Thursday, August 09, 2012
USA Swimming has '2012 Swim Trials, LLC' choose the Olympians. Few swimmers realized they were swimming for a private company.
Never under estimate her. She called out John Leonard for a faulty corporate structure and he had to admit she was right in a deposition and now she outlines how USA Swimming operates and what they are getting wrong. It might surprise you especially her take on the sex abuse cases.
I promise you this is a good read and quite enlightening. I will include my comments in the comments section:
What’s the Problem with Swimming -- Sarah Gjerstad
Recently John Leonard made a statement that “Ms. Gjerstad had a complete misconnection with SwimAmerica, ASCA.” He may be insulting me, but due to his limited proficiency in English, I’m not sure. I am tempted to revive last summer’s battle with him. It was emotional satisfying to write a blog pointing out the lunacy and failings of someone who gleefully threatened Tony and me with lawsuits. Satisfying, tempting, but no longer productive. It’s time to move on.
From the lawsuits, blog posts, and comments many are dissatisfied with the programs controlled by USA Swimming. This includes club swimming, coach certification, and lack of professional opportunities for swimmers.
What is causing these problems? Is it USA Swimming? Where should people send complaints? As usual, I have an opinion. Ever the contrarian, my opinion might surprise many.
It’s easiest for me to address weak complaints, and organizations that are not responsible.
The USOC [United States Olympic Committee] has selected USA Swimming as the National Governing Body (NGB). The NGB has the authority to choose the team for international competitions, represent the US in the international sports federation, conduct national level competitions, sanction international competitions held in the US. That’s about it. USA Swimming does all that. There are no complaints with those activities. Hence, USOC is a non-player in these problems.
There have been complaints about the lack of a professional league for swimmers. Rarely in sports it the NGB and the professional league the same corporation. The NGB must be a non- profit, and the goals and business practices of professional leagues make non-profit status a challenge. Often the NGBs have the professional leagues choose the Olympians, and to some extent it is that way in swimming. USA Swimming has 2012 Swim Trials, LLC choose the Olympians. Few swimmers realized they were swimming for a private company. We don’t know the financial details, because it is private. We should be able to find out corporate information about 2012 Swim Trials, LLC to ensure no conflict of interest existed. But we can’t find information because, dare I say it again, I cannot locate its corporate registration in the Colorado Secretary of State records. But whatever the status of that corporation, USA Swimming is not the professional league. Swimmers, or someone interested in swimming, needs to form a league, and create professional meets. Patty Berg, founder of the PGA in 1948, told us in the 1970s to form a league. Why hasn’t it happened?
Club swimming is where the problems lie. The sexual abuse and the coach certification complaints are primarily occurring at the club level. USA Swimming does not approve clubs and coaches. The 59 local swimming committees (LSC) do. The problem is at the LSC level. The LSCs may claim they are only implementing USA Swimming policy, and USA Swimming CEO Chuck Weilgus has stated in a letter regarding insurance that “The various Local Swimming Committees are administrative divisions of USA Swimming. They cannot act independently of USA Swimming’s stated objectives.” The legal status of USA Swimming and the LSC’s indicates this is not true. They are formed as separate corporations, in the corporation registrations and IRS tax returns.
USA Swimming and the LSCs represent their relationship differently to the public than to the IRS. The 59 people who sign those tax returns should be paying attention. The LSCs receive tax exempt status because they provide opportunities for youth, a charitable activity. In practice, they implement USA Swimming’s objective to ensure financially sound clubs, definitely not a charitable activity.
Swimming functions differently than other sports. Most young children are coached by a parent, rather than a professional coach. Many coaches get recruited from the sidelines when they bring their 5 year olds to the first day of soccer, basketball, or T-ball practice. Children may get introduced to sports in school or camp, but it is usually the parent who throws or hits 300 balls a day to their child. Membership in elite teams start once the child has achieved some relatively high performance level.
In swimming, parents must turn responsibility of their children over to a professional coach immediately. The LSC will not allow any competition opportunities until the child joins a club. Parents cannot coach their own children outside the approved club system. You cannot be approved to be a USA Swimming club unless you have indoor “water” and level 3 certification. Why, I asked? I wanted my children to compete from May to October and practice in my backyard or neighborhood pool. The answer is the LSCs need to ensure quality coaching. Not only was this an insult to me, but also none of the LSCs business. I agree to sign a waiver regarding quality. Then they admit the policy is to ensure club dues are paid. Follow the money.
What about sexual abuse? Until age 12 or 14, sports coaching is the responsibility of parents. Often this is done through a parent in the neighborhood. When parents bring their young children to lessons, they usually stay and watch. In swimming, parents are expected to hand responsibility and control to the coach. According to an article written by John Leonard and reposted a disturbing number of times, even family vacations need to a taken according to the coaches schedule, not the family’s schedule. It’s part of the culture. Surrender control to the coach. The system trains the parents to accept that coach’s authority, and ultimately the child
does also. Sexual abuse is more likely to happen when institutions pressure parents to accept the authority of those making demands of them or their children, whether those demands are from a coach or to the priest.
There are hundreds of thousands of private club, public, semi-public (neighborhood or HOA), backyard, and school pools in the United States. The majority children who swim in these pools cannot join USA Swimming and compete in swim meets. The business interests of USA Swimming, enforced and implemented by the LSCs, do not permit it. Participation is limited to those who pay club dues. Who’s to blame for the existing system? Whatever USA Swimming objectives are, it does little to implement them. The LSCs, as independent non-profit corporations, should defy USA Swimming and provide opportunities for youth, not clubs. If not, the IRS should revoke their preferential tax status.
Excerpt of a letter from USA Swimming to James Myers dated April 29, 2008