Below is the email I sent yesterday to Richard Shoulberg, board president of the American Swimming Coaches Association and long-time head coach at the Germantown Academy outside Philadelphia.
I invite you to add your comments to those of Mr. Leonard, below. This is addressed to you in your capacity as board president of ASCA. Also, I am aware and have reported that internal records show your relative historical aggressiveness on the sex abuse issue within USA Swimming — e.g., your push for a “zero tolerance policy” and your later expressed disappointment that it had not been achieved.
Thank you for your time.
Published August 10th, 2012
Below is the email exchange I just had with John Leonard, executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association. As further reporting will make clear, Leonard’s ASCA is a powerful voice in organized swimming, with significant commercial and patronage overlaps with USA Swimming. In many cases that power has been used to advance the most passive fixes of sex abuse in youth swimming.
Muchnick to Leonard, 8:37 a.m. PDT
Does ASCA, like USA Swimming, maintain a list of coaches who are permanently banned for sexual misconduct?
If yes, where it that list published? If not, why not?
Leonard to Muchnick, 10:17 a.m.
no, we do not
Muchnick to Leonard, 10:31 a.m. PDT
Thank you, sir. You did not answer the “If not, why not?” part.
Here’s where I’m going with this. One of the limitations of USA Swimming’s list is that it does not cover rec coaches, YMCA coaches, high school coaches, coaches in other countries, if those coaches are not USA Swimming members. Thus, the list cannot be a true clearinghouse of sex abuse info. I have some sympathy with this particular aspect of the organization’s predicament, and I have written that Congress should overhaul the Stevens Act to give Olympic Committee-designated national sports governing bodies certain protections against defamation liability, in return for having responsibility for being true and comprehensive clearinghouses of documented allegations of sex abuse in each particular sport.
Meanwhile, ASCA’s own membership list would seem, on its face, to be potentially more comprehensive than USAS’s. And even if not, redundancy, I believe, is crucial, in the dissemination of public information in this area.
Leonard to Muchnick, 10:40 a.m.
ASCA is a voluntary membership organization.
We have no investigatory powers, funds, or responsibility.
USA-Swimming is required membership for anyone who coaches a USA-Swimming team. They have “control power” over who can coach in their organization.
We do not have an organization that deals directly with children, nor is that part of our purpose in any way, shape or form, according to our formative documents from 1958 and thereafter.
We follow the USA-Swimming banned list and remove from ASCA membership (permanently) anyone who is banned by USA-Swimming, once the process is completed there.
In addition, when we are sent “news” that is verifiable legal proceedings against any high school or rec coaches that have had similar charges proven against them, we check our membership lists and would also remove them. To date, no “non-USA-Swimming member” who has been reported to us has been a member of ASCA, so we have not had to remove anyone, since they have not been members.
We only have the ability to deal with those who chose to be members.
Muchnick to Leonard, 10:52 a.m. PDT
Certain elements of your answer are understood. Others are obscure. Since certain types of swimming activities obviously skew young, and since learning to swim is such an important rite of passage, I do not share your conclusion that ASCA’s mission is entirely apart from dealing with children “in any way, shape or form,” no matter what your formative documents might say. Indeed, your qualifying word directly basically acknowledges as much. Finally, I observe that ASCA’s commercial interests in learn-to-swim programs and its various functional overlaps with USA Swimming make advisable the kind of redundancy of banned list publication that I suggested.