Thursday, July 21, 2011

USA Swimming Travel Policy - Is it more than about protecting swimmers?

As a part of the recent LEAP Level 1 trials that Alaska Swimming has been undergoing, we have found it necessary to address the Team Travel Policy requirements as mandated by USA Swimming as of December 31, 2010.  One of the things that sticks out, and is somewhat problematic for smaller clubs is the requirement that "Regardless of gender, a coach shall not share a hotel room or other sleeping arrangement with an athlete (unless the coach is the parent, guardian, sibling, or spouse of that particular athlete)."

I understand the primary purpose of the requirement is to protect swimmers from potential sexual misconduct by the coaches, and to protect the coach from a crazy swimmer making false accusations.  In fact, USA Swimming goes so far as to recommend "Athletes should not ride in a coach’s vehicle without another adult present who is the same gender as the athlete, unless prior parental permission is obtained." and  "When athletes are age 12 & Under, chaperones and/or team managers may stay with athletes. Where chaperones/team managers are staying in a room with athletes, they should be the same gender as the athlete and written consent should be given by athlete’s parents (or legal guardian)."

This seems like it is getting a little extreme.  Imagine a scenario in which I have only two swimmers qualified for a meet like male, one female.  I would be required to have a female adult chaperone on the trip, just so that she can ride in the car with us.  I would be required to get 3 separate rooms.  I could not stay with my male athlete...but the chaperone would be able to stay with my female athlete.  How does that make any sense?  I mean I have to take a more stringent background check than the chaperone...right?  Some of these requirements and recommendations don't make much sense. (special note: since the writing of this blog post it has been made apparent to me that the chaperone and coach background checks are of the same stringency, my apologies for the inaccuracy).

The bottom line is that there are swimmers/families that I could trust to travel alone with their children.  In today's climate I would no longer even share a suite with a female athlete (though 20 years ago I did), although I would drive alone with them.  I would be willing to share a room with nearly any male swimmer (on a case by case basis) if, because of financial reasons, would not otherwise be able to afford the trip.  Of course none of this matters because USA Swimming does not allow it.

I feel like we have reacted to and then overreacted to the sexual misconduct scandals that have rocked our sport.  We need to have at least some trust...right?

And then there is the conspiracy theorist in me that thinks this is all part of a plot to sell more hotel rooms at the Marriot.  Seriously, think about it, in the scenario that I outlined above, I go from needing two hotel rooms to three...a 50% increase in revenue for Marriot.  It may be a bit of a reach, but at this point I wouldn't put it past Big Brother at USA Swimming.  Something to think about anyway.

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