Safe Sport Looking to Add More Teeth at USAS Convention; Updates Hard-of-Hearing Hand Signals

GREENSBORO, North Carolina, September 11. THIS weekend at the United States Aquatic Sports Convention, USA Swimming delegates will be voting on a significant amount of Rules and Regulations proposals. While some of the proposals focus on issues such as time trials, and administrative officials, Safe Sport will look to continue to add more teeth as the primary athlete protection agency within the sport.

Two years after the first Athlete Protection Policies were passed at the USAS Convention in Dallas, Texas, and half-a-year after rebranding to Safe Sport, the House of Delegates will have a chance to increase the amount of power the Safe Sport Initiative has within the sport.

Out of an initial set of 27 Rules and Regulation proposals to be decided this weekend by the House of Delegates, seven are directly or indirectly meant to add even more strength to the Safe Sport initiative at USA Swimming. While the bulk of these Safe Sport additions focus on bullying and emotional abuse, one proposal would eliminate coach-athlete relationships altogether regardless of age.

Proposal R-3 — Eliminate Deck Changing by athletes at USA Swimming events
“Deck Changing – Changing into or out of swimsuits outside designated locker room areas by athletes at any level of competition is prohibited at USA Swimming sanctioned meets. Prohibited areas include, but are not limited to, team and spectator seating sections, as well as warm-up and competition pool decks.”

Proposal R-12 — Require Administrative Officials to be non-athlete members
Now that the position of Administrative Official has been created, tested, and looks to be long-term. USA Swimming's Rules and Regulations Committee would like to add these positions to USA Swimming's oversight by requiring them to be non-athlete members. This proposal would put Administrative Officials into the background check process in terms of athlete safety.

Proposal R-15, R-17, R-18 — Update Bullying and Abuse Prohibition to Include Emotional Abuse
“To modify the prohibition against bullying by making it applicable only to athlete-on-athlete behavior for the purposes of this 304.3.7. An additional amendment is being proposed to 304.3.13 regarding physical abuse of an athlete to also include verbal and emotional abuse. This will allow the investigation of emotional and verbal abuse of an athlete by a coach to be conducted by a coach panel prior to any formal hearing.”

“To add emotional and verbal abuse of an athlete by a coach or other person of authority over the athlete, in addition to the current prohibition on physical abuse. Any allegation of emotional or verbal abuse would be investigated by a coach panel, as is the case with physical abuse allegations.”

“To add requirements that clubs institute anti-bullying policies and adopt their own policies regarding how electronic communications and social media may be used by coaches and other adults to communicate with athletes, in an effort to help prevent inappropriate contact, grooming behavior, and boundary violations by offenders towards athletes”

Proposal R-16 — Eliminate Sexual/Romantic Relationships Between Coaches and Athletes, Regardless of Age
To modify the sexual misconduct rules to eliminate the standard of “inappropriate” and make it clear that any sexual conduct with a minor athlete by an adult is absolutely prohibited, and to provide a clearer standard regarding adult athlete-coach romantic relationships (following the recent proposed rule of the NCAA).

R-16 would also make it a Code of Conduct violation, and thus at jeopardy of being banned for life, for any coach and athlete to have a sexual or romantic relationship as follows:
“(c) Any sexual or romantic relationship between an adult athlete and any other member (excluding a pre-existing relationship between spouses or life partners) who has a coaching responsibility or other position of authority over such athlete, even if it is a consensual relationship between adults.”

Proposal R-25 — Requires that LSC Establish Safe Sport Committee Chair, Coordinator Position as a Voting Member
To require that all LSCs establish the position of Safe Sport Committee Chair or Coordinator as a voting member on their Board of Directors and to highly recommend the establishment of an LSC Safe Sport Committee.

Additionally, the Disability committee has put forth a revision to the hand signals to be used for deaf and hard-of-hearing swimmers, requiring additional signals for the backstroke start. This proposal not only has the recommendation for approval by the Rules and Regulations committee, world-class deaf swimmer Marcus Titus also supports the change.

“I hope they will approve the hand signal,” Titus told Swimming World. “If they don't, then it would be a violation for deaf and hard of hearing athletes.”

Full list of initial proposals.

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