Former competitive swimmer, abuse survivor, trying to make the world a better place-one day at a time.

Letter From a Swim Parent Part 2.

I harbored no ill will toward many of the families of the old club.  They understood why we had to leave and were happy that my son was thriving after what happened the previous summer. I was enjoying the coaching break and settled back into the swim mom/swim official life again. 

The new Head Coach of the old club was not a good fit.  He didn’t have a chance to succeed because the culture was so broken after the events of the summer.  A petition was circulated and a website was created calling for the ousting of the new Head Coach.  He had been on the job for all of 3 months and by February 2016, he announced his resignation, after 6 months on the job.

By April, the coach who abused my son had a new club up and running.  She sent an email to select former swim families.  She described what she was doing, setting up her new club and where they would be practicing.  She encouraged parents to spread the word because she was not allowed to recruit.  I found that funny because that email was a recruiting email and a majority of the swimmers in her new club were former members of the club we left.

In January of 2017, I was at a big swim meet.  Her new club was there as well.  I was sitting in the stands and I started getting messages from an out of state friend.  She asked, if I was seeing the pictures the former coach was posting on her Facebook page.  I said no because she blocked me from Facebook.  My friend informed me that she was posting pictures of girls and body shaming them.  I asked her to screenshot what she was seeing and send them to me.  I was shocked and saddened. The former coach was taking pictures of girl’s fronts and backsides in their suits and criticized their appearances.  These were not her swimmers and since the session was 14 and under, the girls were underage and photographed without their parent’s consent.  Some comments were critical of what she was doing, but she kept on justifying by saying that she cropped out their faces.  She had some who agreed with what she was doing and gladly joined in the criticism of the young girls.  I had 2 other friends send me the same pictures and commentaries.  They were disgusted by what she did.

Having 3 friends sending me what they were seeing on the former coach’s Facebook page, I sat there and had to think about what to do.  I had to separate myself from what she did to my son.  I thought about it from a Coach/Official/Swim Mom standpoint and made the decision to send the pictures and commentary to the meet director.  When I got home that evening, I received an email from the meet director and told me that he would be consulting with the LSC and the Safe Sport.  By this time, I was scared of what she would do.  I was afraid she would go after my son, who was swimming in the meet, I was afraid of her or her Husband coming after me.  The meet director assured me that I did the right thing.  That didn’t make me feel less scared.  The bottom line was that I was still afraid of her.

Later in the day, the friend who initially sent me the pictures, told me that the pictures were slowly being removed from her Facebook page.  I also received an email from the meet director that the pictures were gone

On Monday, I received emails from 2 LSC administrators and they wanted me to document the timeline of when I received the screenshots.  It was at that time that I expressed my fear due to previous encounters with the former coach and was afraid of revenge on her part.  I was assured that I fell under “whistle blower protection”.  I researched it and found out that the protection lasted 90 days.

The next day, one of the LSC administrators sent an email saying the matter was resolved and asked that I delete all pictures I had.  Since I had them sent to me on my phone, I complied and deleted them from my phone.

In April, after the 90 day whistleblower protection ended, I was walking downtown with my son to watch my oldest daughter perform with her high school jazz band. We were walking rather fast because we were going to be late.  We saw the former coach’s husband walking down the opposite side of the street with a box of takeout food in his hand.  As our paths were coming close to crossing, the former coach’s husband said “hey, how are you?”  I hadn’t spoken to him in almost 2 years. Without thinking, I said “hey, we’re good”.  He then said “hey <my son’s name>” specifically to my son.  He said “hey” back timidly.  This took all of 10 seconds as we passed each other in opposite directions on opposite sides of the street.  As we passed and I couldn’t see him, he said “God knows what you are doing”.  My son and I stopped in our tracks and looked at each other.  My son was confused, I got scared.  My son wondered what he meant by that and by the time we arrived at the venue, my daughter’s jazz band was playing and I had to sit down and breathe. My son and I never discussed the incident and I documented what happened on my phone.

