Thursday, December 22, 2011

100 Minutes With Chuck Part 4: The Future

This is the last blog in a four part series after a meeting last week with Chuck Wielgus. I had thought we would have the meeting, Chuck and Susan would have time to respond, and things might continue slowly from there. I was mistaken.

Since Saturday, Chuck and I have exchanged over ten emails. Susan and I have communicated over text. Both of them thanked me for the meeting over those respective mediums. I mailed my thank you the old fashioned way to Colorado Springs.

I could paraphrase all of our discussions or just post the messages wholesale, but I won't, at least for now. Chuck and I are still at odds over many issues, including the role anonymous voices should play in this dialogue as well as the consequences for his actions.

To his credit, Chuck has started to show far more humility in our conversations than I ever saw when I was just an another member. Progress in this direction will help him heal the wounds in USA Swimming, but only if the entire membership feels it.

Also to his credit, Chuck has continued to pursue conversation despite the fact that I have not diverted from my two central statements- that what he did was wrong and that he should step down as a result. He has instead tried to give me more information, even extending an invite to Colorado Springs to meet the entire staff and attend a board meeting.

I have to admit to a few personal reservations. The longer this discussion goes the higher the stakes are for both of us. What if, after seeing the inner workings of USAS, I still believe in their failings just as much as I do now? On an even more personal note, I am growing uncomfortable for getting so much attention for writing. I guess I always hoped that if I was flying out to Colorado Springs it would be as a coach. That is the goal I chose. The fight to change USA Swimming for the betterment of all involved chose me.

Last Saturday Chuck mentioned how no one can predict the future. He challenged me to tell him where this was all headed, or what the problem that would blindside them next would be. I wasn't prepared at the time but I am now.

For one, I think non-sexual abuse is common in swimming but has had little attention paid, for many of the same reasons that sex abuse went undetected. USA Swimming has no idea how many of its athletes are abused. Although that number is impossible to find out, that shouldn't stop us from trying.  The fact that little attention has been paid is continuing evidence of a disconnect between Colorado Springs and ground level problems. Every year as a college coach I am subject to anonymous reviews by every athlete on my team. What would we find out if every USAS coach had to do the same?

Susan Woessner has been given an enormous responsibility. Because we are still underestimating the problem by so much, she is one person doing the job of many. Athlete protection is adding an employee. A step in the right direction, but not far enough.

In 5-10 years, I think we will be regretting how slowly we moved once we knew there was a problem, and how we continued to underestimate the problem. That is, unless we make dramatic , somewhat painful change. I'm not so naive to think that pouring more resources into athlete protection comes from an endless pot of money. But is it worth it? Absolutely. I plan on using whatever influence I've gained to make us a little less resentful.


  1. Susan is one person avoiding the job that many could do better. She's a figurehead, a puppet. She's ineffective and needs to be given a different job. Maybe selling t-shirts at nationals, or something along those lines. Because my personal experience with dealing with her leaves me frustrated and annoyed. and I'm sure I'm not alone...

  2. not the interview report i was hoping to read after reading all blogs. i was hoping for specific questions to be published with their specific responses. you had a unique opportunity to sit with chuck and susan, but it seems as though all of your blogs/reports have done is to maintain the shroud of secrecy.

    your second blog was about you. your personal history. while that may have had some influence in your quest, it did nothing to reveal to the readers what was said by chuck and susan.

    what were the questions asked? what were the responses?

    let the readers make an informed decision.

  3. what questions were asked? what were the responses?

    it seems as though you left the meeting and only really reported that your feelings towards chuck havent really changed. what did you ask him/susan? what were the replies?

  4. 'people that had taken for granted what he had done over the previous years.'
    So he was took the increased level of criticism as 'noise' from his enemies? More worried about appearance than performance. There is no 'resting on your laurels' anymore. There were/are valid complaints that they ignored and continue to ignore.

    'violation of media contract '... so they retaliated against you???

    'I should have always expected to hear from him directly had I tried.'
    Huh... Exactly how would he like people to TRY? Communication is not USA-S strong suit.

    This is the governing body of our sport. One large spoiled brat.

    'Be more politically involved.' Why? Is there a butt in Colorado Springs that still needs kissing?

  5. Of course Chuck and Susan would like you to disable the anonymous comments, which is probably why they chose to speak to you over other bloggers.

    The reason I post anonymous is to protect those around me. If the posts were not true, these organizations have the resources to sue.

  6. "The reason I post anonymous is to protect those around me. If the posts were not true, these organizations have the resources to sue."


  7. Chris - you hit the nail on the head! Abuse of all kinds is a huge problem. New employees are usually on their best behavior - they do not start out molesting, abusing, cheating, or embezzling. They gain the trust of those around them and test the waters to see exactly how much they can get away with.

    Because so many people have gotten away with sooooo much over the years, it becomes impossible to hold offenders accountable because, I feel, it would be a domino effect.

  8. And they're going to keep killing off great swim sites like those mentioned and this one, as long as they're in bed with Swimming World (which has turned to absolute crap).

