“Safety and security don’t just happen; they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.” Nelson Mandela
USA Swimming is committed to fostering a fun, healthy, and safe sport environment for all its members. We all must recognize that the safety of swimmers lies with all those involved in the sport and is not the sole responsibility of any one person at the club, LSC, or national level. This means that everyone—national office, coaches, officials, parents, and athletes—is essential to creating a culture where all forms of misconduct are intolerable and eliminated as soon as possible.
The Safe Sport program has a wealth of resources, policies, best practices, tools, and procedures to help empower you to create and maintain a healthy and safe environment for your athletes. The program follows six guiding principles:
1. USA Swimming believes that every member should have a safe, healthy, and fun sport environment.
2. USA Swimming believes that every young person should be protected from abuse and safe from harm.
3. USA Swimming believes that all non-athlete members share a collective responsibility to protect our membership.
4. USA Swimming will make available training for all members to increase awareness and understanding of athlete protection policies and best practices. USA Swimming will provide a process for members to recognize and respond to any Safe Sport issues that arise.
5. USA Swimming will provide resources, information, and guidance on Safe Sport related issues to all members, including coaches, parents, and athletes.
6. USA Swimming will treat all allegations of abuse or concerns regarding athlete safety seriously and will respond appropriately and as prescribed by USA Swimming Rules and Regulations.
USA Swimming Best Practice Guidelines
1. Parents should be encouraged to appropriately support their child’s swimming experience.
2. All swimming practices should be open to observation by parents.
3. Two-deep leadership: One coach member and at least one other adult who is not in the water should be present at all practices and other sanctioned club activities whenever at least one athlete is present. Clubs and coaches should evaluate their seasonal plans and map out how to best accomplish this strongly recommended guideline.
4. Open and observable environment: An open and observable environment should be maintained for all interactions between adults and athletes. Private, or one-on-one situations, should be avoided unless they are open and observable. Common sense should be used to move a meeting to an open and observable location if the meeting inadvertently begins in private.
5. Coaches should not invite or have an athlete(s) to their home without the permission of the athlete’s guardian.
6. During team travel, when doing room checks, attending team meetings, and/or other activities, two-deep leadership and open and observable environments should be maintained.
7. Athletes should not ride in a coach’s vehicle without another adult present who is the same gender as the athlete, unless prior parental permission is obtained.
8. During overnight team travel, if athletes are paired with other athletes, they shall be of the same gender and should be a similar age. Where athletes are ages 13 and over, chaperones and/or team managers would ideally stay in nearby rooms. When athletes are age 12 and under, chaperones and/or team managers may stay with athletes. Where chaperones/team managers are staying in a room with athletes, they should be the same gender as the athlete and written consent should be given by the athlete’s parents or legal guardians.
9. When only one athlete and one coach travel to a competition, the coach and athlete should establish a “buddy” club to associate with during the competition and when away from the venue.
10. Communications between non-athlete adult members and athletes should not include any topic or language that is sexual or inappropriate in nature.
11. Non-athlete adult members should respect the privacy of athletes in situations such as changing of clothes, showering, etc. Non-athlete adult members should protect their own privacy in similar situations.
12. Relationships of a peer-to-peer nature with any athletes should be avoided by adults. For example, coaches should avoid sharing their own personal problems with athletes.
13. Coaches and other non-athlete adult members should avoid horseplay and roughhousing with athletes.
14. When a coach touches an athlete as part of instruction, the coach should do so in direct view of others and inform the athlete of what he/she is doing prior to the initial contact. Touching athletes should be minimized outside the boundaries of what is considered normal instruction. Appropriate interaction would include high fives, fist bumps, side-to-side hugs, and handshakes.
15. Coaches should not initiate contact with or accept supervisory responsibility for athletes outside club programs and activities
FACEBOOK, MYSPACE, BLOGS, AND SIMILAR SITES
Coaches may have personal Facebook (or other social media site) pages, but they are not permitted to have any athlete member of the Club join their personal page as a “friend.” A coach should not accept any “friend” request from an athlete. In addition, the coach should remind the athlete that this is not permitted. Coaches and athletes are not permitted to “private message” each other through Facebook. Coaches and athletes are not permitted to “instant message” each other through Facebook chat or other IM method. The Club has an official Facebook page that athletes and their parents can “friend” for information and updates on team‐related matters. Coaches are encouraged to set their pages to “private” to prevent athletes from accessing the coach’s personal information.
Best Practice: The Club has an official Twitter page that coaches, athletes and parents can follow for information and updates on team‐related matters. Coaches & athletes are not permitted to “direct message” each other through Twitter.
