TO: Matthew Kredich <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Mark Hesse <email@example.com>, David Marsh <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Tim Murphy <email@example.com>, Eddie Reese <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Steve Morsilli <email@example.com>, Mark Schubert <MSchu47573@aol.com >, Jennifer Gibson <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Gregg Troy <email@example.com>, Jack Bauerle <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Chuck Warner <email@example.com>, Mary Anne Gerzanick-Lebowitz <maryanne.gerzanick-liebowitz@ oregonstate.edu>, Tim Welsh <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Ira Klein <email@example.com>
CC: Richard Shoulberg <richard.shoulberg@ germantownacademy.org>, John Leonard <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Olympics are over. And so with it, unless there is a concerted effort, will be broad public attention for the most shameful story in American sports: the wide-scale sexual abuse of youth swimmers by many – way, way too many – of the age-group coaches who supervise them.
This letter is being addressed to all the members of the board of directors of the American Swimming Coaches Association, and is a follow-up to my communications with board president Richard Shoulberg and executive director John Leonard, which are reproduced below.
The collusion between ASCA and the more visible USA Swimming, our U.S. Olympic Committee-authorized national sports governing body, is where the rubber meets the road in the decades-long and continuing coach molestation scandal. It is the central means by which the authorities of the swimming world, with increasing implausibility, claim plausible deniability. USA Swimming is the right hand, ASCA is the left hand, and each pretends not to know what the other is doing or not doing about the problem. Anyone who takes a close look at the overlapping functions, commercial interests, and patronage, as well as the very crossover board memberships of the two organizations, knows that this is nonsense – but worse than that, nonsense which endangers on a daily basis the 300,000 youth swimmers who spend many hours a week under the tutelage of USA Swimming’s 12,000 member coaches.
Executive director Leonard dodges the issue when he describes ASCA as a “voluntary membership organization” that does not deal “directly with children, nor is that part of our purpose in any way, shape or form.” What about “indirectly” – is that a “way, shape or form” with real-world consequences?
One of the key gaps in USA Swimming’s published list of coaches who are permanently banned for sexual misconduct is that the list does not cover swimming coaches who are not current USA Swimming members: rec team coaches, college coaches, and so forth. Some of these criminals – let’s call them what they are – who are either on USA Swimming’s secret internal “flagged” list or are not under the radar of USA Swimming at all, are likely ASCA members.
But far more important than the mere publication of a supplemental ASCA list, which was the burden of my correspondence with Messrs. Leonard and Shoulberg, is ASCA’s historical culpability in the swimming industry’s culture of denial. This became evident recently in the case of Rick Curl, whose widely known serial abuse of his swimmer Kelley Davies-Currin, starting when she was 13 years old, just came to light. Like other pedophile coaches, Curl was able to elude public detection for 29 years, most likely longer, despite having been dismissed by the University of Maryland in the late 1980s under murky circumstances. The code of silence among collegiate coaches, many of whom serve on Leonard’s ASCA board and bask in the prestige therefrom, is a crucial piece of the swimming scandal. And like Penn State’s, ASCA’s abdication of its responsibility for protecting our children will not remain forever unscrutinized and unaccounted for.
By all accounts, your board president, Mr. Shoulberg, is a good man; in his time on the USA Swimming board, he advocated a “zero-tolerance policy” and mourned the failure to achieve it. In an internal memo, Mr. Shoulberg worried that USA Swimming was becoming like the Catholic Church in choosing protection of the organization’s image over protection of its most vulnerable constituents.
In my view, the time for internal statements of personal rectitude and promotion of incremental improvement is past. As Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” The executive leadership of USA Swimming has failed. So, too, has the board charged with overseeing it. What is the situation at the American Swimming Coaches Association? I look forward to your responses.
Published August 11th, 2012, Uncategorized
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.