The U.S. Center for SafeSport requires the national governing bodies of all sports to implement a Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policy (MAAPP) by June 23, and USA Swimming has released the full details of its MAAPP, including restrictions on social media communication, travel and one-on-one interactions between coaches and swimmers.
USA Swimming approved interim changes to its rules at an April 26 meeting, and those changes will be permanently implemented at the House of Delegates meeting in September. However, all USA Swimming member organizations will have to update its rules and policies to match the MAAPP by June 23.
You can read USA Swimming’s full release on the policy changes here. We’ll break down some of the bigger policy pieces below. The MAAPP focuses in on five areas:
- One-on-one interactions
- Social media & electronic communication
- Locker rooms & changing areas
- Massages & rubdowns
When the new rules were presented at the USA Swimming National Team coaches meetings this week, those present tell us that the coaches were generally displeased with the new restrictions. One coach, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the three biggest areas of concern by coaches were how this would impact college recruiting, basic implementation/logistics and how the new rules would be policed, and the strain that the new rules could cause on coach/athlete relationships.
Specifically, there was a lot of concern about how this might impact recruiting – with college coaches concerned over being told that they would have to include a parent on all text message, email, and phone calls with recruits; with college coaches not being able to drive recruits to or from the airport during their official visits, and with recruits not being able to stay in dorm rooms during their official visits.
Social Media & Electronic Communication
We’re still digging in on specific effects of many of these policy pieces, but the social media policies are some of the more notable ones so far. (The policy uses the term “applicable adult” to define coaches, adult athlete USA Swimming members, meet officials & timers, LSC & club staff and any other adult who has regular contact with or authority over minors. We’re using more specific terms like “coach” or “adult” below for clarity, but the rules stipulate “applicable adults” for all of these policies).
- When communicating with a minor through electronic means (including social media), a coach must include the minor athlete’s legal guardian in the communication. That means CCing a parent on e-mails, including a parent in text threads or other electronic correspondence. We’re told that this includes college recruiting, where an adult coach (an “applicable adult”) is contacting a minor athlete and will need a guardian on the thread with the athlete.
- When communicating to a group or an entire team, a coach must include another adult in the communication. (Copying another coach, parent or other adult).
- Coaches can only use electronic communications between 8 AM and 8 PM.
- A coach cannot have “private social media connections with unrelated minor athletes” – that means coaches cannot be connected with minor athletes on personal social media platforms. (There is a stipulation for when an “applicable adult” is considered a celebrity, or has a fan page).
Update: USA Swimming has told us that phone calls are considered one-on-one interactions, and are governed under those rules, not the above rules governing electronic communication. That has a big impact on college recruiting calls. Phone calls between an applicable adult and a minor must be “observable and interruptible,” but don’t necessarily need a minor’s guardian on the line. We’ve followed up with USA Swimming as to what other things could make a phone call “observable and interruptible,” and will update when we know more.
Most of these rules do have exceptions for “emergency circumstances.”
Here’s a handful more, broken down by the other five categories:
1. One-on-one interactions
- Must be observable & interruptible. That is, they must take place someplace where another adult can see what is happening and intervene if the communication looks inappropriate. This includes individual training sessions like private lessons.
- Meetings in a room must have the door open and unlocked, and blinds open on the windows.
- Meetings cannot take place in an applicable adult’s hotel room or “other overnight lodging location” when a team is traveling.
- Applicable adults cannot ride in a vehicle alone with an unrelated minor athlete. For a coach to drive an athlete anywhere, they need either multiple athletes or multiple adults present.
- Two applicable adults should work together to do room checks when a team is traveling.
- Unrelated, non-athlete applicable adults cannot share a hotel room with a minor athlete. Adult athletes can only share rooms with minor athletes if the minor’s guardian provides written permission.
3. Social Media & electronic communication
- As noted above
4. Locker rooms & changing areas
- Applicable adults are not allowed to expose themselves to minor athletes for any reason, nor to ask a minor athlete to expose themselves to the adult.
- As with the one-on-one interaction policy, an adult should never be alone with a minor athlete in a changing area.
- Clubs are required to monitor locker rooms for safety. The policy lists several ways to monitor locker rooms, but doesn’t require any/all of them specifically: sweeping the locker rooms before athletes arrive, posting staff directly outside the locker rooms, leaving doors open when privacy is still possible, and making occasional sweeps of locker rooms with female coaches checking female locker rooms and male coaches checking male locker rooms.
5. Massages & rubdowns
- The policy defines “massages” to refer to massages, rubdowns, stretching, injury rehab and things like cupping or dry needling.
- Massages must happen in an “open and interruptible location,” even if the massage is given by a licensed massage therapist.
- Coaches are not allowed to give athletes massages or rubdowns, even if the coach is a licensed massage therapist.
- A legal guardian must give permission for a minor athlete to get a massage from a licensed massage therapist. And guardians must be allowed to observe the massage.
- Another adult must always be present during the massage – no one-on-one situations with an athlete and a massage therapist.