The image of the coach/abuser often centers around the loner who works his way into a small youth sports club and finds a way to isolate himself with children. The club, grateful just to have the volunteer help doesn’t want to see a problem or ignores complaints until it is too late. While there are certainly examples of that caricature, the recent guilty plea of Rick Curl, a US Olympic swimming coach at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, belies that view. (Full story here). Curl ran one of the largest and most prominent youth swimming programs in the country. In 1989, he also paid $150,000 to the family of a 13 year old swimmer for a non-disclosure agreement related to claims that he had sexual relations with the girl when he was in his 30s.
After learning of his presence at the latest Olympic trials, the girl, now in her 40s came forward to tell her story of abuse. Curl pleaded guilty to the charges and he faces up to 15 years in prison and will be listed in the sexual offender’s registry. He was able, however, to sell his swim club, which has since been renamed. Few coaches in the country had the profile and record of success that Curl achieved. Yet, despite all those credentials, he is an admitted child sexual abuser. He has since been banned for life by USA Swimming.
When implementing child protection policies, it is important that the policies be equally applied. Simply because a coach has a certain profile or background is no reason not to require him to follow club policies. Moreover, applying policies equally will aid in the acceptance of club policy from all coaches.