USA Swimming MAAPP: Guardian Must Be Included On Electronic Communication

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:

  1. One-on-one interactions
  2. Travel
  3. Social media & electronic communication
  4. Locker rooms & changing areas
  5. Massages & rubdowns

The full MAAPP can be found here, and links to further information and FAQs can be found here.

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.

2. Travel

  • 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.

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Bruh
2 years ago

Yo chill

confused
2 years ago

need a minor on the phone call, for college recruiting does that mean the student athlete needs their parent on the phone when they’re talking to the coach? or is that not applicable if a coach is just in the college ranks??

kdswim
2 years ago

Mentions college recruiting communication, but what will a college coach do with the couple of minors on the team that first semester or two? Off living at college, possibly 3 time zones (or more if international) from parents. Maybe the number is so small not a big deal.

BAL
Reply to  Jared Anderson
2 years ago

If a minor freshman swimmer is not registered with USA Swimming when they join their college team, would that alleviate the dilemma for the college? Can one “un-register” from USA Swimming right before heading off to college?

kdswim
Reply to  Jared Anderson
2 years ago

So down below there is also a discussion of rules applying to any adult including 18year and older athletes. Will rules apply to 17 year old freshman sharing dorm/apartment with 18 year old? Maybe you just can’t call your roommate without having their parent on the line :). Same interaction occurs on recruiting trips with under 18 recruits staying with current team members over 18.

Hswimmer
2 years ago

Why is swimming so complicated and political? Now I see why some people hate it… so much bs for no reason dang!!

Admin
Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

This is why:
https://swimswam.com/australian-swim-instructor-now-faced-with-36-charges-and-10-alleged-victims/
https://swimswam.com/ariana-kukors-files-civil-suit-vs-hutchison-usa-swimming-schubert/

I don’t think this plan is perfect. But, it also might be an impossible task to satisfy the wants of coaches to text and tweet with their athletes, and simultaneously prevent grooming behavior. Everyone has been demanding that USA Swimming take action to protect our athletes, and now they’re doing it. It’s a starting point. That’s a good first step.

David Berkoff
Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

Tell that to the victim of sexual abuse and their parents.

Hswimmer
Reply to  David Berkoff
2 years ago

Well first off, I’d never leave my children alone with a coach or swim instructor when nobody else is around. You can control that from not happening. I know parents aren’t always able to stay and watch, but you can make sure someone else is there to make sure that doesn’t happen…

Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

See Braden’s link to Kukors case – These things happen in plain sight all the time, not just during 1-on-1 interctions

malleesmom
Reply to  David Berkoff
2 years ago

It’s not just sexual abuse either. Our team is experiencing serious verbal abuse/bullying/control issues between athletes and coaches. It may be inconvenient but it is necessary.

afever
Reply to  David Berkoff
2 years ago

What a trite comment, David.

sven
Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

Ah yes, the incredibly political and partisan goal of…
*scrolls up to text of SwimSwam article, squints at text*
… protecting children from abuse.

Coach
Reply to  sven
2 years ago

You forgot to read the fine print “protecting USAS from lawsuits”.

???
2 years ago

If a college coach is not registered with USA Swimming do all the rules apply to them? I would assume if not you’ll start seeing less and less college coaches registered with USA Swimming and less college swimmers at non collegiate meets.

Admin
Reply to  ???
2 years ago

This is a great question, and one we’ve asked, and it would seem as though ‘no, the rules then wouldn’t apply.’ Though, that would disqualify those coaches from international coaching staffs, so there’s a rub there. Maybe we’ll see coaches bounce in and out of membership based on the recruiting cycle.

It sounds like there are going to be ‘focus groups’ to help refine these new policies. I think it’s possible that we see one of a couple of things happen:

1) Some kind of “app” developed that records all conversations, for parents to look at on demand, without requiring them to actually be on the call. Similar deterrent effect, with less of an administrative crush.
2) Some kind… Read more »

SwimParent
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

As the parent of a minor swimmer I appreciate the intent of protecting children but this seems to be a bit extreme. I want my teenager to take ownership and text the coach if they’re sick or something and to make the coach include me on a reply is nuts. I really don’t want to be on every recruiting call and to mandate they end by 8pm is nuts. I don’t want to be on every recruiting text thread or social media interaction. How will they ever grow up? College recruiting and college experiences need to be governed by their own rules under the NCAA which are extreme enough. USA Swimming should stay away from the NCAA on this topic.

SwimParent
Reply to  SwimParent
2 years ago

This is a great business opportunity, though, to develop a fully auditable texting and voice platform specifically for swimmer / coach interaction. Like WhatsApp but USA Swimming sanctioned and all texts are retained and voice conversations recorded and retained for six months and available to SafeSport officials and registered parents of minors. Still too far toward nanny state but it could be a way to satisfy both needs. I hate the idea but better than the extreme they are proposing.

sven
Reply to  SwimParent
2 years ago

Doubt it comes to this, but the quickest and easiest solution I can think of is to add a messaging functionality to the Deck Pass app, with the minor’s messages fully accessible from the parent account. That way everything goes through USA Swimming and the relevant parties can have access to it.

Rick Paine
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

From what I can determine, this would not affect non USA registered coaches or swimmers. This will give the coaches more incentive to recruit international kids.

David Berkoff
Reply to  Rick Paine
2 years ago

The rule would apply to international swimmers too. The word “minor” is prefaced by the world “American”. And any college coach worth his or her salt would follow the rules if they ever wanted to be a member of a US international team or attend a USAS meet.

Superfan
Reply to  David Berkoff
2 years ago

I think it will apply to everyone whether USA swimming coach or not. It is coming from Congress. SafeSport isn’t based at USA Swimming But is their own entity. Otherwise an assistant can do all the calling. It seems like overkill now but will be ok in a year or two

Coach
Reply to  Superfan
2 years ago

SafeSport mandated each governing body come up with some type of plan. This is USA Swimming’s plan. This plan did not come down from Congress.

