The Chuck Wielgus Blog: Athlete Safety Front and Center in Independent Review
Today is one of the most pivotal days in the future of USA Swimming. I don’t make this statement lightly either, as we have dealt with many triumphs, and even some tragedies, over my 17 years as the executive director USA Swimming. In fact, today could be a bellwether day for youth sports in general and I am proud that USA Swimming is in the forefront.
This afternoon, a report was released entitled “When the Athlete is a Child: An Assessment of USA Swimming’s Safe Sport Program.” This meticulous report was conducted with unfettered access by the Gunderson National Child Protection Training and its executive director Victor Vieth and his team. It is an independent and objective view of USA Swimming’s Safe Sport program and includes validation of things we have done, areas to improve, as well as criticisms of USA Swimming.
I encourage everyone to read the executive summary, as well as the full report that is now posted online, for all the findings. It is well worth the read.
I wanted to take a moment to explain the “why” behind commissioning this report in the first place and USA Swimming choosing to willingly open ourselves to this microscope of scrutiny.
If you spend time in our offices, you will know this is a not a team of “yes” people. As the executive director, I try to surround myself with people who aren’t afraid to challenge our thinking. Our staff meetings encourage debate, dissenting views and in rare instances downright arguing. With disagreement – some call it “constructive conflict” – we make ourselves better.
That is the genesis of commissioning this report – we wanted to make ourselves better. We wanted to improve the sport we are all so proud to be a part of. To do that effectively, we had to let voices be heard. For this report, 57 people were interviewed, including our harshest critics. Anyone who wanted a voice in this process was heard. The light of day was bright in every corner.
We weren’t looking for a pat on the back nor an exposé. We were looking for solutions. Through 38 total recommendations, this report has given us better feedback than we could have ever imagined.
With any commissioned study there are inherent questions we must ask. For example: What is the timeline? What are the priorities to implement? What if the recommendations are tough to implement? How will this impact other youth sports organizations? We now begin the process of answering these questions.
As you read the report, you will see it is an academic writing with incredible detail. It will take time to digest and there are very few overnight fixes. For that reason, USA Swimming President Bruce Stratton appointed a task force comprised of a wealth of talented and respected people within the Olympic movement to create a rollout plan. You can read more about the task force in the story posted on our web site.
One thing I can assure you is that with such a pivotal day to the future of our great sport, we will begin this process of improvement immediately with great enthusiasm and I hope that our membership will join all of us who seek to make our sport better.