Coaches Need to Believe in Swimming's Reckoning

Right now, the leading story in Olympic sports is Gymnastics. Specifically, the actions of one team "doctor" Larry Nassar, who was allowed by many people with the power to stop him to molest hundreds of teenage girls.

Many are asking the right questions in this moment. How did we let this happen? How did so many people fail to protect these young athletes and enable such monstrous behavior?

Gymnastics is having a reckoning, with no end in sight. If anything, the pace of change only seems to be accelerating, with the stunning move to no longer have national team athletes train at Karolyi ranch.

I know a lot of people in swimming that think our "reckoning" is mostly over. What's closer to the truth is that it never happened. 

USA Gymnastics CEO Steven Penny had to resign in disgrace last March, and new CEO Kerry Perry is basically in constant damage control for the very existence of USA Gymnastics as an organization.

In swimming, Chuck Wielgus was able to assume a defensive posture, black out media except for the groveling Brent Rutemiller of Swimming World, and slowly start to implement "SafeSport" measures. He was able to retire with many people within USA Swimming considering him some kind of hero. 

New CEO Tim Hinchey has also been allowed to ignore USA Swimming's legacy altogether. In the near future I'll be asking him to come on a podcast to do a bit more than the current gestures toward SafeSport.

We can make all the rules we want. We can ban coaches, and make educational programs. None will address the true problem that our greater society is actually talking about and finally seeing a reckoning on. When "men" hold nearly all the power in anything, it will be abused, and anyone down the power food chain will suffer.

I've watched my "group", coaches remain mostly silent on this topic. We are the on the ground leaders of this sport, but we have failed to provide leadership. The major coaching organizations have shied away.

So I've decided that we need to organize as coaches to stand up for the most vulnerable people in our sport. I'm starting a group "Coaches Who Believe".

What does that mean? Instead of the status quo, (which is do nothing), we will trust people in our sport who come forward to say that they have been abused. We will work to verify those claims, instead of ignoring them or reflexively dismissing them. We will not leave the victims of abuse in our sport on an island, with only a handful of people to support them.

As for leadership of the organization, I hope that as soon as it gets some members I can cede that to someone else, preferably non-male. It's time to let somebody else run things for a while.