Protecting Athletes


We believe that the experience of children and young athletes in all organized sports should be guided by what is best for the safe and healthy development of the young person. Young athletes who participate in organized sports activities have a unique opportunity for learning. In working with each child, it is essential that we are mindful of their physical, emotional, and developmental needs.  We must also be particularly diligent in recognizing the unique vulnerabilities that are an inherent part of childhood.  It is the responsibility of all adults to not only recognize these vulnerabilities, but to develop the knowledge and skills needed to create and maintain a safe and child-centered sports environment. 


We recognize the important role that USA Swimming plays in providing leadership and creating an organizational culture that is focused on the safety and wellbeing of young people. The protection of children requires that all adults work together to support young athletes. As the child’s first and enduring resource for safety, parents and guardians play a critical role in athlete protection. When parents participate they are able to help educate other adults about the needs of the child, and help prepare the child to participate in sports programs in a way that promotes safety, enjoyment, and learning.  


Adults, including coaches, officials, staff, facility workers, volunteers, chaperones, and others who interact with children, are in also positions of great trust and influence. The ability to use this position of trust to support the well-being of children is critical. The overwhelming majority of these adults fulfill their roles in a positive and responsible manner. Nonetheless, we must also understand that a few adults may seek to use the trust and authority that comes with their access and status to take advantage of a child.  


USA Swimming strives to continually improve the programs and services it offers to its members and among these some of the most important relate to the safeguards for protecting young athletes.  Because we aspire to foster safe and positive environments within all our member clubs, we believe it is especially important to provide our member adult leaders with policies and best practice guidelines that help define elements of appropriate behavior and conduct. 

Policies and Best Practice Guidelines for Athlete Protection


In order to provide a positive experience and a safe environment for athletes, all non-athlete adult members of USA Swimming should maintain professionalism and avoid any appearance of impropriety in their relationships with athletes.  Coaches, in particular, should recognize the influence, power and position of trust they have with athletes and should use these only in an athlete’s best interest.


This document provides specific mandatory policies and best practice guidelines that are strongly recommended.  



The following policies for Athlete Protection are mandatory for all members and are incorporated by reference into Section 304.3.4 of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct.


1. Inappropriate touching between an athlete and an adult non-athlete member or Participating Non-Member (as defined in 401.1) is prohibited, including, but not limited to, excessive touching, hugging, kissing, sexually oriented behavior, sexually stimulating or otherwise inappropriate games, and having an athlete sit on a non-family member adult’s lap.



2. Any rubdown or massage performed on an athlete by any adult member or Participating Non-Member, excluding the spouse, parent, guardian, sibling or personal assistant of such athlete, is prohibited unless such adult is a licensed massage therapist or other certified professional.  Any rubdown or massage performed at a swim venue by a licensed professional must be conducted in open/public locations and must never be done with only the athlete and licensed massage therapist in the room.  Even if a coach is a licensed massage therapist, the coach shall not perform a rubdown or massage of an athlete under any circumstances.



3. Use of audio or visual recording devices, including a cell phone camera, is not allowed in changing areas, rest rooms or locker rooms.



4. Employees and volunteers of USA Swimming, LSCs and member clubs who interact directly and frequently with athletes as a regular part of the their duties and individuals with any ownership interest in a member club must be non-athlete members of USA Swimming and satisfactorily complete criminal background checks as required by USA Swimming.  This does not apply to volunteers such as timers, marshals, computer operators, etc. who only have limited contact with athletes during a meet.



5. Travel o Regardless of gender, a coach shall not share a hotel room or other sleeping arrangement with an athlete (unless the coach is the parent, guardian, sibling or spouse of that particular athlete).    

o Team managers and chaperones must be members of USA Swimming and have successfully passed a USA Swimming-administered criminal background check.

  o When only one athlete and one coach travel to a competition, the athlete must have his/her parents’ (or legal guardian’s) written permission in advance to travel alone with the coach.  

o Clubs and LSCs shall develop their own travel policies.  USA Swimming will provide a model club travel policy as an example.  Club travel policies must be signed and agreed to by all athletes, parents, coaches and other adults traveling with the club.