Safe Sport Recognition- The FISH

By: Reach for the Wall Staff and The FISH

In our November post titled: “USA Swimming Safe Sport developments“, we covered the club recognition program that USA swimming initiated. We’ve periodically been checking the Club Portal search page provided by USA Swimming to track the progress of clubs/LSC’s in completing the requisites for recognition. As of this writing, the following clubs have earned recognition (in alpha order by LSC):

  • Elevation Athletics (Colorado LSC)
  • Tri-city Channel Cats (Inland Empire LSC)
  • Lakeside Aquatics Team (Louisiana LSC)
  • Lehigh Valley Aquatics (Mid Atlantic LSC)
  • Sarpy County Swim Club (Midwestern LSC)
  • Sailfish Swim Team (New England LSC)
  • Buffalo Area Aquatic Club (Niagara LSC)
  • The Fish (Potomac Valley LSC)
  • Paseo Aquatics Swim Team (Southern California LSC)
  • Salt Lake Swim Legends (Utah LSC)

According to the USA Swimming 2017 demographics report, there are 3,030 clubs within 59 LSC’s across the country. There are 354,627 registered year-round athletes, 25,175 seasonal athletes, and 39,154 non-athletes (officials, coaches, administrators etc.). Potomac Valley has 12,557 registered athletes (4th most across all LSC’s) and 48 clubs (26th across all LSC’s). We don’t have to do the math to see that the percentage of clubs that have met the requirements for Safe Sport recognition is very low. The good news is that one of the clubs that has achieved the Recognition is from Potomac Valley- The FISH! The FISH have been a busy club this year, also earning the Bronze Medal Level in the Club Excellence program. We contacted The FISH to get an understanding of how they were able to achieve the requirements and if they could provide some guidance to other clubs. The following narrative was provided:

The Fish are very proud and excited to be the first PVS club recognized by USA Swimming and the Safe Sport Recognized Club Program.  This is something the club takes very seriously.  We hope other clubs will follow.

FISH swimmers having fun in their Safe Sport environment!

Since its inception, The Fish has been committed to making swimming a fun and safe environment for athletes of all ages.  Our coaching staff and team administrator have worked hard to develop a robust collection of codes of conduct, policies, and procedures.  For years, we have required athletes and parents to review and acknowledge these policies before registration, and we have spoken openly with athletes and parents about appropriate conduct and good sportsmanship. 

As you may know, the PVS Safe Sport Chair, Mike O’Shaughnessy, is actually a member of our club (his three daughters swim for The FISH).  Since he is an attorney, he has also helped us take proactive steps to protect our athletes and coaches.  Before he became officially involved with PVS Safe Sport, we worked together to meet with the athletes, talk about issues, address concerns, and ensure that our policies and procedures functioned properly to protect everyone’s interests.  Indeed, before we even learned of the Safe Sport Recognized Club Program, The FISH had already implemented many of the required protocols.

The Safe Sport Recognized Club Program is really an excellent roadmap for clubs to follow to ensure they are taking the right steps to protect their athletes.  When Mike O’Shaughnessy became the PVS Safe Sport Chair, he tells us he had initially intended to create a spreadsheet and require clubs to indicate whether they had implemented certain policies.  Then, at the USA Swimming Convention, they unveiled the SSRC Program.  This program made all of that work simple.  Mike worked with us to navigate the process, so he could then pass his experience along to the rest of the clubs within PVS.

The first steps of achieving SSRC recognition is to implement appropriate mission statements, codes of conduct, travel policies, reporting procedures, etc.  USA Swimming offers a number of such model policies on their website.  Since these models reflect the minimum requirements, we added to and refined them a bit to make them stronger.  Mike O’Shaughnessy then coordinated with the coaches and met with each of our training groups over four sessions after practice to discuss the policies and procedures, and speak with the athletes directly about what was required of them, why they were important, and what to do if they had questions or concerns.  This got us most of the way towards Club Recognition.  The rate-limiting step was the requirement that the athletes and parents complete the Athlete/Parent Safe Sport Training.  We tried repeatedly to tell athletes and parents to log on to the Learn Portal and take the 10-minute program.  But many people had difficulty signing in or accessing the programs.  So on Thanksgiving Day, we held an all-hands-on deck meeting after morning practice, where Mike presented the USA Swimming “Safe Sport for Athletes” and “Safe Sport for Swim Parents” training videos, while everyone listened and ate pie.  We then submitted our list of participants to Maggie Vail at USA Swimming, and were given credit for all members in attendance.  That was the last step to becoming recognized.

To support the rest of PVS, Mike then prepared a detailed, step-by-step guide for achieving Safe Sport Recognition.  He distributed it to the team contacts, administrators, and Safe Sport Coordinators for every club in PVS (and even helped clubs in other LSCs to navigate the process).  He will also be holding a webex in January, where he will walk people through the process. His goal is for every PVS club to gain Safe Sport Recognition by the beginning of next season.  While it’s an ambitious goal, it is realistic now that there is a clear set of detailed instructions.

If a club is looking for advice about earning Safe Sport recognition, we would recommend a few  things:

(1) don’t be overwhelmed;

(2) have your club Safe Sport Coordinator play an active role;

(3) obtain model policies and procedures from the USA Swimming Safe Sport website and implement them;

(4) Follow the detailed instructions to club recognition circulated by PVS Safe Sport Chair Mike O’Shaughnessy;

(5) be on the lookout for an invitation to join a webex about navigating the SSRC program;

(6) hold group viewings of the Safe Sport for Athletes/Swim Parents videos, and track attendance – submit the names of participants to USA Swimming;

(7) reinforce that Safe Sport is really intended to protect the athletes, and help them have fun in the pool; and

(8) if you have questions, contact Mike O’Shaughnessy at PVSSafeSport@gmail.com

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