By: Reach for the Wall Staff
On April 29, USA Swimming and Safe Sport released their ‘Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policy‘ (MAAPP). The policy was communicated
by Bob Vincent, (USA Swimming Board of Directors Chair) and Tim Hinchey III (USA Swimming President & CEO) in a letter sent out to all members of USA Swimming. In case you haven’t seen that communication, we’ve re-posted below:
To All USA Swimming Members –
We are excited to announce enhancements to our Safe Sport policy and education requirements as part of our continued commitment to safeguarding our athletes.
USA Swimming’s top priority continues to be keeping our athletes safe. No form of abuse, including child sexual abuse, has a place in our sport. Under our leadership, this organization will continue to make abuse prevention and response an important piece of everything we do.
The enhancements stem from requirements imposed by the U.S. Center for SafeSport (the “Center”). The Center is the separate, independent organization that oversees all sexual misconduct reports in the Olympic and Para-Olympic movement. The Center is also responsible for creating requirements in the areas of policy, education and training for every National Governing Body (NGB) in the Movement. USA Swimming, as an NGB, must follow the Center’s requirements.
First, the Center requires every NGB to implement a Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policy (MAAPP) by June 23, 2019. This Policy addresses risk areas that present opportunities for abuse to occur.
The Policy covers five (5) areas:
- One-on-One Interactions
- Travel: Local & Team
- Social Media & Electronic Communication
- Locker Rooms & Changing Areas
- Massages & Rubdowns
For several years, USA Swimming has either required club policies, enacted national rules or recommended best practices in most of these areas. This means that MAAPP requirements should be familiar to USA Swimming members.
MAAPP will apply to all adults who interact with and have direct and frequent contact with minor athletes, including adult athletes. The language used in the policy is Applicable Adult. All Applicable Adults will be required to follow MAAPP.
Education and Training Changes
Second, the Center requires regular and consistent training for all adults who interact with and have direct and frequent contact with minor athletes, including adult athletes. All USA Swimming non-athlete members regularly complete Safe Sport training, known as Athlete Protection Training. Now, all adult athlete members will also be required to complete Athlete Protection Training. All adult members—athlete and non-athlete—will be required to complete the training annually.
At its April 26, 2019 meeting, the USA Swimming Board of Directors reviewed and approved interim changes to USA Swimming rules related to MAAPP. Those same changes will be presented to the House of Delegates in September for permanent implementation.
Accordingly, by June 23, 2019, every USA Swimming member organization is required to update its policies to reflect MAAPP.
Over the next two months, leading up to the June 23 compliance date, USA Swimming will share the policy and education changes across multiple channels and our Safe Sport staff members are prepared to answer any questions you have.
MAAPP is provided in full at www.usaswimming.org/maapp. You will also find additional resources to assist you as you make these changes.
If you have questions about these changes, please contact USA Swimming staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your continued support of USA Swimming’s abuse prevention and response efforts is invaluable. Together we can promote a safe and healthy environment for our swimmers.
Since the announcement, and in an attempt to provide additional clarity, USA Swimming has provided documentation on several of the concepts and regulations. We’ve linked to these explanations as we believe there will be additional information/updates as the policies are implemented on June 23.
- What is an Applicable Adult?
- One-on-One Interactions
- Social Media and Electronic Communications
- Locker Rooms and Changing Areas
- Massages, Rubdowns and Athletic Training Modalities
We are providing this information as a supplement to what you are likely already receiving from your individual clubs/organizations. The MAAPP presents a big shift for coaches and swimmers in how they interact with each other. With these policies in place and the ease of electronic communication, athletes, coaches and club/organization leadership need to be absolutely aware of who they are communicating with as well as the content of the message. We’ve seen a lot of questions come forward in other forums, in particular concerning athletes who are 18 (age of an applicable adult) interacting with their teammates who are under 18. The big point of discussion is that within teams and peer communication, there may be inherent violations of the rules within ‘normal’ interactions, using the locker room, and participating in carpools.
SwimSwam has published a series of articles (May 9, May 10, May 17 ) touching on all aspects of the policy, receiving vast reader feedback. In the article SwimSwam posted May 10th, which poses the problem/objection from the community and potential solutions for implementation, they addressed the subject of the ‘applicable adult’ interaction:
OBJECTION: THE DEFINITION OF “APPLICABLE ADULT” INCLUDES 18-YEAR-OLD ATHLETES COMMUNICATING WITH THEIR TEAMMATES WHO ARE 17 AND YOUNGER. THIS WILL PUT 18-YEAR-OLD ATHLETES (AND MANY TEAM LEADERS/CAPTAINS) IN A TRICKY SITUATION TO COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR TEAMMATES UNDER THE NEW RULES.
Specific policy wording: THIS POLICY APPLIES TO: All USA Swimming non-athlete members and adult athlete members
Solution: This is a big objection, and one about which we’ve asked USA Swimming for more clarification. As the policy reads today, it appears that a minor athlete falls under these MAAPP rules the day they turn 18, which does create some issues in their communication with teammates who are still minors.
