Pretty much everyone can agree on one thing: Tim Hinchey inherited a mess, from his predecessor Chuck Wielgus. The hubris of USA Swimming's former director meant that nearly all the problems the governing body needed to deal with in regards to abuse, sexual and otherwise, among its ranks, were papered over.
Since starting, Hinchey has maintained a low profile, even though that low profile has been challenged a couple times. He had to step up and get rid of Susan Woessner and Pat Hogan after he was directly confronted with their less than admirable actions.
A week from today, May 1st, Hinchey will come face to face with a survivor of sexual abuse, Sarah Ehekircher. The meeting came about because Ehekircher asked Hinchey for it after reading his latest communication to members. Among the points made there was that both Hinchey and USA Swimming board president, cosigning the letter, expressed that they wanted to:
"seek out and obtain feedback and engagement from survivors of abuse"
To her credit, Ehekircher read the letter and put Hinchey on the spot. Now she has a meeting with the head honcho of USA Swimming. Unlike the last time Ehekircher sought help from the governing body, this time she is going in armed with backup and transparency about what's going on.
You can expect to hear about what happens at the meeting in this space, and likely on Irvin Muchnick's Concussion Inc as well. Braden Keith of Swimswam is aware of the meeting as well and I'm hopeful for some coverage on Swimswam.
Two coaches, members of the unofficial "Sarah's Posse" (we'll be making t-shirts eventually) will attend the meeting with her. One is Mike Stromberg, who coaches at many of the same meets as Ehekircher and has been her biggest ally in the local area. Another is Dirk Marshal, who I interviewed for my podcast last week, and we had the following exchange specifically about Ehekircher:
This meeting has tremendous potential for Hinchey. It's an opportunity for him to start the most important work he has before him: winning back the trust of survivors so that they feel that the organization in Colorado Springs stands with them.
It's no easy task , especially with as much water there is under the bridge, and it will take much more than one meeting to pull it off. Nevertheless, the opportunity is still there to fundamentally change the direction this is all headed in.
If Hinchey can show that he "gets it", or at least seems to want to "get it" on this issue, that will be momentous. Such leadership is dearly needed. If he can listen to what Sarah has to say and use those things to change the culture of USA Swimming, that will be all the better.
This is Tim Hinchey's big moment. Sarah and her "posse" are not going away. I've made plans to attend the New Jersey Swimming House of Delegates meeting next month, and will be posing questions to USA Swimming President Jim Sheehan based on the conversation that takes place in Colorado next week. Who knows, I may bring a friend too.
Stay tuned for more updates and a podcast later this week with Ehekircher herself.