Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Call and Response: The War of Words Between USAS and "Splash"
Now, I have no idea if Bruce Stratton has any clue who I am. He may very well not, but given what I've written about USA Swimming in this space I think he might. He also might have just been wondering "why is this weird guy staring at me?". When, last week, he wrote an e-mail to all of USA Swimming membership, I considered writing a public response in this blog. After all, Bruce stated in his e-mail that he wanted an "open, constructive" dialogue.
Before I get to anything else, I want to commend one vital part of the e-mail. USA Swimming has delivered on an excellent education course for coaches and officials. Stratton states that a separate education program for swimmers 11 and older and 10 and under will come in the first part of 2012. My expectations are high, given the quality of the educational component that I took part in earlier this fall. This is another positive step that USA Swimming has taken as an organization.
Earlier in the letter, Stratton takes aim at "anonymous e-mails" that "make disparaging claims about good, honest, hard working staff and volunteers" and discourage victims of abuse from coming forward. I can only imagine that Stratton is referring to the e-mails and website www.usswimnscandal.com, aka "Splash of Truth". While there are some legitimate criticisms of this website, Stratton's vague paragraph only creates a straw man.
It is easy for Stratton to dismiss an anonymous website. However, there are people (like myself, Tony Austin and others) that have put their names on direct criticisms of his organization. Why has he chosen not to address those criticisms? The only logical conclusions are that either he does not know they exist, or thinks that they aren't worth addressing. Both conclusions are fairly troubling.
The accusation that the anonymous e-mails and website discourage reporting would have some weight if Stratton were willing to acknowledge the faults within his own organization. I, for one, would appreciate USA Swimming being honest instead of pretending to be perfect. There has to this point been zero acknowledgement of any responsibility by any USA Swimming staff or volunteer in this matter. I believe this lack of accountability, the insistence that we "move forward" as an organization with no change in leadership, feeds the "anonymous" attacks. There is a real frustration that the top leadership doesn't see or understand.
That lack of accountability in leadership does far more harm to victim reporting in my opinion. And until there is substantive, honest leadership, it's going to remain in the way of USA Swimming becoming the organization that it truly wants to be.
Posted by Chris DeSantis at 8:29 AM