Monday, March 11, 2013

Swim culture needs a reboot! - Tortured swimmers at the University of Utah failed to report abuse incidents to the police.

[Edited to fix typos and to mention USA Swimming Board of Director David Berkoff who failed to report abuse incidents he had knowledge about.]

Swimmers, if a coach breaks the law by physically assaulting you in any way sexual or otherwise, gather a witness if you can and call the police. Don't go to school officials asking for help for they care more about lawsuits than your personal welfare. Don't ask a teammate for advice either for they may have "drank" the "snitches get stitches Kool-Aid" and subsequently advise against reporting. (I hold up Penn State and the University of Utah as examples.)

This article from USA Today is quite uncomfortable to read. This was culturally tolerated within the University of Utah and it has to stop. If the allegations as reported by USA Today below are true then who swam under this coach have to ask themselves what was the end result of their silence?

Look at it this way, if the police would have been called the first time an abuse incident occurred just imagined what could have been prevented?

From USA Today:
"... Winslow commonly came to practice drunk; had outbursts of anger, including once punching an assistant coach; used racial slurs; and once forced a team member to swim underwater with his hands tied to a PVC pipe that was strapped to his back until he blacked out, parent Matt Fiascone said. Fiascone's son, Austin, swam on the University of Utah team for three seasons while Winslow was coach.

"He's a monster," Matt Fiascone said of Winslow.

Winslow did not answer phone calls for comment from told the Associated Press, and his voicemail box was full. He has denied the Arizona allegations.

Utah athletics director Chris Hill said he's not aware of the any of the allegations at Utah being of a sexual nature.

Matt Fiascone said he called to tell Hill about Winslow's behavior in March 2012. He said he now knows other parents lodged complaints as far back as 2008. He criticizes Hill for not properly investigating. ..."


...USA Today mentioned that racial slurs as well were stated as well!


Anonymous said...

Yes, it's a culture that needs changing.

Most sports have "the coach is always right" mentality. But swimming takes it a bit further, by making parent involvement nearly impossible. You cannot compete in a USA Swimming sponsored meet, even at age 8, unless you have a professional coach. All other sports permit children to compete when parent coached.

Swimming requires parents to forego their parental rights early. There is a widely re-posted article by John Leonard, titled THAT'S NOT IT!! He uses caps because he is screaming, throwing a temper tantrum, b/c parents scheduled a vacation without regard to his schedule. He finds this intolerable, even for a mediocre swimmer. He needs total control of these kids.

Why would children, whose parents handed over control at age 8, know how to deal with abuse at age 18? The system in place allows coaches to select parents who are compliant and submissive years before they selecting a victim for abuse. The victim, and teammates not chosen as victims, learned from their parents to be submissive and accept the authority of the coach.

Those who had parents who did not accept that authority switched sports at a young age. There are few left in swimming to call the police.

Tony Austin said...

Again, my readers are more insightful, more articulate and more experienced than I am.

Well stated, well written...

Anonymous said...

Swimming requires parents to forgo parental rights? Really? Then you volunteer, get involved and pay attention to who is working with your kids. Wouldn't you do that in any sport? Swimmers do compete unattached with parents as coaches not sure where you got the impression this is disallowed.

As for coaches wanting control there are some (as in any sport) that go too far. At a certain age and committment level it is common for coaches and parents to discuss vacations.

I am in no way blaming the victims but when people blame the culture of swimming as a whole that is just wrong and far too easy.

All employers need to do their due diligence with who they hire and take accusations seriously. Research employment history, do a background check and get references. Take responsibility for the young people that will be working with these coaches. They deserve at least that much from our clubs, schools, and colleges/universities.

Anonymous said...

USA Swimming limits who can swim unattached, and it is mostly college students who are home from school. I made more than 20 phone calls regarding this. Just the fact that you need USA Swimming approval to get registered shows it controls the process.

As for volunteer, that still requires me to be part of your system. Why should I pay a club and also volunteer? I wanted to work with my kids. I don't coordinate my vacation plans with the coach. I am the parent. I determine when we go on vacation. Until middle school, I didn't coordinate with the school either.

Anonymous said...

Going to the police isn't as easy as it sounds. Even the police what to know "where everyone else is" when you try to explain what's going on. The simple fact is that athletes and parents are afraid of retaliation. People are all talk until they are asked to go to the police, write a statement, or appear at a hearing. Nobody wants to get involved because they do not want the hatchet to come down on their family.

