USA Swimming Board of Directors Approves Task Force Recommendations, Implementation Plan From Vieth Report

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, May 3. THE USA Swimming Board of Directors today approved the list of recommendations from the Safe Sport Program Review Task Force, including the future creation of USA Swimming’s first-ever victim’s assistance fund to help support victims of abuse.

The nine-person Task Force was created to review the report, “When the Athlete is a Child: An Assessment of USA Swimming’s Safe Sport Program,” which was compiled by Victor Vieth, executive director of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center and one of the nation’s foremost experts on the prevention of child abuse and neglect. The report was the result of a self-commissioned independent review that USA Swimming conducted to examine its Safe Sport program, assessing its effectiveness and offering recommendations for improvement throughout the program.

The Task Force, chaired by Jay Thomas, a member of USA Swimming’s Board of Directors, provided recommendations for implementation of Vieth’s recommendations and was unanimously approved by the USA Swimming Board of Directors. The full Task Force report and the initial Vieth report can be found online here.

“We want to do what’s best for the swimming community and we are confident that these next steps will help to further develop a culture of Safe Sport throughout our organization,” Thomas said. “The Safe Sport Program Review Task Force was mindful to balance the desire to implement everything possible with the reality of a course of action which would actually be attainable.”

The concept of the victim’s assistance fund is intended to assist with counseling or emotional support services. In addition to the creation of the fund, which will be fully developed in 2014 and implemented by 2015, the Task Force recommendations will improve member services for USA Swimming member clubs, increase transparency in the reporting and response process and incentivize implementation of Safe Sport training and education through the creation of “Safe Sport Certified” clubs.

The Task Force recommendations for additional member services will include enhanced educational modules that will give clubs more training specific to what they’re experiencing related to Safe Sport. A “Safe Sport Training Library” will offer courses addressing a variety of Safe Sport topics and common risk areas, including information on how to talk to athletes about Safe Sport as well as information on how to prevent and handle bullying.

The future creation of “Safe Sport Certified Club Program” will help motivate and incentivize coaches, teams, athletes, and parents to embrace and participate in the Safe Sport training and enhance awareness of the Safe Sport program. The certified team designation will recognize clubs who demonstrate a strong commitment to Safe Sport by achieving a designated score through various Safe Sport activation benchmarks.

“This plan has a strong focus on measures that incentivize rather than mandate and we feel that this is critical to the future success of our safe sport efforts,” said USA Swimming President Bruce Stratton. “This is not just a plan for the next three to five years; it’s a plan for the next 10-15 years and will enhance our already strong Safe Sport program at the local level for our 2,800 member clubs. We’re listening and we’re learning and we’re working hard to continuously make our Safe Sport program as strong as possible.”

The Task Force completed its work over a three month period from February to April. After carefully reviewing the Gundersen report, the Task Force participated in five conference calls and met on two separate occasions for two-day meetings. In the process of developing their recommendations, the Task Force solicited feedback from USA Swimming membership, the American Swim Coaches’ Association and feedback from survivors of abuse.

The Task Force was comprised of four members of USA Swimming’s Board of Directors, Safe Sport Committee Chair Cecil Gordon, coach Rachel Stratton-Mills, and outside expert Sandy Wurtele. Wurtele, is a psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Spring and is considered an international expert on child sexual abuse prevention. Mike Unger and Susan Woessner were staff liaisons for the group.

While some of the recommendations will be executed immediately, the Task Force’s implementation plan is mindful that some of the recommendations will take years to implement. For example, three recommendations involve new legislation which will be voted on by the USA Swimming House of Delegates at their annual convention in September. A public status update of the Task Force’s report and its implementation plan will also be shared at the September convention.

Get more information about Safe Sport on USA Swimming’s website, including FAQs, a list of banned coaches, training and education links, and information about reporting misconduct or abuse.

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