“Some coaches are already doing a very good job of navigating this for athletes who are still getting the best they can be. We have to bring those people forward. If I have to be honest, if there are coaches who are not able to learn and adapt and modernize their thinking, they should probably find another career. “
In a statement accompanying the release of the report, SA said: “[It] identified issues that affect the athlete’s experiences and well-being at all levels of the sport, including fear and pressure to perform, speak out and more generally control and coaching culture.
“It is recognized that especially for young female athletes, some of their experiences have had long-term consequences. Swimming Australia again apologizes unreservedly to those members of the swimming community who have had a negative experience.”
The catalyst for the report was a series of social media posts in June last year from Olympic Madeline Groves, who withdrew from the Olympic trials in Tokyo “as a lesson to misogynistic perverts and their boot-lickers.”
“You can no longer exploit young women and girls, shame on the body or medically give gas to them and then expect them to represent you so you can earn your annual bonus. Time has passed,” Groves tweeted. Others backed her up.
A three-person panel, led by Sydney lawyer Chris Ronalds, interviewed 150 people over six months. It came back with 46 recommendations. SA said it would not release the report in its entirety because it would be too easy to identify innocent people, but said it would “address” all 46 recommendations.
They include giving up skin fold tests, minimizing body composition assessments, rewriting coaching manuals to delete references to “big thighs” for example, and removing the word “physique”.
“The concept of ‘physics’ has implications and implications, including overestimating body shape and size in terms of its impact on performance,” the report said. It is therefore recommended that SA removes the concept of ‘physics’ [its] set of principles. “
The report said SA must also sharpen and make its grievance process more transparent, introduce a whistleblower facility, be stronger at dealing with harassment and bullying and strengthen character tests when selecting coaches.
“TO [should] demonstrate cultural leadership by prioritizing behavioral standards over a coach’s performance standards, ”the report states. “Athlete welfare must be the primary driving force for coach choice.”
Coaches must be re-accredited every year, and the criteria for re-accreditation should be updated every three to four years, the report said.
It also said SA needed to streamline the path for women to coaching. Oddly enough, the report highlights world rugby and AFLW as models for establishing quotas for female coaches. It said SA should never again send a male coaching staff to competitions.
“The feedback was open and honest, and there were experiences that were difficult to read,” SA’s statement said. “SA wants to assure those who came forward that the sport is bound to change to ensure that these negative experiences are not repeated, and apologizes unreservedly to those affected.”
The report will now be the case for an implementation committee of seven people, chaired by Dr. Michelle Gallen, an avid swimmer and sports integrity expert.
She said that because the reform project was so extensive, it was difficult to put it into a time frame. But much of the work was already underway, and the 2024 Paris Olympics sounded “reasonable” as a deadline.
Like Perkins, she was sad that much of what was in the report reflected her experience in long-term college swimming. “The time to draw the line below this is now,” she said.
“I want everyone involved in this sport to have a great experience, no matter who they are,” she said. “The challenge is, what’s a better way to have those conversations where everyone feels respected and safe?”