Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Disconnect between USA Swimming's membership and the National House of Delegates

There is clearly a disconnect with USA Swimming's membership and the folks that "represent" them at the National House of Delegates each fall.  I have a hard time believing that the membership has had any idea of the legislative choices that have been made on their behalf the last couple of falls.  With background checks and the new Athlete Protection Training we are doing our best to smother volunteerism as much as we possibly can.

Our delegates have been, they have been reacting to the bad behavior a couple of evil people.  They have been passing all sorts of legislation:

  • Stepped up background checks
  • Travel Policy Requirements and Recommendations
  • Athlete Protection Training
Let me address these one at a time:

Background Checks -

I am in favor of these...for coaches.  Make them as rigorous as you can.  I want to make sure that each of us coaches deserves to be on deck.  I am against the background checks for volunteers.  Unless we are going to do background checks on every single person stepping into the pool area, then I see no point.  Anyone who steps into that pool could be child predator, but at least some of these people are being scrutinized constantly, officials and meet personel.  There is not an official that talks to one of my swimmers without being seen by me or one of my coaching staff (in fact, in our area, the DQ slips are delivered directly to the coaches).

Travel Policy Requirements and Recommendations -

I have written about these in an earlier post, "USA Swimming Travel Policy - Is it more than about protecting swimmers?".  I am against mandating policy.  USA Swimming knows nothing about the travel issues and costs for the smaller and more remote clubs.  USA Swimming should have issued a pamphlet, brochure, or flyer with a series of recommendations for Coach and Swimmer travel.  Each club/team is faced with unique issues when it comes to traveling.  It is ridiculous to think that an organization as big as USA Swimming could possibly know what is good for every situation and every club/team.

Athlete Protection Training -

This is the latest requirement brought upon us by our leadership.  In my blog post "Athlete Protection Training - the latest USA Swimming non-athlete membership requirement" I write a little about the impending requirement and the company with whom USA Swimming is "partnering",  Praesidium.  Again, I think this new requirement could be dealt with by disseminating the information via online video, printed brochure, etc.  But to make it a tested requirement will not help us in our quest to recruit or retain volunteers.  I suppose making coaches take it and test for it could be a requirement.  I am just not sure it is something that should be required for all non-athlete members.  I think they already have to jump through enough hoops to help our sport.

Now there are lots of ways to volunteer to help in our sport: timing, officiating, running the computer systems, hospitality, etc.  I will pick just one example for the purposes of my argument.  For the typical volunteer stroke and turn official to become certified they must:

  • pay a $48 for non-athlete membership registration fee
  • undergo about 5 hours of training at a clinic or through a home study program
  • pass a stroke and turn officials test
  • complete an apprenticeship of 6 sessions at 3 different meets  (about 20 hours)
  • submit to a background screening at the cost of $39
  • take the new online Athlete Protection Training course (about 1 hour) and test
So for a mere $87, approximately 26 hours of training/courses/etc, a background check, and 2 tests you can begin to volunteer to help your child compete in the great sport of swimming.  Is this what we want to be doing?  I already know that at least two of my club's best officials are considering hanging up the white shirts.

Now, I have been maligned by anonymous commenters who tell me that if I don't like the rules then do something about change them.  Fine, this year I am a delegate, representing Alaska Swimming, for the convention in Jacksonville this fall.  I want to encourage all of you who see things my way to join me there.  We need to make a change in these policies before it is too late, and we alienate so many of our volunteers that we can not operate.

Those of you who are like minded need to get involved in the governance of your LSC.  Become delegates to the National HOD.  Stand up and speak when these ridiculous legislative mandates are brought forward.  Don't be afraid to speak up.  We can't let fear govern our organization.  We have got to bring reason back to USA Swimming.  We can't let lawyers and fear of litigation lead us to making rules that are reactive and short-sided.

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