I'm on vacation this week. I am still following what is going on. But seeing as how I am spending most of my time playing with my very cute daughter in the pool, I am not writing full length blog posts.
I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back at some of the original writings I did way back the first time there was push for change within USA Swimming, and media coverage of abuse within the swimming world.
in this final edition, I look back at the 2012 Aquatic Sports Convention. This was towards the end of the time that some employees (Chuck Wielgus, Susan Woessner and briefly Mike Unger) attempted to bring me into the fold.
I declined to be co-opted, and Unger's attempt was the one that showed me the depths of hubris that lay in Colorado Springs. We spoke on the phone for quite some time, but one thing he told me has stuck with me forever since. I quoted him in this post shortly after.
Unger believed that the true victim in all of this was USA Swimming. That they were a great organization that was being completely, unfairly maligned. Let that sink in for a moment. How was the organization ever going to come close to real cultural change with a #1 man like Chuck Wielgus and his right hand man so firmly out of touch with the problem?
Also of note at this post, several of the people I name below are "gone" now. Pat Hogan (finally). My line about Wielgus being emperor for life was more or less accurate. Anyway, enjoy:
We're the "Best": The Self Congratulatory 2012 Aquatic Sports Convention
This week, the Aquatic Sports Convention descended on Greensboro, NC. From afar, I am concerned with two things: first, the approval of many changes to USA Swimming rules that would help us take another step forward. Second, it's another chance to check USA Swimming leadership: where are they now and where are they telling us they are headed?
The white knight of Colorado Springs is undoubtedly Frank Busch. Busch carries immense respect from the coaching ranks, and has been making the rounds cross country, offering his cell phone number to anyone who will take it as a show of his willingness to listen. Busch is the frontman for the 2013-2016 quad plan, although as he has done in many public appearances, he shies away from getting into too many precise details. Much of the attention around the quad plan is focused on changing the qualifying standards for "elite" meets, including Grand Prix but most importantly the 2016 Olympic Trials.
Count me as one definitely in favor of a big tightening of standards at both these meets. I coached a number of qualifiers to OTs that likely would have been left out with a faster standard, but the meet was far too large. Likewise, Grand Prix meets had become a necessary evil for many coaches- overcrowded and diluting the excitement of top level performance with overly long sessions. However, I do wonder if we're all going to be happy if half as many qualifiers show up to the 2016 Trials with a bigger venue and the stands are half full for finals.
I can't say I feel the same way about the "Safe Sport" part of USA Swimming. Granted, its far easier for Busch to maintain popularity while he is in a leadership position over the most overwhelmingly positive part of USA Swimming, especially coming off a beat down of the rest of the world at the 2012 Olympics. Safe Sport Director Susan Woessner and Emperor for Life Executive Director Chuck Wielgus released a "Safe Sport Status Report". In it, they confirm the values of "Safe Sport", which in my mind are public relations first and foremost. Unfortunately, all the press releases in the world are going to have a tough time overcoming the debacle that has been their handling of Rick Curl. Despite whatever progress they have made, they have failed to address the central issues:
1. USA Swimming is still run by a leader, Chuck Wielgus, who claims to have been caught completely off guard by the problem of sexual abuse within swimming, despite all the glaring warning signs that it was
2. A near complete media blackout that only fuels further mistrust of their organization. Although Wielgus and Woessner have made personal efforts to communicate with this blog, they have consistently sought to set preconditions for any discussion and their communication with other media outlets has been entirely in the form of press releases, or press releases dishonestly presented as "interviews".
3. Nearly three years after mainstream press coverage started to unearth some of the ugliest offenders, USA Swimming is still getting caught very flat-footed, as Rick Curl shows. The fact that it appears that Rick Curl has far more power than his victim is troubling.
4. The "inner circle", the most powerful people in swimming in the United States, remains largely unchanged. Among them:
Chuck "lets keep this confidential" Wielgus
Pat "I spontaneously developed a romantic relationship with an 18 year old girl that had been swimming for me when I was 27 years old" and "Sure, Everett, do you need a job recommendation?" Hogan
Mike "USA Swimming is the victim in all of this" Unger
John "RIck Curl and Mitch Ivey are my friends" Leonard
How can we really move forward with this leadership, especially when none of the above are really willing to apologize and fairly account for their actions?