Unfortunately, calling the police after the first incident at Utah may have made things worse for the athletes because the coach would have known that the complaint came from someone on the team.

I think everyone in USA Swimming knows of an athlete, family, team who has been retaliated against, but there are no examples of people being held accountable for the retaliation. The kids know this and beg their parents not to say anything. Parents struggle with the decision if/when to speak up.

I'm glad this 22 year old found the courage to speak up.

The comments having to do with unattached athletes: These people have a way to squeeze athletes/parents out of the sport if they do not conform to their corrupt and abusive behavior. Athletes should be able to compete "unattached" but some LSC's make it impossible.

The latest form of retaliation and discrimination in my LSC is assigning unattached athletes to the furthest meet. An example would be: If Junior Olympics were held at several locations including Fullerton (CA) and Nevada, unattached athletes in my LSC would only be allowed to attend the Nevada meet even though they live in Fullerton, but athletes from any other LSC could attend the Fullerton meet. Unattached athletes use to attend the meet of their choice.

USA Swimming has a mandated "Open Border Policy" for competitions yet they condone this discrimination.

When a family finds ways to compete, these people shut it down by having closed competitions, invitationals, etc.

I read in another post that perhaps Speedo should design blinders and muzzles for the parents. Sure parents are needed for their money, to volunteer, for transportation, BUT they need to keep their mouths shut and do what they're told or face the consequences.

Anonymous said...

The culture of submission explains why swimmers compete for free. The 2012 Swim Trials are amazing; 8 days of competition with hours of national coverage and 13,000 seats sold out many sessions. No prize money? In what other sport would that occur?

It takes a decade of submission and collective acceptance that USA Swimming controls each swimmer's and future.

When a professional league starts up, USA Swimming will most likely impose sanctions on the first participants. USA Swimming needs power and control, and the ability to punish is power. USA Swimming controls both swimmers and coaches. College swimming and NCAA is a de facto subset of USA Swimming.

It is likely that prize money offered by an outside organization is the only thing that can change the swim culture. It can't change from within.

Anonymous said...

Then start your own team and coach your own children. Volunteer or dont volunteer... last time I checked most parents do get involved in their kids activities...yes, the ones they pay for. And as someone who helps run meets, we accept unattached swimmers (not college) and yes we are in usa swimming, shocking I know. You need to expand your calls.

Required to be part of "your system"? If you have such an issue with the culture of swimming then dont participate. You are the parent. Those of us who are willing to get involved and give back to a sport we care about will keep the all the positive aspects of swimming going strong while the rest of you try to tear it down at every opportunity.

Anonymous said...

You are not part of South Texas.

I did try to start my own "team". I was stopped at every step. At the LCS the reason was not having approved "water time". Apparently, an outdoor pool is not sufficient "water" in south Texas. A team can't get approved if it's only water is from May to Oct because that is not the approved season. My kids were 8 and 10 and I wanted them to compete in "C" meets. What difference does it make when the championship qualification meets are?

The reason for non support at USA Swimming was 1)they needed to ensure quality coaching. Why is that USA Swimming's concern? And 2) they needed to ensure strong teams. That is a business model, you can't participate in meets, unless you pay club dues. That is not the mission of a non-profit, and those LSCs that support that should lose their non-profit status.

As for your advice to not participate, that is exactly what I did. My children are in another sport. This isn't about my children. It's about what happened to me. Swimming used to be my sport, and I care that it has been hijacked by a group that doesn't care about the sport other than the money and power it generates and doesn't need to care because USA Swimming has created a monopolistic system.

USA Swimming needs competition. The sport suffers -- morally, in the number participating, and the prize money opportunities. Bowlers earn more. You are narrow minded and too ingrained in the culture of USA Swimming if you think encouraging competition is tearing swimming down. However, I have no counter-argument if you accuse me of wanting to tear USA Swimming and ASCA down. I'm just not sure how committed I am to that cause.

Anonymous said...

With all this criticism of USA Swimming money hungry structure i'm surprised more teams/swimmers do not switch to AAU. My kids attended AAU JO last four years and the level of participation is quite low

Anonymous said...

If meets were open to unattached swimmers, AAU participation would be possible. There is limited space to hold meets in this area and USA Swimming affiliated clubs control those pools.