(An open letter to Coach Davis in response to a wonderful question! JL)

Coach Chris Davis


May 5, 2017
Dear Chris,
Thank you for your time on the phone this morning, it was very valuable to me. “Taking Ownership” as you said, means keeping track of every dollar and making sure you get “bang for the buck.” I’d like to outline for you, in as concise a manner as possible, what I see as ASCA’s value to the coaches of the USA. It is our objective that the $80 spent for your membership is the best $80 spent for any coach.
We are in the business of “Better Coaching”. That phrase means that we want our members to be able to learn to “Coach Better” AND we want to help create a “Better” environment in which we all live and work daily. (A Better Life for Coaches.) Everything we do at ASCA daily relates to one definition or the other.

Coaching Better:

First, I believe there are two constituencies…the first is the “newer” coach…with a poor or no definition, who values and needs BASIC EDUCATION in the sport. For them, we have Levels 1 through 5 certification courses covering American philosophy of coaching (Level 1 FOUNDATIONS OF COACHING) , Teaching skills for stroke mechanics(Level 2-The Stroke School), The Planning and Execution of Training for Athletes of All Ages (Level 3-Physiology School) , LEADERSHIP of any and all groups(Level 4 – The Leadership School) , and for the Level 5 Coaches, basic administrative skills whether you own your own program like SwimAtlanta, or work for a club board, or a high school or NCAA Coach. (Level 5- the Administration School)
It is important to note here that this is a “foundation” of study and ASCA presents our materials as such and ASCA tries to bring as many tools as possible to the coaches toolbox. “One way, not the only way, just one tool” you need. We encourage seeking tools from other experienced coach sources and real mentorships and ALL of our presented tools come from HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL and EXPERIENCED COACHES, not “theoriticians” or “gurus”.
We offer 26 other courses ranging from Advanced Stroke courses to “how to work successfully with parents” expand and elaborate on the educational offerings. We offer these on-line (for some) and in manual form to encourage continued study of each topic.
Our latest and most exciting offer is our on-line library which brings over 200 high level ASCA World Clinic presentations to our membership. The longest running education benefit is the monthly ASCA Newsletter (online) and the bi-monthly ASCA Magazine (Hard copy)

Second, A Better Coaching Environment, Advocacy.

