I have been a coach in Alaska Swimming for 20 years and involved in our LSC's governance since 1993. During that time I have served as the Age Group Chair (2 terms), Senior Chair, Legislative Coordinator (2 terms), Coach's Rep, and now as the Administrative Vice Chair. I have attended the USAS Convention only three times, my last in 2001 in Detroit. I watched the events of 9/11 unfold on tv before as I was getting dressed to attended a Senior Swimming committee meeting. I was the only member of the Alaska Swimming delegation to make it to the convention that year, so I attended every committee meeting I possibly could. During my tenure, nothing has frustrated me more than the LEAP and the process for attaining the mandated Level 1. Please read on as I digress for a few moments.
It was my last USAS Convention due in part to those bad memories of 9/11, but also because I didn't really feel like anything a guy from North Pole, AK said would matter. For instance I watched as a group of big program coaches killed Jr. Nationals (West, Southeast, and Northeast) and replaced it with the current Sectional - Jr National - National format. Though this is a tangent from my essay's theme, I have to say, I think that was a bad move. It made the leap from local/regional senior swimming so huge that it has effectively demotivated an entire generation of swimmers who actually used to have a shot at step by step attaining a National cut. In my opinion LSC Senior Champs, Senior Region Champs, Jr Nats (3 regions), and then Nationals was a much better progression.
I bring this all up because it is partly my fault that we have LEAP at all, since I was not there to vote or speak out against it. Believe me, I know what it is like to be part of the process and then be sniped at by those who refuse to participate. Having said that, it is almost impossible to have an impact at the USA Swimming level unless you are in the inner circle. I refer back to my digression about the progression of senior swimming that we are currently stuck with. I was there, I commented from the peanut gallery, but it did not matter.
It is not that we have a LEAP that bothers me, it is the implementation that is all wrong. Instead of setting out a list of 50 things that each LSC should have/complete and then giving us a checklist to complete on our own, they are forcing us to jump through hoops and then threatening us when we fall behind (please refer to my earlier post about Do we need to make a change at USA Swimming? How about ASCA?). I feel like I am being treated like a child with a power hungry adult watching over my shoulder.
My most recent complaint stems from Alaska Swimming's completion, and submission, of our Level 1 LEAP tasks/chores, documents, etc. After submission, we were notified that our bylaws need to be updated to change all references of USS to USA Swimming (not really tough, and not a big deal) and to make sure all of the changes that have been made to the USA Swimming bylaws are reflected in our bylaws...ok, this could be a problem.
Now you will remember that one of my volunteer jobs with Alaska Swimming has been to serve as the Legislative Coordinator. For 4 years I made sure to submit any changes to our bylaws to USA Swimming for approval...and we always got the thumbs up. Want to know how many times I was notified of changes to the USA Swimming bylaws, you know, just in case they might affect us? You guessed it...I was never notified! My successor...never notified!
I think before we have any LSC jump through the process of LEAP we should make USA Swimming go through the process...at a board and staff level. I really think these folks don't have a grip. How can they expect us to have our stuff together when they don't even communicate with us at a meaningful level? Part of me thinks the staff at USA Swimming may have cooked this up just to ensure job security.
Bottom line is that we need to make some changes at the board level so that we can make some changes at the staff level, maybe starting with the CEO. There are some staff at USA Swimming who I know work hard and have been very helpful to me and my club (Bill Krumm and Rick Bishop for instance) but I honestly don't understand why we would ever employ someone to administer a program like LEAP.
Believe me, I will be in Florida this September!
Please, share your thoughts on this matter.