourced coaching certifying body:
- Have this professional coaching organization do all the work necessary in creating the best educational swim content as possible.
- Have this organization maintain an ethics code that would be aggressively enforced.
- Conduct background checking of potential coaches applicants so as to protect the kids.
ASCA was suppose to be a firewall of protection for kids, coaches and USA Swimming, but their firewall was evidently made of "dried straw." When news of the Andrew King case suddenly went viral that firewall was as combustible as a match.
To clarify, when the Andrew King news broke I was outraged and went right for the keyboard. A few weeks later I was contacted by a few victims, then I got contacted by a producer at ABC, and suddenly we had two news documentaries regarding the event hit both cable and network TV. I am not stating this to "toot my own horn" I am stating this to illustrate how USA Swimming lost control of a very serious issue that was definitely on their radar for a very long time.
One would expect that the certifying body chosen to protect all those involved would have created such an obvious "bullet-proof" process since that is what they were paid to do, right? As a result of not having those procedures in place USA Swimming is now mired in several lawsuits and is busy doing a job they entrusted ASCA to do.
Here is how USA Swimming coach certification works:
To get certified as a USA Swimming Coach; (presuming you have not been grandfathered in before the Ted Stevens ACT was enacted), you must go to a second party known as the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) for certification.
After paying ASCA a fee for courses, tests, materials and such, a coach is awarded a "level" rated from 1-to-5 that quantifies their accomplishments.
To get a job with a USA Swimming sanctioned club you must have ASCA certification. if you look at the job postings for coaches at USA Swimming or ASCA, these "ninja levels" determine a coach's income depending on which "level" they have attained.
So, send in your money and climb the five rungs of the ASCA ladder and you can command a higher salary.Level 1: Finish a course called the foundations of coaching.Level 2: You learn about swim techniqueLevel 3: Physiology schoolLevel 4: Administration schoolLevel 5: Leadership school and get a swimmer into USA Nationals
Now it gets worse: Once you have attained a particular level you can possibly have your level revoked if you don't maintain that accomplishment with a yearly fee. Here is a letter from ASCA sent to coach who wants to remain anonymous:
I see that you were an ASCA Level 3 Coach. I am sure that is very important to you!
I am not sure if you are aware but you lose your certification level when your membership expires. Meaning you cannot represent yourself as a Level 3 certified coach to parents, employers or potential employers. You have taken the time to get the Level 3 status, why not keep it?? It is important to keep your ASCA Membership current, that is why I am dropping you a friendly reminder that you membership is expired!
Please renew by calling 1-800-356-2722 as soon as possible, so that you may continue your Level 3 Certification status. If you are no longer coaching or retired, we would like know that too!
If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact me.
American Swimming Coaches Association
5101 NW 21st Avenue, Suite 200
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
tel: 1-800-356-2722 / (954) 563-4930
[Wow, I got that wrong! several professional organizations to make you pay to play. My apologies]
To me, ASCA sounds more like a trade union than a certifying body - Who do they represent: The Coaches, USA Swimming or the Kids? It is my belief it should be all three.
On March 19, 2010, I published a post stating that if USA Swimming did not make changes, The US Senate would get involved. To my chagrin nothing happened but now that the Penn State tragedy has occurred, A senator by the name of Robert Cassey from Pennsylvania is now going to hold Senate Hearings on both child abuse and neglect.
From his Press release:
"... I know you share my strong commitment to protecting children and, like all of us, have been troubled and distraught about the child sexual abuse allegations coming out of Pennsylvania State University. No child should ever be subjected to sexual abuse. And no adult should ever turn a blind eye to such abuse. If any of the allegations coming out of Penn State turn out to be true, the gravest of crimes will have been committed against the most vulnerable amongst us.
Unfortunately, I have seen these types of crimes first-hand. I started my career as a social worker in Baltimore – helping at-risk and abused and neglected children. While working with the Baltimore City Welfare Department and Catholic Charities, I saw how child abuse can destroy a family and ruin a child’s life.
In an effort to keep our nation’s children safe from predators, I have spent years – as Chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations subcommittee – working to ensure that Justice programs give federal, state and local law enforcement the tools they need to prevent, investigate, and prosecute crimes against children...."
I suggest in the strongest of terms that USA Swimming send several executives to that hearing and articulate what they are doing to alleviate this crisis in our sport and what responsibility they will take for the failings of what I believe was their "straw firewall."
