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MichiganHusker
January 22nd, 2006, 01:38 PM
I am looking for information on how to become more involved in the age-group swimming community, i.e., becoming an official or working at a swim meet, etc.

I don't have children, so I don't know the first thing about what I should do and I did not find any useful information on the U.S. Swimming website.

Does anyone have any advice? Thank you.

nkfrench
January 22nd, 2006, 05:23 PM
Contact the Officials Chair/Coordinator in your LSC. They should have information on upcoming clinics for new officials or at least can point you in the right direction. There's a list of LSC's on USA Swimming website under "Find a Swim Club" at www.usaswimming.org

In my LSC [North Texas], clinics are offered generally in September and in April between the short course and long course seasons. There is no cost to attend. The students watch a training video and then often go on deck for some "live" examples. You then register as a NonAthlete member of USA Swimming ($42) through your LSC's Registrar and take an online test with USA Swimming. After that, you will apprentice with an experienced official for a number of meets.

One thing we're starting to do in my LSC is to host clinics in conjunction with lower-level swim meets if time and space allows. It works very nicely because a lot of prospective officials would be at the meet anyhow to provide transportation to the kids, and the kids have been to enough meets that it's OK if mom or dad don't watch all the events. We are also able to offer these clinics more frequently during the year so it's not 6 months between clinics. We try to get at least 6-10 students per clinic to make it worthwhile for the trainer.

You can register as Unattached directly with your LSC, or you can find a local club and register through them. Advantages are that sometimes a club will pay for the [$42, varies by LSC] registration if you are going to help officiate at their meets.

If you have other skills and do not wish to affiliate with a team, most LSC's have use for volunteers in other capacities. Again in my LSC, the bulk of the work is done by volunteers who do not have children swimming. In my case - I am a Masters swimmer and update the LSC website. My predecessor was a firefighter who was looking to support a good cause.

If you wish to help with other aspects of running a swim meet, you would need to contact the Meet Director in advance. Depending on the meet, planning can be done quite a while in advance to make sure all positions are covered.

Finally - some people will be suspicious of a strange adult who wishes to volunteer around children in swimsuits. It's a strange world in which we live and athlete safety is a growing concern.

msgrupp
January 22nd, 2006, 06:01 PM
with children--whether you have children or not--try to obtain a criminal clearance with your state and also a child abuse clearance with your state.

Here in Pennsylvania, each costs about $10 and can be applied for over the internet. The Criminal can come back in just a few minutes (but covers ONLY Pennsylvania) while the Child Abuse will take a week or so and is returned via mail.

Before I could tutor in a school OR work with handicapped individuals--I had to have both clearances.

dorothyrde
January 23rd, 2006, 07:49 AM
So true about the adults without the children. At last year's Illinois age group champs they arrested a pedophile who got down on deck in the capacity of a photographer, so it would be good to go through the steps to show you are safe around children.

If you have a YMCA around you, they might have a swim team. YMCA's are always looking for volunteers. That can get you hooked into the swimming community.

MichiganHusker
January 23rd, 2006, 01:09 PM
Thanks for the info and the tips. I found what I was looking for on the LSC website. They have a whole section on what is required to become an official.

Bob McAdams
January 27th, 2006, 02:38 AM
Originally posted by nkfrench
Finally - some people will be suspicious of a strange adult who wishes to volunteer around children in swimsuits. It's a strange world in which we live and athlete safety is a growing concern.

Luckily, we don't have any strange adults in USMS! ;)

But some people will be suspicious of any adult who wishes to work (on a volunteer basis or for money) around children (whether they're wearing swimsuits or not). In fact, if you're going to work with kids, particularly if none of the kids you work with are your own, I think you need to accept the fact that sooner or later somebody is going to suspect you of being a pedophile. It won't be fun when it happens, but if you can't live with it, go into some other kind of work (seriously)!

Keep in mind that someone who tutors kids in school or works with handicapped kids is in a significantly different role than an official at a swim meet, so the safety concerns are going to be very different. (Realistically, how much opportunity is there going to be for an official at a meet to molest a kid?) Let the organization tell you what safety concerns it has and what you need to do to satisfy them.

Things may vary depending on where you live, but in my area, I've never heard of any organization requiring an individual to get a "criminal clearance" before applying. It's more standard, in my experience, for the organization to want to do a criminal background check themselves. But the bottom line is: Let the organization tell you what you need to do to satisfy any concerns it may have.


Bob

dorothyrde
January 27th, 2006, 08:14 AM
Actually it is more and more being required that background checks be done on people who are working with children. Our religious ed teachers at church are volunteers, but they have to go through a class and have a background check done before they can teach. I am sure USA swimming does not have this yet, but the time may come where they will have to.

At the YMCA, employees who work with children go through child abuse prevention classes, and also have background checks. It is required now when taking a job working with children. Again, this is a paid position, but the time is coming that it will be required of volunteers also.

MichiganHusker
January 30th, 2006, 01:05 PM
Dorothy, you are correct. I have a friend who teaches yoga classes at the Y and she said she had to go through everything you mention.

