USA Swimming says that clubs and LSCs should enforce the new Minor Athlete Abuse Protection Policy (MAAPP) like other club and LSC rules, and that “isolated and inadvertent violations” may be treated as “teachable moments.”
The MAAPP is a trickle down from the U.S. Center for SafeSport which mandated that all national governing bodies implement such a plan by June 23. USA Swimming’s announcement of its version of the MAAPP has been met with a very polarizing reaction: many note the importance of athlete protection, but many have also questioned whether the new rules will really protect athletes while criticizing the policy for putting too many unreasonable restrictions on coaches and other adults.
We covered the details of the policy here, and worked to brainstorm some workarounds to common complaints in our opinion section here. We’ve also been working to get further clarification on many of the policies from USA Swimming, which provided us some more information this week. Here are some of the bigger items we’ve clarified so far:
Enforcement & Punishment: By LSCs and clubs, with potential for ‘learning opportunities’
Enforcement of the policy was always going to be key – what exactly are the punishments, and who is in charge of policing the new rules. USA Swimming says that clubs and LSCs (local swimming committees) will take the lead, with USA Swimming and the Center for SafeSport jumping in for “intentional and/or egregious” violations:
“MAAPP violations should be enforced just as any other club or LSC policy is enforced,” USA Swimming told us this week. “Isolated and inadvertent violations may be treated by the club or LSC as teachable moments. Repeated, intentional and/or egregious MAAPP violations may be handled by the USA Swimming Safe Sport staff or reported to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.”
That draws a pretty stark contrast between the MAAPP and the USA Swimming Code of Conduct or the SafeSport Code. While violations of the latter two are the basis of coaching bans and suspensions, the MAAPP appears to have some more leniency in violations. Violating the MAAPP could ultimately lead to action by USA Swimming or the U.S. Center for SafeSport, but it could also be dealt with internally by clubs and LSCs, and violations that are “isolated and inadvertent” could be treated as “teachable moments.” Practically, that means that we could be looking at what right now is a hazy range of potential sanctions for violating MAAPP rules, depending on how clubs and LSCs choose to enforce and how often USA Swimming chooses to get involved.
Adult Athletes & Their Minor Teammates
USA Swimming hasn’t made any specific exceptions in their rules for athletes who turn 18 and their communication with teammates who are still minors, but that situation has brought up a lot of concern among readers. USA Swimming did tell SwimSwam that MAAPP violations between adult athletes and athletes between 14 and 17 could be treated as “learning opportunities:”
“MAAPP violations by athletes over 18 involving minor athletes over the age of 14 may be treated as learning opportunities,” USA Swimming wrote.
That’s a fairly vague explanation, and it remains to be seen how often private communications between an 18-year-old and their 14-17-year-old teammates is punished or only addressed as a learning opportunity. Still, it’s worth noting that if communication violates either the USA Swimming Code of Conduct or the SafeSport Code, it can be punished by those organizations with a ban or suspension, regardless of the MAAPP.
College Recruiting Calls
It was originally feared that college recruiting phone calls would require a parent or guardian on the line with the prospect if they are under 18. USA Swimming quickly confirmed that that wasn’t the case, only that the call had to be “observable and interruptible.” We asked for clarification on what specifically that means, and we got some this week:
“Having another adult on the line would make the telephone call observable and interruptible,” USA Swimming said. “Another example would be either the caller or the recipient of the call being in a public place where other adults are present.”
That means as long as college coaches are calling from a public pool deck, or a room with other adults, or if the minor prospect is in a public place with other adults around, or if the college coach gets another adult (an assistant coach, a team secretary, or a parent of a prospect) on the phone, it would count as “observable and interruptible.” What does appear to be disallowed are calls from a college coach in a private location with no other adults around to a minor prospect who is also alone and unobserved by adults.
(The rules also stipulate that the restriction on “electronic communication” between 8 PM and 8 AM does not apply to phone calls, which are treated as “one-on-one interactions.” That means college coaches can call athletes at any time they want under MAAPP rules, but cannot text or e-mail athletes after 8 PM or before 8 AM.)
Travel on College Recruiting Visits
USA Swimming also noted that the restriction on an applicable adult (a coach or other adult) being alone in a car with a minor specifically deals with “local travel” and “team travel” – that means the rule seeks to disallow coaches from driving athletes to practice with just one coach or one athlete in the car. College recruiting trips wouldn’t fall under those distinctions. USA Swimming did confirm that college programs would need to get written permission from a minor’s parents before allowing that minor to stay with another adult – for example, staying with an adult college athlete in a dorm on a recruiting visit.
The MAAPP travel section is specific to local travel (travel to training, practice and competition that occurs locally and does not include coordinated overnight stay(s)) and team travel – travel to a competition or other team activity that the organization plans and supervises),” USA Swimming wrote. “While a prospective student-athlete’s official visit to campus may not always meet the definition for team travel, the team travel section states ‘When a minor athlete and an adult athlete share a hotel room or other sleeping arrangement, the minor athlete’s legal guardian must provide written permission in advance and for each instance for the minor to share a hotel room or other sleeping arrangement with said adult athlete.'”