Deadspin has an in-depth piece on the reasons behind the resignation last month of University of Toledo women’s track and cross-country coach Kevin Hadsell, a slimy sexual predator. Good for Deadspin. See http://deadspin.com/5983592/im-down-for-drinks-laughs-sex-the-sexual-harassment-claims-that-brought-down-toledos-running-coach.
Hadsell is a prime example of a type I have come across time and again in my USA Swimming investigations. I call it the “sex and drugs and rock-and-roll” wing of sexual abuse, which makes for a titillating narrative at the same time it should creep out anyone with a sense of ethics. In Deadspin writer Doug Brown’s words:
Interviews with former athletes, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, suggest a charismatic coach who maintained few boundaries with his runners. There were physical and romantic relationships with athletes and at least one non-athlete student from the beginning of his time in Toledo. Those relationships, in our sources’ telling, tended to unfold in similar fashion.
In addition, the runners we spoke to said Hadsell would regularly talk to them about sex and send them sexually suggestive text messages. He hounded runners who tried to quit the team. He used his authority as a coach to exert dominion over the private lives of his athletes, pressuring his female runners to stay off birth control. Former runners also recall Hadsell drunk-driving the team van, drinking during practices, and buying alcohol for underage runners.
One source described a “cover-up culture” among the athletes—female athletes too uncomfortable to bring up the matter with each other or with school officials. Some worried that nobody would believe their word against that of a highly respected coach. Some didn’t want to risk their position with the team. Others worried about outing their friends.
Now for my addendum.
The world of swimming sex abuse — 12,000 coaches, 300,000 young athletes in tight togs — has the Hadsell type, multiplied by an X factor that is difficult to quantify.
Swimming also has another category. In college sports, the athletes under the thumb or the spell of a bad-guy coach are near-adults, if not of actual statutory majority age. So the problem is harassment … bad boundaries … toxic workplace … call it what you will — a coastline of the shoals women and workers have to navigate in all walks of life. When individual scenarios like Hadsell’s are exposed, it moves us closer to the day when all such creeps get shamed out of existence, and better policies and controls instituted.
But youth swimming is worse. Much worse.
In age-group swimming programs, the athletes start getting their fortunes tied to the influence of coaches — part-authority figures, part-Svengalis — from a very young age. Some get molested then. Others get “groomed” for “consensual” relations later.
And all of it must be resisted and changed in our contemporary sports culture — a domain where even the “amateur” levels are dirty with money and false dreams.