Later today I will record a podcast with Monica Strzempko and Sarah Ehekircher. If that first name sounds unfamiliar to you, then you’ll want to read this before you listen. We’ll go over some points of the story of both Monica and her daughter Anna in the pod, but the piece I linked to gives a lot more detail than we can cover in an hour.
A big part of getting that longform piece in Outside was the dogged work of Irv Muchnick. Muchnick followed the Strzempko’s case to it’s bitter end, where USA Swimming did not punish Anna Strzempko’s abuser.
It was yet another case of the kangaroo court know as the NBOR (National Board of Review) now mostly discarded as a method for adjudicating such cases. NBORs did not allow complaining parties access to legal representation, instead USA Swimming represented themselves. Defending parties had access to legal representation.
NBORs did not allow complaining parties access to any part of the procedure besides their own testimony (Sarah went through an NBOR in 2010 and saw the transcript of what transpired for the first time in 2018, after constant haranguing of USA Swimming), while defending parties had access to it all. And presiding over these NBORs were swim coaches and officials who often had powerful conflicts of interest with USA Swimming.
I started doing podcasts with Sarah Ehekircher first around her own story of sexual abuse by her swim coach, Scott MacFarland. Since then, we’ve continued to do podcasts together for a couple of reasons. First because we end up talking quite a bit anyway so there’s plenty of material.
Also, because Sarah has a perspective that you don’t hear a lot when the topic of abuse comes up, especially on swimming or sports websites. You are way more likely to hear a bureaucrat praising themselves for their policy baby steps than the perspective of those who have been hurt the worst.
Sarah decided that we should reach out to Monica to address one of the most important topics we see facing swimming, and sport, today: grooming. Grooming is all around us in sport, its the process whereby the worst actors prepare people for them to act badly and get away with it.
Athletes get groomed to understand completely inappropriate behaviors as “fine” or “just how it goes”. Likewise, coaches get groomed by their colleagues to override their own common sense and act in ways that go well beyond any reasonable line.
Parents are also groomed. They are told that they should not question what happens to their kid at swim practice. They are often kept away from the pool deck for fear that they will “interfere”. They are told that they don’t understand, and again taught to override their own common sense about what is ok and what is not.
If we have time, we’ll cover some current events tomorrow. Expect the pod to come out tomorrow, January 15th!