When the summer 2017 swim season started, I was asked to be part of our new club’s coaching staff.  I was very appreciative and was happy to be coaching again.

The first weekend of June, our team attended the meet where my son was humiliated 2 years earlier by the former coach.  I was thankful and my son was excited to swim in his old home pool.  The workouts leading up to the meet, he worked hard and was confident that was going to do well and I was getting nervous.  As far as I was concerned, that pool was the “scene of the crime” and we hadn’t been there since the end of the summer season of 2015 after the former coach humiliated him.  We put what happened behind us and we were happy with our club, but that 200 freestyle the former coach pulled him from the blocks was still a sore spot. 

Everyone at the old club was incredibly nice and welcoming when we got there.  The new Head Coach, who I met the summer before shortly after he was hired, was incredibly kind.  He knew what happened with our family.  He was doing a great job building the club back and it made me happy to see.

I was coaching a group of age groupers and my son was swimming lights out.  He swam like he had something to prove.  The former coach’s team wasn’t there. On Saturday, the 200 freestyle was the last event of the day and he was entered in the last heat.  It was exactly the same as 2 years earlier.  I was nervous and so was my son.  Before he swam, I said “you get to swim that 200 freestyle now”.  He said “I know” and off to the blocks he went.  I was with a fellow coach and she saw me starting to get emotional.  I told her what happened and how much this race meant.  She understood and we took our positions to watch the race. When the whistles blew and he got on the blocks, I cried.  When he turned for the final 50, I went to the blocks to wait for his finish. When my son touched the wall, he got out of the pool and his lip started quivering and even though he finished second in the race, he was finally able to swim that 200 freestyle the former coach wouldn’t let him swim 2 years earlier.  I hugged him and said “it’s over”.

But it wasn’t.

In June, my son qualified for an open water competition that he swam the previous 2 years.  It is not a club event, but a Zone level event, where swimmers represent their states.  A coaching staff is chosen by the LSC and the LSC chose the former coach who took the pictures at the meet in January, to be a coach.  I was very concerned and called the head zone open water coach and asked that she not speak to my son since she abused him 2 years earlier.  He immediately accused me of lying because he hadn’t heard anything and explained that there is a process to make reports.  I told him she was reported and he pleadignorance.  I was made to feel like someone making a false accusation. I had to tell my son that the person who verbally abused and humiliated him was going to be a Coach at the event and he handled it well.

In July, I was at a meet hosted by the club that was in charge of the event where the former coach took the pictures of the girls in January.  At that time, I was working with a visually impaired swimmer as a tapper.  Before his event, I sat with an official and we started chatting.  He asked me if our club had a good time at the meet in January and I said absolutely we did.  I introduced myself and the official looked at me and said, “you’re the one that turned the coach in for taking pictures”.  I was sitting and having a conversation with the Meet Director that I sent the email.  Instinctively, I apologized.  I explained that I never want to cause trouble for anyone but I looked at those pictures and asked, “what if that was my daughter being photographed and body shamed on social media?”  He said I did the right thing and that there were consequences for her.  I didn’t want to rehash the incident and thanked him and his colleagues for handling the situation.  I tapped our visually impaired swimmer and left the deck realizing what a small world we swimming folks live in.

I am not certain what consequences were handed out other than the pictures being removed.  I was surprised that she was still allowed to Coach, period. But after she was rewarded with a Zone open water coaching position, I lost faith in our LSC. I had to be ok with only God knowing what she was doing.

~ I have seen, and I have proof of the Facebook postings of the pictures that were posted of the swimmer/s. As well as emails telling this parent to delete the Facebook postings of the swimmer/s.  This is not a made up story, and it saddens me that this is allowed in our sport.  But why should it surprise me? USAS still has an enormous amount of coaches, still allowed to coach- even though they’ve been accused of abusing swimmers. I’m not sure when or if the abusive culture in our sport will ever change- or why USAS protects these coaches. I think it’s pretty easy to just do the right thing! SKE

 

Sarah Ehekircher1 Comment