Yesterday, the axe finally fell on Sean Hutchison. For the first time, publicly at least, Ariana Kukors spoke about how he groomed her for sexual abuse from a young age.
I've been known to go after big organizations, like USA Swimming and ASCA, in this space. They certainly can do far better, and USA Swimming in particular is already out there blasting PR that they did everything they could.
I almost got whiplash from how quickly they announced (via their propaganda outlet, Swimming World Magazine) that Kukors had denied a sexual relationship in 2010.
Lets set all that aside, and talk about us. And by us I mean coaches. Because we have a huge role to play in whether abusers get a free pass and athletes live in fear. It was that fear that kept Kukors silent for so long.
There was plenty of smoke when it came to Sean Hutchison for nearly a decade. The crumbling of the center he was running in Fullerton, the facile implication that some part of his relationship with Kukors went beyond coaching.
The coaching community could have held his feet to the fire. We could have demanded answers and transparency from him. Instead we let it go, and he got to re-brand himself as a swimming entrepreneur with Ikkos.
He also, in the past couple years, got to be a headliner at the School of Thought Clinic down at the University of Tennessee.
A lot of discussion around this will center on the fact that "our hands were tied" without Kukors willing to publicly denounce Hutchison. That ignores the fact that we, as coaches, could have chosen a braver stance, that let a victim like Kukors know where our culture stood.
We did not need to continue to put Hutchison on a pedestal. We did not need to fawn over him and talk about what a genius coach he was.
I had the chance to meet Hutchison early in my coaching career. He didn't much like me (go figure). I might have had a chance had I respected my elders a bit more. It would be have been very advantageous to my own career advancement to try and buddy up to him.
At the same time, I was also too scared to put him on blast here. Hutchison used his considerable power to evade this moment for quite a long time, and that made him scary.
Hutchison is not the end, he's still the beginning. As coaches, we need to become less defensive, less scared, and hold each other to the fire a little more. We need to step up for athletes and let them know that we are willing to do what's right for them, even if it means going against powerful peers.