USA Swimming is partnering with the firm Praesidium, a national leader in sex abuse risk management, to develop a comprehensive athlete protection education program. The move is part of ongoing response to several lawsuits alleging that USA Swim coaches sexually abused young female swimmers.

“We are proud of the educational services we are providing,” said Jamie R. Olsen, director of communications and brand management at Colorado Springs, Colo.-based USA Swimming. “Along with the rest of our athlete protection efforts, this is something that will continue to evolve and grow, as we maintain our focus and commitment to providing a safe environment for all our members.”

Praesidium will work in conjunction with USA Swimming’s Athlete Protection Committee to produce customized materials for adult non-athlete members and age-appropriate materials for athletes and parents, available beginning this summer.  

According to Olsen, the program will roll out with online material — an “education module, consisting of research-based curriculum, which has been customized to be appropriate for our sport.”

“Praesidium has over two decades of experience helping organizations like USA Swimming create safer environments by reducing their risk of child sexual and physical abuse. Our work with larger youth sports groups, schools, camps, and other organizations has prepared us for this project,” said Richard Dangel, Ph.D., president & CEO of Praesidium. “More importantly, all of our solutions are created from extensive research, fieldwork with youth-serving organizations, and a scientific framework for preventing abuse. This background helps us know in advance the major areas of risk in an organization’s operations and allows us to focus our time and effort on specific issues and customized solutions for our clients.”

An edict requiring all non-athlete members to complete training as a condition of membership was one of several measures, including mandatory background checks for all non-athlete members, approved in September 2010 at USA Swimming’s annual meeting. The training will be provided as a service for athletes and parents.

“I believe this is working towards a preventative action,” said Jeff Julian, Swim Team Head Coach, Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, Pasadena, Calif. “The new background checks are good to limit repeat offenders with records, but it doesn’t help prevent it. This new partnership will hopefully work towards educating swimmers and coaches on what should be watched for and prevented. If it helps prevent one bad experience, then it is a great thing. Susan Woessner has made a good first step here, hopefully we can keep finding ways to prevent these horrible events. I hope these materials can give the clubs tools to help.”

There are currently several ongoing lawsuits alleging USA Swimming member coaches. The most recent, a second case against former coach Andrew King, was filed earlier this spring. King is now serving a 40-year prison sentence for sexually abusing a number of his young female swimmers over several decades as a coach for a number teams on the West Coast. King and 45 others are now permanently banned from USA Swimming.