Athlete Protection


USA Swimming is committed to raising awareness about prevention of abuse in sport.  USA Swimming is proud to partner with Praesidium, an industry expert in abuse prevention, to bring the swimming community customized and comprehensive training tools for coaches, volunteers, parents and athletes.

The training tools are free to parents and swimmers and can be found at

We encourage all swimmers over the age of 12 and parents to participate in the online training.


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 - (Note: The Policies and Best Practices Guidelines discussed below may not be appropriate reading for children under 12.  Parental discretion should be used)

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.


The following policies related to Athlete Protection are mandatory components 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 non-athlete 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 rubdowns 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 rubdowns and/or massage of an athlete under any circumstances.

3.  Use of audio or visual recording, including the use of 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 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. (effective January 1, 2011)

5.  Travel

A.  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).

B.  Team managers and chaperones must be members of USA Swimming and have successfully passed a USA Swimming-administered criminal background check. (effective January 1, 2011)

C.  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.

D.  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. (effective January 1, 2011)

Best Practice Guidelines

The following Best Practice Guidelines are strongly recommended for all USA Swimming members.

1.  Parents should be encouraged to appropriately support their children’s swimming experience.

2.  All swimming practices should be open to observation by parents.

3.  Two-deep Leadership: One coach member and at least one other adult who is not in the water should be present at all practices and other sanctioned club activities whenever at least one athlete is present. Clubs and coaches should evaluate their seasonal plans and map out how to best accomplish this strongly recommended guideline.

4.  Open and Observable Environment: An open and observable environment should be maintained for all interactions between adults and athletes. Private, or one-on- one situations, should be avoided unless they are open and observable. Common sense should be used to move a meeting to an open and observable location if the meeting inadvertently begins in private.

5.  A coach may not host a minor athlete in his/her home, unless it is in a group setting with other adults present without the permission of the athlete’s parent or legal guardian.

6.  During team travel, when doing room checks, attending team meetings and/or other activities, two-deep leadership and open and observable environments should be maintained.

7.  Athletes should not ride in a coach’s vehicle without another adult present who is the same gender as the athlete, unless prior parental permission is obtained. (Note: Y rules prohibit coaches from giving rides to athletes except under certain group travel situations)

8.  During overnight team travel, if athletes are paired with other athletes they should be of the same gender and similar age. Chaperones would ideally stay in nearby rooms.

9.  When only one athlete and one coach travel to a competition, at the competition the coach and athlete should attempt to establish a “buddy” club to associate with during the competition and when away from the venue.

10.  Where a chaperone is included, the chaperone(s) should be of the same gender as the athletes and written consent should be given by the athletes’ parents (or legal guardian).

11.  Communications between non-athlete adult members and athletes should not include any topic or language that is sexual or inappropriate in nature.

12.  Non-athlete adult members should respect the privacy of athletes in situations such as changing of clothes, showering, etc. Non-athlete adult members should protect their own privacy in similar situations.

13.  Relationships of a peer-to-peer nature with any athletes should be avoided. For example, coaches should avoid sharing their own personal problems with athletes.

14.  Coaches and other non-athlete adult members should avoid horseplay and roughhousing with athletes.

15.  When a coach touches an athlete as part of instruction, the coach should do so in direct view of others and inform the athlete of what he/she is doing prior to the initial contact. Touching athletes should be minimized outside the boundaries of what is considered normal instruction. Appropriate interaction would include high fives, fist bumps, side-to-side hugs and handshakes.

16.  Coaches should not initiate contact with or accept supervisory responsibility for athletes outside club programs and activities.

17.  Coaches should not engage in sexual intimacies with a former athlete for at least two years after the cessation or termination of professional services.

Because sexual intimacies with a former athlete are frequently harmful to the athlete, and because such intimacies undermine public confidence in the coaching profession and thereby deter the public’s use of needed services, coaches should not engage in sexual intimacies with former athletes even after a two-year interval except in the most unusual circumstances. The coach who engages in such activity after the two years following cessation or termination of the coach-athlete relationship bears the burden of demonstrating that there has been no exploitation, in light of all relevant factors, including:

1.  The amount of time that has passed since the coach-athlete relationship terminated;

2.  The circumstances of termination;

3.  The athlete’s personal history;

4.  The athlete’s current mental status;

5.  The likelihood of adverse impact on the athlete and others; and

6.  Any statements or actions made by the coach during the course of the athlete-coach relationship suggesting or inviting the possibility of a post-termination sexual or romantic relationship with the athlete or coach.

7.  Both the athlete and the coach must be 18 years of age or older.