Pleasanton Seahawks head coach Steve Morsilli has received a public reprimand from the Pacific Swimming LSC after an incident that involved him throwing a cone at an athlete mid race.
The incident happened during a tri meet in Concord, California on May 21, 2021 at an event where there were no spectators.
According to Pacific Swimming, the incident happened when Morsilli was trying to get the attention of a swimmer to prevent him from participating in the race because of concerns over eligibility to swim in the closed meet.
Ultimately, it was determined that the athlete was eligible to compete, which meant that Morsilli not only threw a traffic cone at an athlete, but interfered with the operation of the meet.
Pacific Swimming says that the Meet Referee immediately “addressed and resolved” the incident, and Morsilli apologized to the swimmer and his parent.
While Morsilli did not respond to SwimSwam’s request for comment, he did release a statement to local media saying that he thought that a former member of the Pleasanton Seahawks team, where he is the head coach, now training with the nearby Terrapins Swim Team, had “illegally” entered the race as an unattached swimmer.
“As it turns out, this was not the case, but I was unaware of the background at that time,” Morsilli said.
“Since we have had problems in some of our intrasquad meets with former swimmers entering our meets to get a chance to swim even though they are no longer with us, I was concerned that the system was once again being abused,” Morsilli said, while explaining that there was some confusion with entry reports received by coaches prior to the meet.
Morsili says that he notified the meet entry official via email that the swimmer “had entered as part of my team but was not a member and should be scratched from all events because this was a closed meet for PLS, TERA and LAC only.” Morsilli said he “presumed that this had been done.”
The swimmer was originally entered UN-CROW (Unattached Crow Canyon Sharks), which was not one of the invited teams – though that was eventually updated prior to the meet.
After noticing that the swimmer in question was not wearing a cap from either Pleasanton or Terrapins, he felt “offended and victimized that a swimmer would illegally enter my team name to gain entry to a closed meet in which he did not belong.”
He says that he tried to approach officials about the matter but that “they were busy counting.”
After stopping the swimmer, coaches from the Terrapins team came over and confirmed that the athlete was registered with them.
Morsilli acknowledged that he “clearly frightened (the boy) and angered his father and his coaches and I am sincerely sorry for that.”
“I offered at the time to pay for his entry fees, and I am still willing to do that,” Morsilli said. “Other than that, all I can offer is a heartfelt apology.”
While the incident happened in May, video began circulating on social media in August – though it’s unclear who originally posted the video, as most of the accounts that have posted the video are anonymous.
“Pacific Swimming does not condone the behavior of the coach in this instance and the coach should have worked with the Meet Referee to resolve the issue instead of the action he took,” the statement by Pacific Swimming reads.
The swimmer in the video has not been publicly identified.
An Asian boy was participating in a swim meet in which he had been legally entered. Steve Morsilli, the head coach of Pleasanton Seahawks thought he was illegally entered into the race, physically assaulted the boy by intentionally throwing an orange traffic cone on his body. pic.twitter.com/93Kkmlch8j
— kidswatersafe (@kidswatersafe) July 30, 2021
Morsilli is the head coach of the Pleasanton Seahawks, where he has built a long resume since founding the team in 1982. Among his most recognizable former swimmers is Tokyo 2020 U.S. Olympian Erika Brown. In total, Morsilli has placed 3 swimmers on the USA Swimming National Team and 8 swimmers on the USA Swimming National Junior Team, and has served on several USA Swimming international staffs.
In the summer of 2020, Morsilli was named by attorney Bob Allard, who represents many victims of abuse at the hands of USA Swimming coaches, as one of 8 coaches needing to be “purged” by USA Swimming. The letter did not accuse Morsilli of abuse directly, but alleges that Morsilli knew of sexual abuse allegations made against another coach, Andy King, in the 2000s.
Morsilli said at the time that “I got pulled into this situation in the hope of supporting my swimmer and facilitating her complaint. I thought I was one of the ‘good guys’ by supporting her wish to bring the issue forward. Somehow, that has been turned around and now I am being considered a ‘bad guy.'”
Statement from Pacific Swimming
A tri-meet between PLS, LAC and TERA was held at the Cowell pool in Concord on May 21, 2021. No spectators were allowed in the venue following Covid-19 health directive.
During this meet an incident occurred where a PLS coach interfered with the meet operation in order to stop a swimmer from participating during an event. Failing to get the attention of the swimmer during his swim, this said coach threw a plastic lane marker cone at the swimmer in the water to get his attention. This behavior was an unacceptable interaction between an adult coach and an athlete and violates the MAAPP policy of USA-Swimming. The incident was immediately addressed and resolved by the Meet Referee, coaches from the host team (TERA) and the PLS coach following the incident. It turned out that the PLS coach was in error in assuming the swimmer was trying to cheat the restricted team entry criteria of the meet. The coach apologized to the swimmer and the parent for his action.
The evening the event took place, the Meet Referee in consultation with the Safe Sport coordinator of Pacific Swimming reported the incident to the Safe Sport contact person of USA Swimming. USA Swimming did not recommend that Pacific Swimming take any further action at that time.
Recently, a video clip of this incident has been circulated on a number of social media platforms. The PLS coach was identified in the posting as Steve Morsilli, and comments regarding this incident were posted along with the video. These social media posts have elicited various replies and questions in the comments of the post. Pacific Swimming wants to let our members and other interested parties know that the incident did occur in the May meet, and that we took immediate and appropriate actions in accordance with Safe Sport policy and reported the incident to USA Swimming. Pacific Swimming does not condone the behavior of the coach in this instance and the coach should have worked with the Meet Referee to resolve the issue instead of the action he took.
If you have any questions concerning this incident, please contact David Cottam who was the Meet Referee of the May meet and currently serves as the General Chair of Pacific Swimming at [email protected]