We do live in a different world from when I grew up, but if it helps to keep children safe then it is well worth any cost or inconvenience. Especially since there is no way to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

My community, although considered a suburb of Detroit, is rather small. Being involved in a number of other volunteer organizations, I know a few parents with children who swim, so I wouldn't exactly be a "strange" person, but I understand what nkfrench was trying to say.

Bob McAdams
February 9th, 2006, 03:04 AM
Originally posted by dorothyrde
Actually it is more and more being required that background checks be done on people who are working with children. Our religious ed teachers at church are volunteers, but they have to go through a class and have a background check done before they can teach. I am sure USA swimming does not have this yet, but the time may come where they will have to.

At the YMCA, employees who work with children go through child abuse prevention classes, and also have background checks. It is required now when taking a job working with children. Again, this is a paid position, but the time is coming that it will be required of volunteers also.

I've been involved with this problem for more than a quarter of a century, and have been writing about it for more than a decade. I have, for a long time, advocated criminal background checks for all workers who have prolonged and/or unsupervised contact with children. It's irrelevant whether they're paid or volunteers. What matters is the degree of contact they have with children.

My point was that officials at a swim meet typically aren't going to have prolonged and/or unsupervised contact with children, and therefore it may be overkill to do a criminal background check on them. But that's something for USA Swimming to decide. (Swimming coaches, of course, are a different matter, because they are going to have prolonged and/or unsupervised contact with children.)

At the same time, having "child abuse prevention classes" for people who work with children strikes me as a bit silly. My company has a very clearly defined policy on working with children, and it's laid out in plain English. You don't need a class - all you need to do is read it. And that doesn't take very long. It's not rocket science!

What are needed are classes for children on how to stay safe, and for parents on how to keep their children safe, and organizations that are genuinely concerned about children would make better use of their time if they spent it running classes like that, in my opinion.

You'll find, by the way, that the organizations that have taken the most extreme actions "to protect children from abuse" (so extreme that, in some cases, they literally endanger kids in other ways) are nearly always the organizations that ignored the problem for an inexcusably long time. It is hard to escape the impression that their extreme stances today are a reaction to the public outrage over their previous inaction rather than an intelligent, well-thought-out response to the problem.

Bob McAdams
February 9th, 2006, 03:27 AM
Originally posted by MichiganHusker
We do live in a different world from when I grew up, but if it helps to keep children safe then it is well worth any cost or inconvenience. Especially since there is no way to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Do we live in a different world? Let me share an excerpt from something I wrote on this subject:

"On the afternoon of July 26, 1973, 7-year-old Janice Pockett left her home in Tolland, CT on her bicycle and never returned. Her bicycle was later found adjacent to a wooded area. She hasnít been heard from since, and is believed to have been abducted. If she is still alive, she is now 40 years old.

"On April 7, 1974, 10-year-old Leigh Savoie went to the vicinity of the Suffolk Downs racetrack in Revere, MA, where he sometimes shined shoes, but never returned home. He hasnít been heard from since. If he is still alive, he is now 42 years old.

"On June 24, 1974, 14-year-old Margaret Fox failed to return to her home in Burlington, NJ. She was last seen getting off a bus. She hasnít been heard from since. If she is still alive, she is now 45 years old.

"On November 1, 1974, 13-year-old Lisa White failed to return to her home in Vernon, CT. She was last seen at about 8:00 P.M. walking along Prospect Street. She hasnít been heard from since. If she is alive today, she is now 44 years old."

I was living in northern New Jersey when all of these incidents occurred, but I never heard about any of them. And yet they happened. I've seen no evidence that these sorts of incidents are any more common today than they used to be. I've even had an 80-year-old woman share with me an experience she had as a girl (in the 1920s) in which she was touched sexually by a man who worked at their house. Before she turned 80, she had never told anyone.

As far as I can determine, the only thing that has really changed is that now there is more public awareness of the problem. And that doesn't mean that children are more at risk today - it actually means that they are safer!

dorothyrde
February 9th, 2006, 07:40 AM
Actually, I believe that part of what the class focuses on at the Y is how to recognize the signs of abuse in children, and the procedures that someone must go through to report suspected abuse. Remember, at the Y, many of the employees that deal with children(swim lessons, basketball leagues, whatever), are college students, who may not know all the ins and outs of the legal system. This is a national requirement I believe, not just Y's taking it upon themselves.

MichiganHusker
February 9th, 2006, 01:03 PM
Bob, I don't deny that horrible things have happened to children in the past. For me, I grew up in a small town - Hastings, NE pop 25,000 where everyone knew my family - very low crime rate and swimming was huge. Even people that didn't have kids worked at the meets in some function.

So I guess I should have said that I live in a different world rather than the use of the royal "we."

In college, I worked as a lifeguard during the summer months in Lincoln, NE. There were these 2 little girls - sisters. The younger one always had big bruises on her back and the older one was extremely protective of her. They would come to the pool right when we opened and they stayed all day long, only eating from the vending machine. Even then it wasn't hard to suspect some sort of physical abuse from someone in this little girl's life.

The pool manager, was a teacher, and I told him about my suspicions and concerns. I thought that as a teacher he would know how to call or where to get help for these little girls. He basically told me it was none of my business.

The next summer, he hired all of the life guards back, except me. To this day, I wonder what became of those little girls and I regret not being more forceful or going to someone else.