While I await more a more forceful response from a USA Swimming board member (I spoke with one who wished to remain anonymous on Friday that promised me something more by today. They said, I quote "No response is worse than a bad response") let's discuss why there is such a wide gap between the state of swim coaching I write about and the one that ASCA President Don Heidary blustered earlier this week.
How could things be both simultaneously "as bad" as I've said they are, and "as good" as Heidary describes. One answer is simple- we have had very different experiences in the world of swimming. We travel in different circles, have different friends.
I've certainly spoken with coaches on all ends of the ASCA spectrum. One coach recently told me he was proudly "ASCA Level 0". Some see it as a necessary evil, noting how many job postings tout ASCA level as a base requirement. But the type of person who wants to be President of that kind of organization is an entirely different animal.
This is someone who has built up capital that believe that ASCA Is a good organization for coaches. He is interacting day to day with people that like ASCA. He is not looking for evidence that coaches have done wrong. His world view is that coaches are noble- so that is what he sees. He might even be friends with (gasp!) John Leonard.
That would be a really good world view to have if the profession of coaching swimming didn't have such massive. unaddressed problems. Remember that actual, real optimism has nothing to do with ignoring big problems.
For example, a child rapist has successfully evaded justice in his home country, Ireland, for more than twenty five years. A journalist has publicly pursued considerable evidence that ASCA's leadership was involved in sponsoring that coaches entry to the US.. Remember what I lead off with? No response is worse than a bad response.
Don Heidary claims to not know who the coach, George Gibney is. He could be telling the truth! He might have survived thus far on passive ignorance. John Leonard definitely knows who George Gibney is. So does another ASCA hall of famer, Peter Banks. But what do they say? Nothing.
Ask yourself- if you were accused of helping facilitate a child rapist's entry into our country, and you hadn't done it, wouldn't you be constantly and forcefully denying it, instead of saying nothing?
It's hard to imagine redemption for Leonard or Banks in this story. They at best have known about Gibney and his crimes, plus his presence in the US, and done nothing. For Heidary, there is still time to open himself up to a new reality, even though admitting that you didn't know something is really, really hard. Still harder to take the next step and smarten up.
Jim Richardson, another ASCA board member, has indicated he is ready to press the question with John Leonard at the next ASCA board meeting. But perhaps there is someone on the "inside" who has the leadership chops to ask him now and not wait? After all, swimming people deserve a response.