California Swim Coach Reprimanded for Throwing Cone at Athlete

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.

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]

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29 days ago

Meh. I saw the outrage on Twitter when this happened. Accusations of this being some kind of a hatecrime and that he should be arrested and jailed were way overblown when I saw the video.

Dumb thing to do. Coaches shouldn’t take it upon themselves to interfere with a race – that’s what officials are for – but feels like a mountain out of a mole hill. He was publicly reprimanded, he apologized, now just send him to an appropriate training and let’s move on to deal with bigger issues in the sport.

Reply to  terpparentssss
29 days ago

He has been a coach for over 40 years. He has anger issues and needs anger management classes.

Reply to  John
29 days ago

He is a LEGEND. Show some respect.

Reply to  Orange
29 days ago

Yes let’s show the legends respect and ignore it when they do something wrong. You sound like a perfect candidate for the USA swimming board.

Reply to  SCCOACH
28 days ago


Joel Lin
Reply to  terpparentssss
28 days ago

It is not ok to just apologize and move on. This is beyond dumb.

This is youth sports. The window is open for just a short chapter in life where experiences are had, friendships are made and the enjoyment of sports for fun can be had. Soon or late we all leave organized sports. For most it is high school. For som, like these kids, it is summer leagues & other recreational level sporting.

No adult has an agency to soil that. This kid had this happen & it is awful. THAT is the point. It is the only point. It is not debatable – that coach should never be involved in youth sports ever again, full stop.

Reply to  terpparentssss
28 days ago

Our coaches just put a kick board in at the end of the lane to get someone to stop. Looks better than chucking something at them – but that was usually a water bottle.

Jim Nickell
Reply to  terpparentssss
28 days ago

Steve Morsilli is a great coach and a wonderful person
This is an out of context situation with folks that have nothing better to do than go after good coaches and good teachers
The end result will simply be taking out our best youth leaders
Also: Dave Cottam is a good referee
if you are inclined to attack someone – I would encourage you to make sure you know facts and better yet – put your real name on it!

David Park
Reply to  Jim Nickell
27 days ago

Ok, Mr. Macho. Steve is not close of being a great coach. He is an abuser and now got caught in a video which can’t denied. And no one is criticizing Dave Cottam only your lovable Steve. Again, my name is David Park.

Last edited 27 days ago by David Park
Bye Steve
Reply to  Jim Nickell
27 days ago

Your first sentence tells me all I need to know, you don’t know him. My kids swam for him, did yours? To the parents that do defend him, they do so out of fear of retribution if they don’t. I have many years of first hand experience with him. I sure wish the coaches that left that team could speak up, it would blow people’s minds to here the stories of abuse by him. If his coaches came forward, the title of this article would read “Steve Morsilli banned from USA swimming after decades of abuse”.

29 days ago

What?? Even if he was there illegally it’s some random swim meet with some random teams. It wasn’t trials, Ncaas, or any other meet that you actually have to qualify for. Dude is acting like it’s some honor to be able to swim at that meet 😂

Reply to  Kachow
29 days ago

IMO he is just salty that the kid left. California swimming has always been cutthroat with the team poaching and pool space drama but this is a little much.

Reply to  InjuredSwimmerLOL
29 days ago


29 days ago

Not gonna lie im suprised my coach hasn’t thrown a cone at me in practice. Especially freshman year when I wasn’t paying the most attention

Reply to  Payton
29 days ago

This wasn’t at practice, it was in the middle of a race

29 days ago

Coaches should be kept from going behind the starting blocks. That way the officials in charge of running the meet can do their jobs and swimmers can do theirs. That this coach went behind the blocks and picked up a cone is bizzare – regardless of the meet entry restrictions. It should not matter that the meet was conducted following a preset COVID protocol and limited to specific teams; keep coaches away from the area behind the blocks. Coaches should report whatever concerns they have to the meet official (without throwing a cone) and let meet officials handle it. It makes me wonder if this completely random act will effect the swimmer’s performance in the upcoming months.

Coach Tom
Reply to  That70s_swimmer
28 days ago

I can maybe see that at certain levels of the sport but that would be an absolute nightmare at the age group level. Ever coached a session with 25 8 & unders?

29 days ago

There are so many better ways to deal with this before and during the race. If there were attempts
to address the issue by Morsilli before the race that went unaddressed, then worse case you confer with the refs after the race and the swimmer can be DQ’d if illegally entered. This seems targeted as he waits for the swimmer who seems to be in the lead then throws the cone. So much wrong with this. Swimmer had a lane – speak to host club coach or admin. There had to be time to do that. There’s more to this. Makes no sense.

Reply to  Swammer
29 days ago

Pretty simple. Kid quits coaches team. Coach thinks kid is using his team name to get in a closed meet. No one listens or explains different. Coach gets pissed off and decides to not let it happen. Guess what he was wrong.

No violence, no hate crime, no abuse. Just anger and a stupid choice.

Reply to  Mike
29 days ago

No hate crime that’s for sure, but if throwing cone at the swimmer during the race is not abuse I’d like to know what’s abuse in your books

Reply to  Tomek
28 days ago

If you are around practices at all you would know that dropping something on a swimmers legs during or after they flip is a common way of getting them to stop. Watching the video it is clear that is what he is doing. He is wrong to do it but it was not abuse.

Big Kicker
Reply to  Tomek
28 days ago

I would classify “abuse” as something more than just surprising a swimmer during a race with a five pound rubber cone.

What he did was unbelievably moronic, but classifying it as “abuse” is just ridiculous and takes away from victims of actual abuse.

29 days ago

Momma always said, stupid is…

29 days ago

Totally inappropriate behavior. He should be banned from being on deck during meets for a period of time, and banned from the deck and facilities of any future meets where the swimmer he assaulted is swimming

Reply to  Wahooswimfan
29 days ago

Come on, grow a pair.

Reply to  Orange
29 days ago

Careful, Orange. If you leave Moriselli’s team he may be after you next.

Reply to  Wahooswimfan
28 days ago

Agreed. Even if the kid was not supposed to be at the meet that doesn’t mean you throw a traffic cone at him. Who in their right mind does that?

SoCal Swammer
29 days ago

Coulda been a water bottle

Reply to  SoCal Swammer
29 days ago

Whatever happened to that investigation, USC?

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Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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