Perhaps there’s a clarification to the definition of “applicable adult” that could solve this issue? The definition could be expanded to include some form of a “Romeo and Juliet” law, used in statutory rape laws to make exceptions when both parties are teenagers. The exception could also reference one party being, or not being, in a position of authority over the other – that would still require 18-19-year-old coaches to behave as coaches and hold to the rules on private communication, but would still allow teammates (relative equals in authority) to interact as teammates.
On May 17th, SwimSwam followed up with this statement from USA Swimming:
ENFORCEMENT & PUNISHMENT: BY LSC’s AND CLUBS, WITH POTENTIAL FOR ‘LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES’
Enforcement of the policy was always going to be key – what exactly are the punishments, and who is in charge of policing the new rules. USA Swimming says that clubs and LSCs (local swimming committees) will take the lead, with USA Swimming and the Center for SafeSport jumping in for “intentional and/or egregious” violations:
“MAAPP violations should be enforced just as any other club or LSC policy is enforced,” USA Swimming told us this week. “Isolated and inadvertent violations may be treated by the club or LSC as teachable moments. Repeated, intentional and/or egregious MAAPP violations may be handled by the USA Swimming Safe Sport staff or reported to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.”
That draws a pretty stark contrast between the MAAPP and the USA Swimming Code of Conduct or the SafeSport Code. While violations of the latter two are the basis of coaching bans and suspensions, the MAAPP appears to have some more leniency in violations. Violating the MAAPP could ultimately lead to action by USA Swimming or the U.S. Center for SafeSport, but it could also be dealt with internally by clubs and LSCs, and violations that are “isolated and inadvertent” could be treated as “teachable moments.” Practically, that means that we could be looking at what right now is a hazy range of potential sanctions for violating MAAPP rules, depending on how clubs and LSCs choose to enforce and how often USA Swimming chooses to get involved.
ADULT ATHLETES & THEIR MINOR TEAMMATES
USA Swimming hasn’t made any specific exceptions in their rules for athletes who turn 18 and their communication with teammates who are still minors, but that situation has brought up a lot of concern among readers. USA Swimming did tell SwimSwam that MAAPP violations between adult athletes and athletes between 14 and 17 could be treated as “learning opportunities:”
“MAAPP violations by athletes over 18 involving minor athletes over the age of 14 may be treated as learning opportunities,” USA Swimming wrote.
That’s a fairly vague explanation, and it remains to be seen how often private communications between an 18-year-old and their 14-17-year-old teammates is punished or only addressed as a learning opportunity. Still, it’s worth noting that if communication violates either the USA Swimming Code of Conduct or the SafeSport Code, it can be punished by those organizations with a ban or suspension, regardless of the MAAPP.
Our takeaway is to work within your club/organization to update and communicate your policies for implementing the MAAPP. Once put in place (between April 29 and June 23), have regular and consistent check-ins with your athletes, parents, coaches and administrators to ensure there is clarity within your organization on how the MAAPP implementation is working. Be clear about what your club policy allows and be consistent in how the policy is enforced.
The overall goal is to provide a safe environment for the athletes and the organization.
Update on Safe Sport Recognition:
As of 5/21, 35 of 3,000+ USA Swimming registered clubs, have achieved recognition, with 20 of the 59 LSC’s having a club that met the criteria.
Potomac Valley and Colorado LSC’s have 4 clubs each, while Southern California and Illinois have 3 each. 14 of the 35 clubs are from 4 LSC’s. Additionally, of the 200 clubs that have achieved club excellence status, there are zero Gold, zero Silver and only three Bronze clubs that have met the criteria for Safe Sport Recognition. Seems like priorities are a bit out of place with so many clubs eager to complete the requisites for performance-based rewards, but not so much for athlete well-being.
- Jets Aquatic Club (Arkansas LSC)
- Aces Swim Club (Colorado LSC)
- Cheyenne Mountain Aquatics (Colorado LSC)
- Colorado Torpedoes (Colorado LSC)
- Elevation Athletics (Colorado LSC)
- Thames Aquatic Club (Connecticut LSC)
- South Florida Aquatic Club (Florida Gold Coast LSC)
- Swim Fort Lauderdale (Florida Gold Coast LSC)
- Gulf Coast Swim Team (Florida LSC)
- Sea Dragon Aquatics (Florida LSC)
- Bloomington Normal Swim Club (Illinois LSC)
- Mundelein Mustang Swim Club (Illinois LSC)
- Sterling Stingrays (Illinois LSC)
- Lawrence County Aquatics (Indiana LSC)
- Plainfield Community Aquatics (Indiana 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)
- Ad Astra Area Aquatics (Missouri Valley LSC)
- Metrowest YMCA (New England LSC)
- Sailfish Swim Team (New England LSC)
- Buffalo Area Aquatic Club (Niagara LSC)
- Town Wreckers Swim Team (Niagara LSC)
- Cape Fear Aquatic Club (North Carolina LSC)
- Splash Club, Inc. (Oklahoma LSC)
- All Star Aquatics (Potomac Valley LSC)
- Fairfax Foxes (Potomac Valley LSC)
- The Fish (Potomac Valley LSC)
- MSSC (Potomac Valley LSC)
- Boise Swim Club (Snake River LSC)
- Buenaventura Swim Club (Southern California LSC)
- Paseo Aquatics Swim Team (Southern California LSC)
- Swim Torrance (Southern California LSC)
- Salt Lake Swim Legends (Utah LSC)