What I Would Do if I Were in Charge of ASCA

Well, it may finally happen. After decades under the leadership/moral pit of despair that is John Leonard, the American Swim Coaches Association is looking for new leadership. Leonard, we’re told, will step down in 2020.

Heading up the committee to replace him? Beelzebub himself, Mark Schubert. So with that said, I give myself about a -26% percent chance of being selected to replace Leonard. Beyond everything else, I’ve long since made my opinion on ASCA abundantly clear.

Consider this my application for the job. Instead of complaining, I actually want to suggest a positive way forward for ASCA. So here’s what I would do as the new, benevolent dictator of the world’s biggest swim coaching organization.

Coaching Wellness First

As a coaching organization, there is one emergency level crisis we face that needs immediate attention. Coaches in general suffer from poor health, both mental and physical. They are suffering.

When I speak with coaches, many tell me that what they want to learn about, far more than flip turn drills or stroke mechanics, is how to address the well-being of their swimmers.

They will be fighting an uphill battle as long as they don’t have the tools to address their own well-being. ASCA could take the lead in providing education and resources for coaches to combat the depressive isolation many coaches feel, to give them strategies to address their own worries and pathways towards improving their own health.

They could, also, in the same way that they currently “rate” some job posting on their site, use this functionality to push clubs to have a plan for their coaches health. They could set standards for schedule/time off/resources clubs should provide to optimize the environment for coaches to work in.

Research the Gender Gap

Gender inequity is an obvious problem in swim coaching. It deserves an honest investigation in place of what we have now, which is a lot of ex post facto explanations on what is going on. Instead of funding research to pettily try to disprove USRPT, lets fund some research that finds out the answers to some of the big questions out there. Let’s survey female coaches and get a better sense of:

  1. Why there are fewer and fewer women as you climb up the “elite” ladder

  2. What causes women to leave the profession?

  3. What are some common forms of discrimination that women feel in the profession?

That’s a good start. Most people in swimming acknowledge we have a problem but we have too little information about what the problem is precisely to even begin crafting comprehensive solutions.

A True Code of Ethics

One area where I believe ASCA could provide real leadership on is ethics. As we stand right now, John Leonard (who cannot be detached from ASCA) has stood in the way of a lot of true ethical reform in swimming. He has stood by disgraced coaches, applying a criminal standard where it suited him to do so.

ASCA should adopt a code of ethics that holds coaches to a higher standard than your average professional. Why? Because as coaches we need to recognize that we are perhaps the most influential person in the life of many young people we work with. That is a weighty responsibility, and it deserves a gold standard of morality and ethics.

Such a standard would also do a great service to the parents and swimmers that are the reason we have a profession at all. We could give them a code to look to and clear up a lot of the current gray area that abusive coaches manipulate.

True Reform Is Needed

ASCA remains large and influential within the swimming world. Although I’ve been critical of the organization and its leadership, I could see a future where it is a positive agent for change in the world of swimming.

Time may be running out to do so, as I believe ASCA remains in a precarious position with regards to its relationship with USA Swimming and with younger members.