USA Swimming Restructures House of Delegates to Comply With New Legislation; 1/3rd National Team Athletes

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

USA Swimming Restructures House of Delegates to Comply With New Legislation, 1/3rd National Team Athletes

On Saturday, Sept. 25, the USA Swimming House of Delegates voted to approve a planned restructuring to bring the organization into compliance with the latest amendment of the Amateur Sports Act, first passed in 1978 and better known as the Ted Stevens Act. A November 2020 bill passed by Congress laid out that for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and all American Olympic national governing bodies (NGBs), 33.3% of the governing board must include athletes who have represented the U.S. in international competition. Of that group, 20% must be active athletes or athletes who had represented the U.S. within the last 10 years.

Previously, the House of Delegates (HOD) had consisted of 20% athletes from around the country, with no requirement that they were competing on the elite level or that they had represented the United States in international competition. Now, the number of active athletes (that have not swum internationally) on the board has been reduced from 18% to 8%, and non-athlete, non-coach volunteers has been reduced in percentage from 39% to 18%. In contrast, the percentage of U.S.-representative athletes on the board has been massively increased, from 2% to 33.3%. This weekend, 2016 gold medalist Maya DiRado was re-elected to the USA Swimming HOD, and fellow Olympians Tony Ervin and Ashley Twichell were also elected.

Shawn Smith, who led the USA Swimming working group that brought about the change, is optimistic that the change will be beneficial to the organziation down the line.

“My hope is that we have been able to create a House that retains the critical components of our historical governance structure that we can continue forward with a House that is now 41% athletes, and still maintains the institutional knowledge that is critical to the continuum of success USA Swimming has enjoyed over recent decades,” Smith told Swimming World.

The original USA Swimming proposals can be found here.

The push by Congress to make changes to the Ted Stevens Act and increase athlete representation within their organizations resulted from the ongoing sexual abuse scandal within USA Gymnastics, in which former national team doctor Larry Nassar was able to abuse hundreds of athletes while the organization was either ignorant or turned a blind eye to his crimes. In response to that tragedy, gymnasts and other athletes from around the country have demanded a larger say in the governance of their sport. The bill also sets forth procedures for reporting sexual abuse and assault and keeping former perpetuators out of sports.

Last week, the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA) released a statement in support of the new plan for the HOD, still a proposal at that point. ASCA had opposed a previous version of the plan designed to bring USA Swimming into compliance with the Ted Stevens Act because the proposal had drastically reduced the number of coaches in the HOD. But the final version brought the percentage of coaches in the HOD to 41%, equal to the proportion of active or former athletes (elite plus non-elite). You can read the full ASCA statement below.

The American Swimming Coaches Association is pleased to support the recently revised proposal for the restructuring of the USA Swimming House of Delegates, as well as the new proposal for a Coaches Advisory Council. ASCA urges all delegates to vote in favor of both R-3 and R-4 when the vote is taken at the Special House of Delegates meeting on Sept. 25.

The working group made up of equal numbers of coaches, athletes and officials demonstrated impressive collaboration to come up with this proposal which returns the guaranteed coach representation to 41%, equal to that of athletes. This latest proposal is a far cry from the original proposal published in late April which greatly reduced coach representation.  ASCA immediately opposed that version, and urged coaches across the country to engage in the process, and speak up during the comment period.

Not only does this latest version bring the House of Delegates into compliance with the USOPC Bylaws and Federal Law, it also recognizes the important voice of coaches whose livelihood depends on the sport.

Special thanks to the coaches who gave of their time and expertise to negotiate this proposal: Tim Bauer, Gulf Swimming; Allison Beebe, Gulf Swimming; Ira Klein, Florida Swimming; Shawn Smith, Colorado Swimming; Beth Winkowski, Georgia Swimming

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