Subject to the general guidelines mentioned above, texting is allowed between coaches and athletes during the hours from 7am until 9pm. Texting only shall be used for the purpose of communicating information directly related to team activities.
REQUEST TO DISCONTINUE ALL ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS
The parents or guardians of an athlete may request in writing that their child not be contacted by coaches through any form of electronic communication.
Action Plan of the Buckeye Swim Club to Address Bullying
Bullying of any kind is unacceptable at [insert the name of the club] (the “Club”) and will not be tolerated. Bullying is counterproductive to team spirit and can be devastating to a victim. The Club is committed to providing a safe, caring and friendly environment for all of our members. If bullying does occur, all athletes and parents should know that incidents will be dealt with promptly and effectively. Anyone who knows that bullying is happening is expected to tell a coach, board member or athlete/mentor. Objectives of the Club’s Bullying Policy and Action Plan:
1. To make it clear that the Club will not tolerate bullying in any form.
2. To define bullying and give all board members, coaches, parents and swimmers a good understanding of what bullying is.
3. To make it known to all parents, swimmers and coaching staff that there is a policy and protocol should any bullying issues arise.
4. To make how to report bullying clear and understandable.
5. To spread the word that (Name of Club) takes bullying seriously and that all swimmers and parents can be assured that they will be supported when bullying is reported.
WHAT IS BULLYING?
The USA Swimming Code of Conduct prohibits bullying. Generally, bullying is the use of aggression, whether intentional or not, which hurts another person. Bullying results in pain and distress.
The USA Swimming Code of Conduct defines bullying in 304.3.7. Bullying is the severe or repeated use by one or more USA Swimming members of oral, written, electronic or other technological expression, image, sound, data or intelligence of any nature (regardless of the method of transmission), or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at any other member that to a reasonably objective person has the effect of:
i. causing physical or emotional harm to the other member or damage to the other member’s property;
ii. placing the other member in reasonable fear of harm to himself/herself or of damage to his/her property;
iii. creating a hostile environment for the other member at any USA Swimming activity;
iv. infringing on the rights of the other member at any USA Swimming activity; or
v. materially and substantially disrupting the training process or the orderly operation of any USA Swimming activity (which for the purposes of this section shall include, without limitation, practices, workouts and other events of a member club or LSC).
An athlete who feels that he or she has been bullied is asked to do one or more of the following things:
Talk to your parents;
Talk to a Club Coach, Board Member, or other designated individual;
Write a letter or email to the Club Coach, Board Member, or other designated individual;
Make a report to the USA Swimming Safe Sport staff. There is no express time limit for initiating a complaint under this procedure, but every effort should be made to bring the complaint to the attention of the appropriate club leadership as soon as possible to make sure that memories are fresh and behavior can be accurately recalled and the bullying behavior can be stopped as soon as possible.
HOW WE HANDLE BULLYING
If bullying is occurring during team-related activities, we STOP BULLYING ON THE SPOT using the following steps:
1. Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.
2. Separate the kids involved.
3. Make sure everyone is safe.
4. Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
5. Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders.
6. Model respectful behavior when you intervene.
If bullying is occurring at our club or it is reported to be occurring at our club, we address the bullying by FINDING OUT WHAT HAPPENED and SUPPORTING THE KIDS INVOLVED using the following approach:
FINDING OUT WHAT HAPPENED
1. First, we get the facts.
a. Keep all the involved children separate.
b. Get the story from several sources, both adults and kids.
c. Listen without blaming.
d. Don’t call the act “bullying” while you are trying to understand what happened.
e. It may be difficult to get the whole story, especially if multiple athletes are involved or the bullying involves social bullying or cyber bullying. Collect all available information.
2. Then, we determine if it's bullying. There are many behaviors that look like bullying but require different approaches. It is important to determine whether the situation is bullying or something else.
a. Review the USA Swimming definition of bullying;
b. To determine if the behavior is bullying or something else, consider the following questions:
What is the history between the kids involved? Have there been past conflicts?
Is there a power imbalance? Remember that a power imbalance is not limited to physical strength. It is sometimes not easily recognized. If the targeted child feels like there is a power imbalance, there probably is.
Has this happened before? Is the child worried it will happen again?
c. Remember that it may not matter “who started it.” Some kids who are bullied may be seen as annoying or provoking, but this does not excuse the bullying behavior. d. Once you have determined if the situation is bullying, support all of the kids involved.
