USA Swimming Announces New $5 Million Keeping Athletes First Action Plan

A letter to the membership of USA Swimming went out on Friday laying out a path forward for the organization’s SafeSport program, and specifically USA Swimming’s goal to give every member club a SafeSport designation. The letter was signed by USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey and USA Swimming Board of Directors Chair Bob Vincent.

The new plan, called the Keeping Athletes First Action Plan, includes many prongs, including among them a new push for a SafeSport certification program, new SafeSport staff, and improved education platforms. From the letter:

The action plan will provide the resources necessary for staff to plan, provide and implement appropriate tools and platforms for our athletes and our clubs to thrive. Several of the initiatives are already underway, such as providing funds to Swim Assist, the development of a customer relations management (CRM) system, online member registration, a new educational platform, and increased Safe Sport staff and development. Additionally, there will be the creation of the Keeping Athletes First Working Group, which will work with our staff to build a five-year plan to lead the future development and implementation of the initiative.

Very importantly, the Keeping Athletes First Action Plan will help facilitate a critical investment at the club level to support the advancement of the Safe Sport Recognition program. We stand by our goal to make every USA Swimming team a Safe Sport Recognized Club.

The new action plan is being funded by $5 million in “Board of Directors’ designated funds,” which specifically come from the sale of the USSIC, or United States Swimming Insurance Company, that USA Swimming was formerly using to insure itself, largely against claims of sexual abuse by member swim coaches.

According to minutes from the USA Swimming Board of Directors meeting in November, the $5 million will be allocated as follows:

  • Safe Sport Club Recognition Assistance – $2 million
  • Education/Certification Platform – $2 million
  • Online Registration – $500,000
  • Staff Development/Training – $500,000

The board also designated a portion of the Board Designated Funds from the sale of USSIC for expenses related to government inquiries.

These moves comes after a landmark lawsuit where USA Swimming was found to be not negligent in the case of a member coach’s abuse of a 13-year old girl in Stockton, California. While the Pacific Swimming LSC and the club where he was coaching paid out a combined $1.25 million settlement to the victim, a jury found that USA Swimming’s athlete protection programs were sufficient to shield them from liability in this case.

Extension of SafeSport certification programs to USA Swimming member clubs could help those clubs in defenses against civil lawsuits as well, in addition to providing programs that better protect young athletes from abuse.

The USSIC (U.S. Sports Insurance Company Inc.) was a single-parent insurance company owned by USA Swimming but incorporated in Barbados. The company limited USA Swimming’s liability in sexual abuse lawsuits. But the setup has also come under fire for the money many say continuously changed hands between the two organizations. The Mercury News reported that the USSIC provided $2 million in liability insurance to USA Swimming, but only $100,000 to local clubs, with that limited local liability helping to generate “safety rebates” in which USSIC sent millions of dollars back to USA Swimming. The Mercury News reported that for some years, the USSIC provided as much as $750,000 back to USA Swimming in these safety rebates.

The Wall Street Journal has also reported that federal prosecutors are investigating the “money trail” between USA Swimming and the USSIC, among other things.

USSIC was originally formed in May of 1988 when USA Swimming was unable to obtain insurance in the conventional insurance market and was used to provide reinsurance to Swimming’s primary liability insurer.

USSIC was sold in September of 2016, and the proceeds from the sale were put in a board designated account. That sale resulted in a fund of $18,976,632 of Board Designated Funds, only $5,000,000 of which is dedicated to a guarantee related to the sale. USA Swimming says that in 2014, due to the organization’s improving risk profile, they were able to obtain insurance in the conventional insurance market, rendering the captive USSIC unnecessary.

Year End Letter from the Chair and President & CEO

By USA Swimming  | Friday, December 20, 2019

As we near the end of this decade, we look back on the last 10 years – celebrating our successes, acknowledging our shortcomings and optimistically planning for the future.

Throughout the many important changes, including those of governance and leadership, which ushered in a new era for the sport, our organization has remained steadfast in its mission to grow and strengthen the sport of swimming in the United States. We continue to look for innovative ways to provide world-class services to our membership, to enrich our culture and to develop critical partnerships to provide the life-saving skill of swimming to communities across the country via the USA Swimming Foundation.

We are thankful for each member who has been a part of our journey and who continues to believe in the evolution of swimming in the U.S., not the least of all our more than 350,000 amazing athletes.

It is with these athletes in mind that the USA Swimming Board of Directors recently approved, and will directly fund, the Keeping Athletes First Action Plan.

The action plan will provide the resources necessary for staff to plan, provide and implement appropriate tools and platforms for our athletes and our clubs to thrive. Several of the initiatives are already underway, such as providing funds to Swim Assist, the development of a customer relations management (CRM) system, online member registration, a new educational platform, and increased Safe Sport staff and development. Additionally, there will be the creation of the Keeping Athletes First Working Group, which will work with our staff to build a five-year plan to lead the future development and implementation of the initiative.

Very importantly, the Keeping Athletes First Action Plan will help facilitate a critical investment at the club level to support the advancement of the Safe Sport Recognition program. We stand by our goal to make every USA Swimming team a Safe Sport Recognized Club.

This $5 million investment, derived from Board of Directors’ designated funds, is a significant contribution to services benefitting athletes and a proud reinvestment in the future of our sport. This also continues to underpin USA Swimming’s objective to be a leader in proactive communications that ensure a safe environment for all our members.

As the national governing body, we have long relied on our local swimming committees to be the conduits to our members. The Keeping Athletes First Action Plan initiatives will allow us to develop more direct lines of communications with athletes, coaches, and parents, among others, and to equip our most important stakeholders with critical information and education.

Never has the organization undergone such transformation and we cannot wait to see what incredible things the next decade will bring.

We look forward to an exciting upcoming Olympic year, continuing to offer world-class services, and putting our athletes first.

Wishing you all the very best during this holiday season and happy new year.

Yours truly,

Bob Vincent,  USA  Swimming Board Chair
Bob Vincent

Tim Hinchey III,  USA Swimming President & CEO
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Daniel Jablonski

Is there an explain like I’m 5 version of what exactly the USSIC did/why it was sold?

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Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. 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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