Finally, it is my belief that the executives of USA Swimming should do an audit regarding how well ASCA has preformed over the years, asked their own coaches as well and asked themselves if there is something better. I suspect there is.
Perhaps coach certification as it is practiced today should be broken up into components such as education, ethical behavior, and investigation. In other words three separate organizations that bid for that contract. This suggestion should be sincerely evaluated and this question should be asked: Is ASCA truly organized enough to be certifying coaches as capable, safe and moral?
To add my two-cents as I usually do, ASCA is an organization that let it's corporate filing lapse in Iowa. Does that fact instill a sense that they are competent "firewall?"
See this post for details:
"...After doing the research, I conclude that Sarah is absolutely correct stating that the American Swimming Coaches Association corporation filing appears to be inactive in Iowa. I won't venture to make judgments on the repercussions or conclusions of what that means but it sure does sound like the American Swimming Coaches Association has some paperwork to do?
Calls to the Iowa Secretary of State office yielded the following answers: Iowa Secretary of State office 515-281-8993 - Pam was the person Sarah talked to and she confirmed the American Swimming Coaches Association corporation status terminated in 1992.
Calls to Florida yield the following answers: Fl Non-Profit Corporations (850)-245-6052 - Mary Ann was the person Sarah talk to and she confirmed the American Swimming Coaches Association foreign non-profit status is indeed located in Iowa. She suggested the Fl Dept of Revenue might be interested in the fact that his Iowa corporation has lapsed. ..."
Rebuttal from Coach Klein:
Coach Ira Klein here, past president of ASCA, VP of USA Swimming and past employee of USA Swimming. To shed some light, or truth into your article. ASCA was created in 1959 almost 20 years ahead of the Stevens Act. It was created by coaches like Councilman and Daland and the late Phil Hansel was the first president. It was and remains an avenue for coach education. John Leonard is the third CEO of this organization. Under his leadership formal education was created as well as certification and a code of conduct for coaches, ahead of the one at USA Swimming.
The problem is that you do not have to be a member of ASCA to work as a coach, membership is completely voluntary. There were never any lawyers involved creating the points you claim. Since membership with ASCA is voluntary there is no way for it to conduct background checks and enforce USA Coaching registration. You put way to much onto the relationship between the organizations.
In all of the things ASCA has done, education, certification, code of conduct, they have been the number one leaders in all sports and the USOC and other NGB's follow their lead. It is easy to pontificate in a blog on what should have happened but I have never seen you anywhere trying to make things better or using your all knowing crystal ball about what should be done. Monday morning quarterbacking is great for the couch potatoes but try getting into the game for a change and putting yourself on the line for others.
And Tony, whether you know it or not you are entwined with SOT and you should investigate the background of the 'anonymous' author of that site. It might turn you stomach to know who you are in bed with.
Coach Ira Klein, proud member of ASCA and USA Swimming.
I am not "in bed with the Splash of Truth" SOT, That was quite a stretch to say that. This post came about through a conversation during a chat I had with a individual with whom I respect. My rhetoric is also significantly different than SOT.
As for coach employment: Please see the job postings at ASCA and USA Swimming which carry a "Level certification" needed to get a job.
See this post I made as well: [Link]
Another reader corrected me regarding having to pay a professional fee to maintain a license. I will correct that paragraph and acknowledge that I was incorrect. Please see the correction above...
As John Leonard, I find him unmeasured as revealed in this dialog between he and I and I find him somewhat crass and angry but that is just my opinion.
See this post I published which reveals letters between he and I some months ago: [Link]
As for making things better with swimming: Yes, I have made things better with swimming; (Thank you notes from ABC and ESPN were real morale boosters). Consequently, USA Swimming really put together a strong reporting and education program. Perhaps it was on the way, but those two shows on both national TV and cable accelerated the process a great deal and that can't be denied. Others have thanked me as well, those with medals and those that support them. Even moms, dads, and victims too.
I want to see a national governing body that spends more than 51% of it's gross profits into the subject of their non-profit. I want to see national team members make a living wage. I was told they now make $36k but I can't confirm. I want to see more reasonable salaries for executive positions and I want a coach certifying body more capable than ASCA. No one has been able to refute that ASCA was asleep at the wheel in regards to validating coaches as safe to put kids in front of.
I appreciate your measured rebuttal - Perhaps ASCA would in be in better hands if you ran the joint.