    Does is surprise anyone that Chuck gets along so well with the bros at SWM? Jason and Brent? Cut from the same cloth. Crush anyone who can challenge their authority.

  9. My 11 year old daughter is a swimmer and I'm an official. She swims on a team with a wonderful coach (Montclair) but after having taken the online training for officials I realized how important it is that we as parents shoulder some of this responsibility. Don't put the coach in a position where he has to drive a kid home is one example.

    I have suggested that the training that officials take be made available for parents to our zone, our LSC and to USA Swimming. The over-riding theme of my communications is to communicate. This issue is only an issue if nobody knows about it.

    If 50 parents know what to look for, abusive coaches will go elsewhere. My answer to these emails: more silence. Read the board minutes of Pacific swimming...barely a mention of the recent issue with the Undercurrent. And nothing about how to keep something from happening in the future.

    I just don't get why the continued silence. Even if they never talk about the past, PLEASE promote the training that USA Swimming is doing, get the parents involved. Talk about how to keep these abuses from happening in the future.

  10. This whole undertaking by the author of this blog has made me especially appreciative of my daughter's situation on her club team. I'm vigilant about her safety and well being and her coach goes out of his way to never do anything that could even remotely considered abusive, sexually or otherwise. I'm late to ths game as my daughter didn't even start swimming until she was 14. Now 18 she is headed to a D 1 school next yr to swim. However, as a teacher, I'm amazed and flabbergasted that people in positions of this magnitude were seemingly unaware that abuse had and could occur when adults have this much contact and control over these kids. Really? There are bad apples in every profession and I'm stunned people have been this "head in the ground" about this issue. Do you read ? Do you watch tv? Have you had the proper amount of oxygen flowing the last 25 years?

  11. Chris, having read your four articles.

    For some reason David Berkoff changed his tune. Perhaps Chuck feels that he can do the same with you and his critics? We are all on this earth for a short time. Health wise Chuck is reportedly not well and his days may be numbered. Perhaps that is why he is trying to change his image and his legacy. He knows that when he leaves his legacy will be that of having been the leader of the largest sexual molestation and abuse scandal in US sports history - perhaps even the world.

  12. My friends eight year old daughter was left alone, at night, in a high school parking lot after swim practice. The parent was late, but never thought she would find her little girl sitting alone in a dark parking lot. She felt she couldn't say anything because she was late.

    In the evenings during Summer, my daughters team practices at a park pool. This pool is surrounded by a freeway, golf course, lake and junior college in a not too safe neighborhood. After the team practices, the pool is locked up and the lifeguard leaves. One night practice ended early so the parents of two girls (13 and 15) were not around. My 17 year old daughter offered to stay with them until their parents arrived. The coach left. The next day I told this coach that it was not a good idea to leave three girls in a dark parking lot by themselves. He couldn't understand why it was a big deal so I spoke to another, older, coach about it.

    I thought about whether or not I should say anything, I knew I would be perceived as the bad parent. I decided that the safety of each and every kid was much more important than whether or not the coaches liked or disliked me for speaking up.

    I too wondered if people watch the news or read the papers.

  13. the idea of a coach leaving any minor child unattended is sheer stupidity. you did a good thing by confronting the coach, but did you confront the parents as well?

    in this day and age its hard to believe the kids in question dont have a cell phone to call mom and dad. all the adults in this case did the kids a terrible injustice.

  14. Just because the kids have a cell phone does not mean that the parents appear instantly. When practice is ended 30 minutes early, the parents can be anywhere - even enroute.

    Why would I confront the parents? They were grateful my daughter waited. Although my daughter offered, I feel it was up to the adult coach to decline.

    The mother of the girls was on the teams Board of Directors - I don't know how she felt about it. All I know is that I didn't feel it was safe for any of these kids, regardless of age, to be left at this facility - especially at night.

  15. I am a coach, and our school actually has a policy about staying with athletes who are waiting for their rides. They can be left alone under NO circumstances. It is just considered a part of the coaches contract. On the way home from meets we have them call from the bus about 15 minutes ahead of our ETA so we aren't stuck there waiting.

    It can be pretty hard on a coach with a family to have to wait around on parents who just forgot their kid. Some are not even apologetic, but most are and it is usually an unforeseen circumstance that causes them to be late. no big deal if it doesn't become a habit.

    I have waited up to two hours before... the worst part about it is that often it is a female student left with a male coach, which opens another can of worms. bad situation. Sometimes I am lucky enough that my female assistant coach can stay if necessary.

    I am usually pretty patient with the parents the first time, but I am also pretty clear that as a coach I want to get home to see my own kids and adding time to a 15 hour work day sucks.

    pick up your damn kids, people... and don't tell me it would have been alright to leave them there alone. It just isn't.

  16. My daughter and her carpool team-mate are usually the last ones out of the shower. If there's a swimmer still there I take it upon myself to get ahold of the parent and many times I've driven the forgotten swimmer home.

    Why is this better than the coach doing it? I have two other swimmers in the car with me at all times. The coach would not have that.

    Other parents are allowed to help...swim teams are communities.