I once had a college teammate take a swing at me for counting the yardage of practice out loud. So I know the following is going to be somewhat annoying.
That's the point.
It's been 40 Days since Ariana Kukors Smith presented us with a brand new opportunity to change our culture for the better. The response from USA Swimming has been deafening silence.
When I say USA Swimming, it's useful to parse out the organization. There are the employees of USA Swimming, as a Danish coaching friend of mine liked to call our NGB, "The Feds". I have heard from multiple sources that your rank and file USA Swimming employee has been ordered not to voice any opinion beyond directing people to their "SafeSport" reminders.
So far, none have. These people exist on a spectrum. As one coach who called me to express support but did not want to do so publicly, we all (regardless of whether we REALLY do) have a spouse and a mortgage.
These people have weighed doing the right thing versus the potential career ramifications of breaking with their employer, and chosen themselves. I say this not to shame them, but to urge someone inside to be brave. I have had some of them on my podcast, and I do believe that they are decent people who can do the right thing.
Here's what I've learned this go around: every person who speaks out and doesn't falter creates cover for more people to do the right thing. An employee of USA Swimming would be really brave and celebrated here for the amount of cover they would create.
I've heard from several people that I've ruined my opportunity to ever talk to Tim Hinchey, who appears to be hiding under a rock that is hiding under a larger rock. I have ceased to think that this my problem. If Tim Hinchey really wants to lead he should be engaging with critics of his deeply troubled organization.
Another group that encompasses USA Swimming is its Board of Directors. I sent them a letter over a month ago that you can sign onto here. They have done nothing. A couple of them acknowledged accepting my letter, and John Bradley talked about how more people should get involved.
I responded to John directly, but haven't published that response. What I said was that USA Swimming should be gravely concerned about the lack of desired involvement, especially from people like me that love the sport of swimming. There's a chicken and egg argument to be had here, but what I think needs to come first is for some actual leadership to come from the top.
So far, again, the Board has decided that unity is more important than leadership. When one coach implored me not to criticize the board for their loyalty, I declined. Loyalty is a huge part of the problem here.
Board members should speak their conscience and accept that they may face consequences for doing so, but just as USA Swimming employees they will create cover for more people to do the right thing.
The Rest of Us
As of today, less than 200 people have signed on to the petition. Many people have told me privately that they fear consequences professionally from agreeing to the letter. Again, I understand that everyone has a spouse and a mortgage.
But I will repeat one thing: silence on this issue is complicity.
If you do not speak up, it means you support the status quo. People will say things to me like "well, it takes the victims stepping up to talk about what happened to them to do anything". This completely misses the point. Victims are not falling over themselves to out coaches because they still feel the great weight of our culture leaning against them.
If victims of abuse are not talking to you, stop taking it personally and start thinking empathetically. Start working on how you can show them that you are someone that will fight for them and do the right thing., even if it means losing some friendships, or some professional ties.
Today is a new day, the best day yet to do the right thing.