Friday, February 10, 2012

Swimming World Interview: USA Swimming's rebrands or renames their "Athlete Protection" program to "Safe Sport"

I will be fast and blunt about the rebranding: I feel the name change has been ordered so as to take out the "promissory tone" that the phrase "Athlete Protection" carries. I actually don't fault them for that since I suspect that it was the lawyers who demanded it. With that out of the way, my attention has be drawn to something else.

Susan Woesner gives a lengthy interview to Swimming World Magazine. Deep within the the interview is an answer to a question that some of us have been asking for about 3-years now. That is: having a no one-on-one coach/swimmer policy so as to protect both the coach and swimmer. It is refreshing to hear the answer:
One item that has continually been brought up as a way to better the Safe Sport initiative is to implement a no one-on-one policy where coaches and athletes are not allowed to be anywhere by themselves. The reasoning is that both the athlete and the coach are protected with this type of a policy, as the athlete would then never be in a position to be victimized, and a coach would never be in a position to have a false accusation without a witness. Can you explain why this policy is not in place, and what it would take to get the policy implemented into the code of conduct?

Two-deep leadership is not currently required as a hard and fast rule by our Code of Conduct. However it is addressed by the Athlete Protection Best Practices in three different ways:

2. All swimming practices should be open to observation by parents.

3. Two-deep Leadership: One coach member and at least one other adult who is not in the water should be present at all practices and other sanctioned club activities whenever at least one athlete is present. Clubs and coaches should evaluate their seasonal plans and map out how to best accomplish this strongly recommended guideline.

4. Open and Observable Environment: An open and observable environment should be maintained for all interactions between adults and athletes. Private, or one-on-one situations, should be avoided unless they are open and observable. Common sense should be used to move a meeting to an open and observable location if the meeting inadvertently begins in private.

In order for it to get passed as measure in the USA Swimming Code of Conduct, it would need to be proposed to the Rules and Regulations Committee and voted on by the House of Delegates at the annual convention.
Now, the key phrase within that answer is actually the last sentence: " would need to be proposed to the Rules and Regulations Committee and voted on by the House of Delegates at the annual convention. ..."

So, If the members submit that policy for a vote at the next convention and it is summarily voted down by the delgates then USA Swimming, like Pontius Pilate, would be morally entitled to emphatically state to the USA Swimming members: "Lavo manus meas." I wash my hands of this, the responsibility is yours.

Please make them share that responsibility with you rather than you shoulder that "cross" alone.

Painting-by Antonio Ciserie


Voice of Reason said...

I was honestly appalled when I read this interview with Susan Woessner. USA Swimming has proven unwilling to act on athlete protection issues in the past and this policy shift moves them farther away from accepting responsibility for the protection of our children.

Any good faith report should trigger preemptive protection by USA Swimming for the child and family of the potential victim. Susan Woessner portrayed herself as the victims advocate when she started her job but now she is abandoning that role. If the Athlete Protection Officer (or Safe Sport administrator) is primarily concerned with ensuring due process, then no one is left to defend the rights of the child. This is not a step in the right direction.

We have seen USA Swimming fail dramatically and attempt a cover-up in the Andy King case. This led to more victims. In the Bryan Woodward case they have qualified their actions as "pending a conviction". In the simple cases in Coeur d'Alene and Woodmoor they have actively sought to avoid involvement and have repeatedly violated their own rules. It seems that the Safe Sport move is an attempt to codify what has always been their unwritten policy. It will prove "safe" only for the NGB and only in helping them to avoid true responsibility.

Susan lauds the decision to not tip off a sexual abuser. Police investigations take a long time. Law enforcement only arrests someone when a crime has been committed. A crime presupposes a victim. In our sport that victim would be a child. I for one can not support any decision to use my children as bait.

As Susan Woesnner described it, I believe this new policy would have delayed action and left a predator like Jerry Sandusky on the pool deck.

USA Swimming has once again shown itself as the true threat to every child in the sport.

Anonymous said...

Two coaches and one athlete does not guarantee a safe system. Take for example the Chris Wheat case. The second coach involved (via text) joked with Wheat and advised him to hide his indiscretion.

To use her words, USA Swimming please throw the Safe Sport fish back in the water.

Tony Austin said...

I see your point so let me modify mine: Then perhaps the child's parent should be there or a designated set parents or a parent be included.

Like Judo, every move or hold can be outwitted. The idea is to have people like you and I and the USA Swimming members at large tweak the policies to make it as safe as possible.


Anonymous said...

Within a one week period, two different coaches approached me to inform me that the head coach was awful towards my kid.

As a parent, what could I do? I didn't witness the events. Nobody wants to get involved if it doesn't involve their kids.

The kid doesn't want the parent to say anything for fear the treatment will get worse.

It sucks having to figure out when to say something and when to remain silent. It would be nice if the witnesses would speak up!

Tony Austin said...

I am not psychologist, nor a lawyer, so my suggestion is not professional in anyway. Please note I am just a concerned blogger who has no experience with this topic.

Perhaps ask the parents if they can be specific so you can bring it up with your child. If your child confirms then there myriad of options perhaps. :-(

I am so sorry to be so vague.