Steve Schaffer
Reply to  David Berkoff
2 years ago

Exactly how do reach the conclusion that USA Swimming Rules extend to athletes who are not USA Swimming members? Or that Safe Sport Rules extend to non US Olympic Sport NGBs? They have no jurisdiction.

Coach
2 years ago

No electronic communication between the hours of 8AM and 8PM??? That rules out sending an email to your group after you get home from coaching practices that day. What about having to cancel an early morning workout due to weather? We aren’t allowed to send anything out about that? No adult may be in a changing room alone with an athlete? What if a coach goes to the bathroom and there is a swimmer in there?

Some of these are reasonable, some are things many of us have already practiced. But some of these don’t make sense. It’s sad we’ve come to this.

Coachy
Reply to  Coach
2 years ago

8pm to 8am

Betty
Reply to  Coachy
2 years ago

Same difference. Given how early practices are, 8am might as well be noon.

Coachy
Reply to  Betty
2 years ago

He said “No electronic communication between the hours of 8AM and 8PM” and I just pointed out that it was 8PM to 8AM. Which is far from “same difference”. It’s literally the exact opposite…..

Madre
Reply to  Coachy
2 years ago

So who communicates that the 5:30am practice is cancelled (can’t happen between those 8 to 8 hours)?.

Admin
Reply to  Madre
2 years ago

Would you not interpret “practice cancelled” as “emergency circumstances”?

unless emergency circumstances exist, or during competition travel.

Maybe USA Swimming just needs to take that part and clarify examples of “emergency circumstances.”

AnotherSwimMom
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Well, this happens a lot during meets. My son (12) will finish up finals, often well after 8 PM, and text the coach to find out what time he needs to be there for next day prelims. Fluctuates depending on his schedule. It’s not an emergency, but it won’t fit in the 8PM – 8AM window.
Put me in the ‘mom trying to make my kid take more responsibility’ camp.

Admin
Reply to  AnotherSwimMom
2 years ago

So, again, rolling it forward to ‘solutions’ (sorry, I’m a little damaged from spending too long in the corporate world, where “Bad idea” people are a dime a dozen, and ‘here’s a better idea’ people are too hard to find), what if this section were clarified that any communications between 8PM and 8AM need to include a parent?

I know that generally the “parent on the communication” isn’t a popular clause, but maybe this is the middle-ground. If the communication between 8PM and 8AM is truly “informative” and “about practice,” then there should be no problem cc’ing the parent on the email. It might *feel* like a parent being copied takes away the ownership from the child, but so long… Read more »

kdswim
Reply to  Coach
2 years ago

Team tweet? Well probably have to be Instagram for any kids to get it. I assume they don’t mean to limit public communication.

Wahooswimfan
Reply to  Coach
2 years ago

Who’s time zone governs? The swimmer or the coach? * pm on the east coast is 5 PM in California. So CA coaches can’t text an east coast swimmer after 5 PM? Why not exclude text/messages sent to a group such as a text to the entire team/parents group when something occurs like 5 am practice cancelled due to weather?

College swimmer
Reply to  Wahooswimfan
2 years ago

Oh yeah like what about international? Singapore for example is 12 hours off so if coaches can’t contact between 8p-8a their time and 8p-8a athlete time then they just can’t communicate at all…

Rules or guidelines...college coaches
2 years ago

So if these are rules….what are the punishments? Or are they guidelines for protection? Is it even possible for a college coach to go in and out of membership? It’s a yearly membership right? Can you cancel that? This could make recruiting REALLY interesting. It’s like we are creating an opportunity for helicopter parents to well…hover more. Gives college coaches a WHOLE lot of thought to push recruiting back to later times.

Jakobi wan

While it may create an environment for more helicopter parenting, it also creates an environment to deter sexual abuse.

Anonymoose
Reply to  Jakobi wan
2 years ago

I actually doubt the latter. They find their ways

JojoNV
Reply to  Anonymoose
2 years ago

Exactly true. If an adult has a sexual perversion, no measly piece of paper will make a difference. This isn’t about protecting children, this is about USAS protecting USAS.

Bill Price
Reply to  JojoNV
2 years ago

What would you suggest instead? You’re right this definitely protects USAS but it also protects athletes and coaches. It’s not foolproof but so what? Maybe we’ll learn a thing or two and make it better in the next iteration.

Jo porter
Reply to  Bill Price
2 years ago

I’m a fan of the “don’t throw crud up against the wall and see what sticks” approach. This wasn’t hashed out and restricts athletes who are under 18 from rooming with athletes who are 18; this affects incoming college freshman, high schoolers who qualify for international teams and high schoolers traveling to high school meets across the state. It’s buffoonery at its finest.

How about swimming pools with a single point of entry for women and a single point of entry for men which is straight through the locker room?- Is USAS going to pay to remodel the locker rooms at municipal pools throughout the country? ASININE.

My suggestion? How about USAS actually give a crud about the athletes… Read more »

Dan
2 years ago

The “occasional sweeps of locker room” by coaches seems to go against all common sense. Why have coaches even be anywhere near athletes who are changing?

CoachChris
Reply to  Dan
2 years ago

I would assume to prevent abuse from other swimmers or from anyone else who might be using the facility. But yeah, not a fan of that.

JojoNV
Reply to  CoachChris
2 years ago

And, if minor athletes are changing in the locker room, wouldn’t it violate the policy for a Coach or two or three coaches to enter the locker room to check out the athletes? So ridiculous

Admin
Reply to  JojoNV
2 years ago

“Before athletes arrive.”

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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