Thursday, August 11, 2011

Athlete Protection Training - the latest USA Swimming non-athlete membership requirement

USA Swimming is initiating it's Athlete Protection Training this fall.  Before a non-athlete member can register for the 2012 membership year, they must successfully complete an online course.  The following excerpt is from an email from Cathy Durance, USA Swimming's Member Services Coordinator:
TO:  LSC Registrars

As you know, a new membership requirement will be mandatory for all non-athletes effective with the 2012 membership year, which begins 9/1/11. The new requirement is the online Athlete Protection Training (APT). Unfortunately, the APT will not be available until 9/15/11 so there is a two-week period when 2012 non-athlete members will be unable to meet the membership requirements. When you enter a 2012new member or renew an existing member, the SWIMS record will be flagged if the person has not passed the APT and a 2012 card will not be generated. Here’s what you can do during this lag time:

NEW NON-ATHLETE MEMBERSIf you have a brand new non-athlete member who joins during this two week period, you can provide them with a letter that will be valid through 10/15/11, giving them one month to pass the APT. A copy of the letter is attached; you should print it on your LSC letterhead and mail/email/forward it to the new member since you will not be able to print a 2012 membership card.

NON-ATHLETE MEMBER RENEWALSDo not renew the non-athlete until the end of September. These non-athletes have membership cards valid through 12/31/11 (unless a coach cert expires, but you will be able to print an updated 2011 card as long as you don’t renew them for 2012), so there should be no urgency to print a 2012 card for them. If you want to renew them in September, be aware that their SWIMS record will be flagged until they pass the APT. My recommendation would be to hold them until they have had a few weeks to complete the APT, but you can enter them into SWIMS altho they will be flagged until they have completed the APT. No 2012 card will be generated until they pass the APT.

APT QUEUEThe APT requirement will work exactly like the background check. The results will load directly into the same SWIMS queue and auto-match to the member’s record. (There will be a new option in the queue to search for just an APT, just a BGC, or for both; we will demonstrate the new options at the convention SWIMS workshop.) The APT results will work exactly like the BGC but you will be able to tell them apart when you are in the queue.

It will take about one hour to complete the online training course. There is no fee to take it. Once the final exam has been successfully completed, it will appear in the SWIMS queue the following day (never on the same day the test was passed). Members must take the training and they must pass the final exam. If they log out before passing the exam, it will not count and nothing will appear in the queue.

TELLING YOUR MEMBERS ABOUT THIS NEW REQUIREMENTYou will have to post a notification with your 2012 non-athlete membership forms to let people know about this new requirement. You can refer people to this link: But the link to take the training will not be available until 9/15/11.

About the only truly good thing I can say about the APT is that it won't cost our volunteers any money.

USA Swimming's "partner" for the APT is a company called Praesidium.  Here is an exact quote from their website:
Child molesters love water.

They love bumping into kids in the wave pool. Using goggles to watch kids underwater. Loitering around the changing areas and bathrooms. Taking pictures or videotaping children without permission. Returning day after day to play with unsuspecting toddlers in the kiddie pool.

Your water park faces three dangers: First, that an adult guest will molest a child; second, that an employee or contract vendor will molest a child; and third, that a child will molest another child.

But these dangers can be reduced.

We can identify where in your park molesters will lurk and how to monitor those areas. We can train your managers in careful screening and selection of employees and vendors. And, we can teach your employees how to spot inappropriate or suspicious behavior and interrupt it before an incident happens.

Child molesters love water. Give them one less place to love. Call Praesidium.
Pretty scary...definitely inflammatory....I better get my training right away!!!

To be honest, I have no idea what the training video will entail, nor what the test will be like, but I am beginning to feel a little creeped out by USA Swimming and it's quest to make our sport safe.

So far, we have a background check that is required, at one level or another, for every non-athlete member of USA Swimming.  This is definitely a reasonable requirement for coaches, and maybe even the officials, but I am a little dubious that the computer operator, meet director, etc should have to complete one.  Most of these volunteers have little if any contact with the swimmers.  Timers come closer to the swimmers than most officials, and I don't remember seeing the meet administration checking USA Swimming registration for any timers....ever.  And what about the spectators at meets?  What is keeping them from taking compromising videos or photos of our swimmers?  What are we really doing to protect our swimmers?  To me, it just seems like a big show to prevent litigation, not really a major effort to protect kids.

I am assuming that the APT will give non-athlete members some training on how to recognize potential threats, of a predatory nature, to our athletes.  Spend enough time around a pool, and you will see some creepy characters.  In my 20+ years of coaching, I have had to call the police on 4 separate occasions because of "predatory" or obscene behavior.  I suppose the training may heighten someone's awareness of the behavior of these kinds of animals, but again, I am dubious.

I know that, on my club at least, these background checks and requirements are taking a toll on volunteerism.  I think it is doing more to deter good people from helping than it is to keep the real animals from doing what they do.  We might even be training predators to make their behavior even harder to detect.

Imagine the volunteer/predator who has never been caught.  They come up clean on a background check.  Now they take the APT and realize, "oops, I better change a couple of my methods so as to continue my creepy ways".

The bottom line is that I believe in getting the information out to the volunteer members.  Blanket them with emails, brochures, etc.  But to put them through another training and test; well it borders on the ridiculous.  I really think we are going to lose more good people that we will deter bad people.  And in the end, that may end up hurting the swimmers the most.


  1. Again, the training is another piece of legislation that was proposed, discussed on the floor of the House of Delegates, and ultimately voted on and passed by the representatives of your LSC and 57 other ones. If you don't like it, do something about it.