SUPPORTING THE KIDS INVOLVED
3. Support the kids who are being bullied
a. Listen and focus on the child. Learn what’s been going on and show you want to help. Assure the child that bullying is not their fault.
b. Work together to resolve the situation and protect the bullied child. The child, parents, and fellow team members and coaches may all have valuable input. It may help to:
i. Ask the child being bullied what can be done to make him or her feel safe. Remember that changes to routine should be minimized. He or she is not at fault and should not be singled out. For example, consider rearranging lane assignments for everyone. If bigger moves are necessary, such as switching practice groups, the child who is bullied should not be forced to change.
ii. Develop a game plan. Maintain open communication between the Club and parents. Discuss the steps that will be taken and how bullying will be addressed going forward.
c. Be persistent. Bullying may not end overnight. Commit to making it stop and consistently support the bullied child.
4. Address bullying behavior
a. Make sure the child knows what the problem behavior is. Young people who bully must learn their behavior is wrong and harms others.
b. Show kids that bullying is taken seriously. Calmly tell the child that bullying will not be tolerated. Model respectful behavior when addressing the problem.
c. Work with the child to understand some of the reasons he or she bullied. For example:
i. Sometimes children bully to fit in or just to make fun of someone is a little different from them. In other words, there may be some insecurity involved.
ii. Other times kids act out because something else—issues at home, abuse, stress—is going on in their lives. They also may have been bullied. These kids may be in need of additional support.
d. Involve the kid who bullied in making amends or repairing the situation. The goal is to help them see how their actions affect others. For example, the child can:
i. Write a letter apologizing to the athlete who was bullied.
ii. Do a good deed for the person who was bullied, for the Club, or for others in your community.
iii. Clean up, repair, or pay for any property they damaged.
e. Avoid strategies that don’t work or have negative consequences:
i. Zero tolerance or “three strikes, you’re out” strategies don’t work. Suspending or removing from the team swimmers who bully does not reduce bullying behavior. Swimmers may be less likely to report and address bullying if suspension or getting kicked off the team is the consequence.
ii. Conflict resolution and peer mediation don’t work for bullying. Bullying is not a conflict between people of equal power who share equal blame. Facing those who have bullied may further upset kids who have been bullied.
f. Follow-up. After the bullying issue is resolved, continue finding ways to help the child who bullied to understand how what they do affects other people. For example, praise acts of kindness or talk about what it means to be a good teammate.
5. Support bystanders who witness bullying. Every day, kids witness bullying. They want to help, but don’t know how. Fortunately, there are a few simple, safe ways that athletes can help stop bullying when they see it happening.
a. Be a friend to the person being bullied;
b. Tell a trusted adult – your parent, coach, or club board member;
c. Help the kid being bullied get away from the situation. Create a distraction, focus the attention on something else, or offer a way for the target to get out of the situation. “Let’s go, practice is about to start.”
d. Set a good example by not bullying others.
e. Don’t give the bully an audience. Bullies are encouraged by the attention they get from bystanders. If you do nothing else, just walk away.
USA Swimming is working to increase awareness and reduce the risk of abuse in swimming through its Safe Sport program. With all youth sports, creating a safe environment is the responsibility of all adults who work with kids.
Education is the most important tool for com batting misconduct. Look for resources that can help you understand how abuse occurs and what you can do about it. You should be able to recognize signs of grooming behavior and boundary violations and what to do when you suspect a child's safety is at risk.
CREATE HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
It's important to establish healthy boundaries between athletes and coaches and have clear expectations about the coach's role. A coach can often serve as a teacher, a mentor, or a role model for a young person. A coach is not an athlete's friend, peer, or romantic partner. Teams and youth sport organizations should spell out prohibited behaviors to ensure strong and safe boundaries between adults and athletes.
IDENTIFY AND ADDRESS HIGH RISK AREAS
For misconduct to take place, an offender needs privacy, access, and control. One way to reduce the risk for abuse is to design strategies for addressing these high-risk areas, which include travel, locker rooms, and electronic communications. Teams should adopt policies that spell out expectations and create boundaries .
If you recognize questionable behaviors, say something! Your youth sports organization should designate someone-a coach, the team administration, or a parent advocate-who is there to hear your concerns or take a report of inappropriate behavior. Make sure that everyone knows that person.
TALK TO YOUR KIDS!
Physical and sexual misconduct can be a hard topic for parents to talk about with their children. Having these conversations is extremely important in helping prevent your child from becoming a victim of abuse. Having ongoing and open conversations with children about their bodies and appropriate boundaries will make it easier for them to talk to you if anyone is making them feel uncomfortable.