This is the last blog in a four part series after a meeting last week with Chuck Wielgus. I had thought we would have the meeting, Chuck and Susan would have time to respond, and things might continue slowly from there. I was mistaken.
Since Saturday, Chuck and I have exchanged over ten emails. Susan and I have communicated over text. Both of them thanked me for the meeting over those respective mediums. I mailed my thank you the old fashioned way to Colorado Springs.
I could paraphrase all of our discussions or just post the messages wholesale, but I won't, at least for now. Chuck and I are still at odds over many issues, including the role anonymous voices should play in this dialogue as well as the consequences for his actions.
To his credit, Chuck has started to show far more humility in our conversations than I ever saw when I was just an another member. Progress in this direction will help him heal the wounds in USA Swimming, but only if the entire membership feels it.
Also to his credit, Chuck has continued to pursue conversation despite the fact that I have not diverted from my two central statements- that what he did was wrong and that he should step down as a result. He has instead tried to give me more information, even extending an invite to Colorado Springs to meet the entire staff and attend a board meeting.
I have to admit to a few personal reservations. The longer this discussion goes the higher the stakes are for both of us. What if, after seeing the inner workings of USAS, I still believe in their failings just as much as I do now? On an even more personal note, I am growing uncomfortable for getting so much attention for writing. I guess I always hoped that if I was flying out to Colorado Springs it would be as a coach. That is the goal I chose. The fight to change USA Swimming for the betterment of all involved chose me.
Last Saturday Chuck mentioned how no one can predict the future. He challenged me to tell him where this was all headed, or what the problem that would blindside them next would be. I wasn't prepared at the time but I am now.
For one, I think non-sexual abuse is common in swimming but has had little attention paid, for many of the same reasons that sex abuse went undetected. USA Swimming has no idea how many of its athletes are abused. Although that number is impossible to find out, that shouldn't stop us from trying. The fact that little attention has been paid is continuing evidence of a disconnect between Colorado Springs and ground level problems. Every year as a college coach I am subject to anonymous reviews by every athlete on my team. What would we find out if every USAS coach had to do the same?
Susan Woessner has been given an enormous responsibility. Because we are still underestimating the problem by so much, she is one person doing the job of many. Athlete protection is adding an employee. A step in the right direction, but not far enough.
In 5-10 years, I think we will be regretting how slowly we moved once we knew there was a problem, and how we continued to underestimate the problem. That is, unless we make dramatic , somewhat painful change. I'm not so naive to think that pouring more resources into athlete protection comes from an endless pot of money. But is it worth it? Absolutely. I plan on using whatever influence I've gained to make us a little less resentful.