USA Swimming News

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

USA Swimming Looks Back on 10 years of Safe Sport Initiatives


USA Swimming Looks Back on 10 years of Safe Sport Initiatives

“What is USA Swimming Safe Sport to you?” a USA Swimming Safe Sport staff member asks the group. Parents in the Zoom training start responding in the chat box: Keeping our kids safe, no sexual harm, no bullying, prevent misconduct…and while these answers populate, a parent provides the summation, “It is an abuse prevention program.”  

While there are many resources available to members, USA Swimming’s Safe Sport program has one major purpose: To prevent abuse. Launched in 2010, the USA Swimming Safe Sport program has continued to pave the course for safety in our sport. As the first comprehensive program of its kind in the Olympic movement, it has created countless resources, programs, safeguards and policies to help prioritize a community free from abuse.  

Free training has been a staple for this program throughout the years, allowing coaches, parents and athletes the ability to learn more and become stronger advocates against physical, emotional and sexual abuse. From 2010 to 2021, the number of direct trainings for coaches, athletes, parents and other members continued to grow exponentially, including a staggering increase of over 180% between 2019 and 2020 alone.  

Other notable early achievements include implementing mandatory reporting policies, expanding background check requirements to all non-athlete members and building model team policies to govern behaviors such as appropriate electronic communication, anti-bullying efforts and preventing peer-to-peer sexual abuse. To learn more about model and mandatory policies, please click here.  

In another first for the Olympic movement, USA Swimming hosted its inaugural Safe Sport Leadership Conference in 2013. Eighteen National Governing Bodies (NBGs) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) were among the 175 attendees. That same year, all 59 of the USA Swimming Local Swimming Committees (LSC) appointed an LSC Safe Sport Chair/Coordinator according to a new requirement approved by members of USA Swimming. Some LSC Safe Sport Chairs/Coordinators roles include educating and leading their LSC’s on Safe Sport topics, providing additional training, setting up informational tables at swim meets and attending Safe Sport-specific workshops offered by staff. By 2015, USA Swimming Zones put in place Zone Safe Sport Chairs to help coordinate communication between the national staff efforts and the LSCs.  

USA Swimming has worked closely with the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a separate, independent agency focused on ending all forms of abuse in sport, since its inception in 2017. In 2018, USA Swimming added to its Safe Sport team allowing for case management, education and training support to continue, as well as building an open and efficient line of communication between our NGB and the Center. USA Swimming, which integrates Safe Sport into the work of all USA Swimming staff, has since expanded its dedicated Safe Sport staff to include three full-time staff members with additional support from two others. 

As part of its continued commitment to safeguard athletes, USA Swimming announced the Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policy (MAAPP), requiring all clubs to implement it in full by June 23, 2019. This policy covers five areas:  

  1. One-on-one interactions 
  2. Travel: local and team 
  3. Social media and electronic communication 
  4. Locker rooms and changing areas 
  5. Massages, rubdowns and athletic training modalities.  

The policy applies to all adults in certain positions and those who interact directly and frequently with minor athletes.  

USA Swimming Safe Sport’s work is not complete. With the continued goal of protecting all members from physical, emotional and sexual abuse, the program will continue to lead the Olympic movement in new and innovative ways. This includes, but is not limited to, methods of educating members, continued ease of accessing required and recommended documentation and encouraging members to go above and beyond mandatory requirements through incentivized programs, such as the Safe Sport Club Recognition (SSRP) program.  

Introduced in 2018, SSRP allows a club to demonstrate its commitment to creating a healthy and positive environment free from abuse by developing and implementing Safe Sport specific policies, procedures, best practices and trainings. Within the span of a year, 2020 brought a 400% increase in swim clubs who achieved Safe Sport Club Recognition, setting record numbers during a year in which most clubs could not offer in-water participation. Clubs which achieve recognition are entered into a random monthly drawing for the chance to win a visit with a National Team member or alum. To view previous winners and athletes, please visit here.  

“Even though we have completed 10 years of work inside USA Swimming Safe Sport, we are still pushing ourselves each day to be better,” USA Swimming Senior Director of Legal and Member Affairs Abby Howard said. “We will continue to provide best in class resources for our staff and membership through [USA Swimming] Safe Sport. This is how we will create sustainable change for the immediate and long-term safety of our athletes.”  

As 2021 takes off, USA Swimming is determined to continue to lead these efforts and to continue the upward trend of recognizing clubs who have been approved for the Safe Sport Club Recognition (SSRP) program.  

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