Muchnick Exchange With Ira Klein of Swim Coaches Association Board

Published August 14th, 2012, Uncategorized

In response to yesterday’s post (“Dear Swim Coaches Association Board: Who Will Stand Up to the Widespread Sex Abuse in Your Sport?”), I received an email from Ira Klein, a member of the American Swimming Coaches Association board of directors. I reproduce below both Klein’s full message and my reply.

 

Mr. Muchnick:
I don’t believe we have ever met, much to my pleasure.  You do a great job of putting together prose but do nothing to stem the tide of a scurrilous problem that so many good men and women are working desperately to eradicate.  You are correct in your quote of evil triumphing when good men fail to act, you sir must not be a good man for I have never seen you act to improve this situation that you seem to think you are bringing to a forefront.  I have never seen your name on a ballot for a position on either the ASCA or the USA Swimming Board.  Instead you seem to have the notion that your McCartheist style will somehow be productive in bringing about change or help save even one individual.

You are mistaken, all you do is stir up the masses who like you are willing to scream about the problem but never offer one solution or are ever willing to take a single step forward to fight for good over evil.  Try reading Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech from April 1910, he speaks of those who sit on the sideline, willing to point fingers but never having the courage to stand up for fear that they might not succeed.  So many good men have been maligned by lowlife bloggers who feel impunity hiding behind their screens, thinking they are anonymous and therefor both untouchable and even worse, right.  I have never seen you or any of your ilk stand up even once at an ASCA meeting or USAS House of Delegates and ask to be counted in the war against such acts.  I have only read your diatribe in blogs and letters condemning the good for not doing enough even more than you condemn the bad for what they have done.

ASCA was possibly the first association to create a coaches code of conduct, followed closely by USA Swimming.  USA Swimming was one of the first, if not the first NGB to institute background checks.  For decades, when given legal information, USA Swimming has always taken the zero tolerance stand and fought to protect our athletes.  It is easy in a blog or letter to call for action, but good men are compelled to follow the law, to obey the rules.  You sir can easily call for a new Salem witch hunt, but honest people will have to wait as actual laws need to be followed.

Why does it seem so bleak for USA Swimming, because we do not sweep under any rug these misdeeds within our ranks.  When presented with legal information we do not shirk from our duty but forge ahead to complete our tasks, while you do nothing more than write about the courage of others. Do you really think that all bad people have found a home at swimming, that coaches in other organizations have a higher moral standard than those few who besmirch our great organization?  No, the difference is that we have taken the hardline and set up avenues to root them out and banish them from our ranks.  Your question should be why haven’t the other organizations been as transparent and relentless as ours has been.

You talk about the relationship between the two organizations, forged mainly by coaches willing to donate their time and energy to both organizations.  What time and effort have you donated?  I remember the meetings where ASCA Board members toiled to bring about a singularly unique document, our Code of Conduct.  I also remember the open forum meetings that had a thousand coaches debating over what should or should not be included both in our code as well as our education.  Sir, I believe I missed your participation in those at the time.

Mr. Muchnick these are serious times and we need serious people to help lead both USA Swimming as well as the ASCA.  We need good people who quote facts, not just lawyers who lie with ease, and writers who have the desire to properly inform rather than making believe they are actually part of some reform that exists only in their mind.

You apparently have never met or spent any time with Coach Shoulberg, if you had you would know that he is as honest, humble and honorable as any man can be, you don’t need all accounts to know that.  In the case of Penn St., which has been proven in a court of law, a coach had been reported to people higher at that institution for the possibility of wrong doing in his actions with minors.  What ensued there has never been the case within our organization and your willingness to compare the two shows either your lack of knowledge or worse your willingness to completely disregard the correct information.

As a former President of the ASCA as well as Vice President of USA Swimming as well as former staff at USA Swimming I find your use of the word collusion beyond offensive.  There are no clandestine meetings between the organizations.  The discussions between them are how do we better educate our coaches, what can we do to improve swimming and from both sides, what can we do to help each other.  Any coach of which there are but a few, who have served on both boards have done so as independent members of each organization, willing again to donate their time and energy to better the sport, protect the athletes, ensure the future.  There are no private meetings between the two boards to focus on any cover ups as you seem to be intimating in this letter.

Mr. Muchnick if you really want to make things better, run for a board, stand up and be heard in person, don’t write useless letters to congress but do help write further legislation with USA Swimming to better protect our athletes, coaches and officials.  Put down your keyboard and come out from the shadows, stand in the light of day and make serious efforts to better the future.  I will await with anticipation to see if you follow through with any of that, but you will excuse me if I don’t hold my breath while waiting.

Respectfully,
Ira Klein
Head Coach Sarasota Tsunami Swim Team

*****

Mr. Klein,

Your executive director, Mr. Leonard, made the preposterously passive statement that ASCA is not “an organization that deals directly with children, nor is that part of our purpose in any way, shape or form.” Now you come along to assert ASCA’s aggressive effort to eradicate pedophiles from organized swimming, while inveighing against “useless letters to congress” (!?)

I doubt that I am the only observer to emerge from this process expecting a little more humility from the group that named statutory rapist Rick Curl its 1994 Coach of the Year and elected him as its president in 2003.

Curl’s horrific molestation of his swimmer Kelley Davies during the 1980s was discussed widely within the swimming community at large at the time, and especially in the last years of the decade when she swam at the University of Texas and encountered personal problems traceable to that chapter of her life. Members of the ASCA board, then and now, were privy to the rumors, which are now confirmed fact. There is good reason to believe that David Berkoff was referring to precisely this when he wrote (in a 2010 email, which has surfaced in one of the many current sex abuse lawsuits against USA Swimming):

“Denying knowledge of [REDACTED] and others banging their swimmers! It’s a flat out lie. They knew about it because we (coaches and athletes) were all talking about it in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I was told by several of [REDACTED] swimmers in 1988…. I was told [REDACTED] was molesting [REDACTED] for years starting when she was 12 by some of the Texas guys.”

I do not believe special qualifications are required in order to criticize USA Swimming or ASCA. As I’ve stated repeatedly in my writings, I got involved with this issue as a parent, following news I uncovered that Jesse Stovall, the coach of my daughter’s former club, was arrested for twice raping a swimmer he had solo-chaperoned to a national meet. Stovall’s plea bargain in a Florida court would wind up coinciding with 20/20’s report on the national sex abuse scandal in the sport.

My letter stipulated that Richard Shoulberg is a good man. Somehow this moved you to argue: “You apparently have never met or spent any time with Coach Shoulberg, if you had you would know that he is as honest, humble and honorable as any man can be, you don’t need all accounts to know that.”

The levels of coherence, and of literacy itself, startle me here. They should help alert everyone that our country’s swimming children face a clear and present danger from the leadership of the American Swimming Coaches Association.

Irvin Muchnick