Featured Commentary: Broken arm: $1,000,000 - Child rape: $100,000

In every organization or undertaking there are risks. What those risks are and how they are handled gives us an indication of the values and priorities of the sponsoring organization. USA Swimming's priorities are both clear and troubling when you examine their weak hiring guidance and the insurance they provide to member clubs.

USA Swimming offers member clubs insurance with $1,000,000 in medical and general liability coverage per incident [1]. If a child were to break an arm while swimming for their local club, this is the policy that would pay for any necessary care or treatment. This amount is adequate for almost every accidental, careless or negligent injury that could occur while a swim team is responsible for a child's safety. The exceptions and exemptions in this policy are where USA Swimming's weakness and failure are exposed.

The most glaring exception in USA Swimming's insurance coverage is a separate policy that covers sexual misconduct by coaches. USA Swimming's sex abuse coverage only provides $100,000 to potential victims of a predatory coach. With the cost of litigation for a civil sex abuse claim potentially above $250,000 many lawyers would balk at even filing a lawsuit. Their fees and expenses could not be recouped from a settlement with the insurance company. No money at all would be left for damages.

While USA Swimming's intent in this regard isn't known, many would consider this an attempt to deter victims from pursuing claims against the governing body. Coaches and the swim teams that employ them are not likely to have great financial resources. Victims of sexual abuse are left without a means to pay for any physical harm or the years of emotional rehabilitation required in the wake of betrayal.

Predators like swim coach Andy King, jailed in 2009, have moved within the system for years, even decades. It is rumored that King's troubles with under-age girls started as early as the 1970's. USA Swimming can be documented as aware of King's activities in 2003. This is information that should have been available to any club that chose to interview Coach King. It was not and Andy King, a serial abuser, continued working with the tacit approval of USA Swimming.

While no system of background checks and interview protocols will identify every potential predator, USA Swimming does have a responsibility to provide their member clubs with the best available programs to vet and screen new and transferring coaches. The current background check only identifies convicted felons. Information about prior claims is shockingly absent. In the event that the hiring system falls short, USA Swimming's insurance package will supposedly help pick up the pieces. Unfortunately it can't and won't.

The combination of inadequate insurance, lax employment guidelines and limited screening tools places every young member of USA Swimming at risk. No reasonable parent can feel comfortable knowing that USA Swimming will pay $1,000,000 for a broken arm but only $100,000 for the rape of a child.

[1] http://www.usaswimming.org/_Rainbow/Documents/07d1069b-1b79-45dc-af66-4c6d269ec0d6/2012%20Insurance%20Summary.pdf

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Broken arm: $1,000,000 -
Child rape: $100,000