“Who is the Constituency for Advocacy? Who is the “ASCA Coach”? Why do the top coaches need to be members? Why does that coach need Advocacy?”
Those questions are central to our existence. We ALL need advocacy for protecting our sport and our profession, because 99.9% of us are too busy helping America’s youth to do it ourselves! Our top coaches recognize that…they’re wonderful at identifying problems, and pretty close to totally unable to devote the time and energy THEMSELVES to solve them. They have a coaching job to do! NO ONE wants to PAY for Advocacy, because It’s close to impossible to accurately measure success and failure, yet it’s the ethical foundation on which we all work each day. In the serious “hard cases”, the organization lobbied for results says “we were going to do that anyway”. NO, IN FACT YOU WEREN’T! or we wouldn’t have had to address you about it! That’s sport politic speak for “don’t let anyone know they influenced us.”
Since its inception in 1958, ASCA has been the leading voice of coaches in the USA to all other groups, including all the iterations of the AAU and now, USA-Swimming, the NCAA, the National Federation of High Schools, FINA, and others. The Policies and Positions are developed by our Board of Directors who represent coaches from the very Elite to the grassroots coach. The Entire Board operates with the betterment of the sport of swimming in the USA uppermost in its mind. Never been a better, more selfless Board, never will be.
The delivery of those policies, positions and ideas, falls to the Executive Director…which is me, in the case of the past 32 years….who is the ADVOCATE for those ideas, issues, concerns and battles. As you know, I am frequently accused of using my “POWER” to get things done. That’s laughable of course since I have exactly ZERO power, but after 32 years in place, I do have substantial “influence” which gets me the opportunity to get almost anyone in sport worldwide, to listen to any idea or concern I may present. I can’t imagine that an association would want any less.
In point of fact, “we” (the Board and I) have been highly successful in advocating issues and ideas to better our sport and more frequently, protect it from some really BAD ideas that surface almost weekly. It is Hard to get credit for the ideas we KILL, because usually no one except our Board and myself hear of them! (That’s good!) Last bit of chest beating. I am not real smart, but I am a bulldog. Most anyone who has found me on the “other side of the fence” in an argument protecting our sport, has thought better of it. I win some, I lose some, a few I get a draw, but in any fight to protect our sport, I think it’s fair to say, I am formidable. Hope that’s not too much bragging, but it’s the truth, too.
The experienced leaders in our coaching community value the work our Board and myself do to improve, protect and expand our sport and coaching. Someone has to do it for us. Without that singular voice and collective representation, our sport, our athletes and our livelihood will be subject to the whims, biases and trends of any influence group that comes along. The ASCA has been that “someone” throughout its 59 year history. Let me list the “Top Ten Issues we have been successful at, as examples of the hundreds we have addressed in the last 32 years.
#1. We killed the “international Center for Aquatic Research” which was fraudulently operating in Colorado Springs. (the word not used lightly) and misleading coaches around the world. We did it ON OUR OWN in direct opposition to the Executive Director of USA Swimming and his board. And we shut it down. And we operate the Journal for Swimming Research which is the ONLY vehicle for real, “peer reviewed” science in the swimming world.
We killed the plastic suits that would have bankrupted our sport at the novice level. We did it largely by ourselves, with the help of USA Swimming President Jim Wood as our ally. We rallied the world against them and forced FINA to change. It was the ONLY defeat in history of the FINA Bureau position and made the Bureau change the way they did business.
#3. We supported and got hired, Chuck Wielgus at USA Swimming. Enough said. We have significant input into his replacement.
#4. We conceived, got passed and helped select the position of National Team Director that has had a huge impact on our medal winning results since 1996. Entirely from the ASCA, against the wishes of the then Executive Director of USA-Swimming.
#5. We conceived, got passed and have constant impact on the beginning and continued operation of the Club Development Division of USA Swimming. I know you are not a supporter, but give me an hour and I’ll explain all the good they do, do. (and yes, I know there are issues there as well.)
#6. We have battled the corruption of FINA which DOES trickle down to swimming pools and decks all over the world and fought for swimming organization that is ATHLETE CENTERED, Coach Directed and Administratively Supported. Currently we are forming an alternative to FINA, in the World Swimming Association, and a professional (PGA like) swimming organization for professional athletes, the PSA (Professional Swimmers Association) We expect to operate our first meets with good money in 2017/218.
#7. We have fought every battle that has come down the pike (averaging about two per year) that would “put a fence” around the average American Coach and boxed us in, in terms of what we do and how we coach. We have fought very hard to keep the coaches role on deck as PURELY the option of the Coach and NOT suffer from administrative nonsense that would box us into “clone coaching” at all levels. Examples, abound, and many no one has ever heard of because we stopped them DEAD.
#8. We have consistently fought for USA-Swimming Board changes to make the organization more staff driven, more responsive to the membership and more focused on performance and “staying out of the way” of the coaches. Changes in April to the makeup of the Board will make us much more successful in the future.
#9. We operate a Certification Program based on EDUCATION, EXPERIENCE and ACHIEVEMENT that is used by 18,800 plus coaches around the world to provide their professional credentials from an independent third party, when they apply for jobs, seek financial improvements for themselves, etc. This provides objective, fact based credentials instead of “creative resume writing”. It’s all factual and based on reality, not self-promotion. Since its been in place since 1985, and grown tremendously, the “marketplace” says it highly valuable. ASCA offers the most sought after set of credentials in the swimming world.
#10. Last but not least, NO ONE OWNS US. (like the USOC owns USA-Swimming). We’re truly independent. We EARN every dollar that comes in, and we plow it back into the sport, not into huge salaries. Our INDEPENDENCE makes us a fair and impartial spokesperson on issues of every sort. It’s our singular most valuable asset, next to our actual members, like yourself.
FINALLY, I am not mentioning my 35 year battle against performing enhancing drugs. It’s probably what we are BEST KNOWN for in all of swimming. And I have dedicated my working life to trying to stop it. And I continue to get my ass kicked and we lose more all the time. So while I think it’s valuable to have someone fighting the fight, the lack of significant progress does not make it something to brag about.
In summary Chris – education to serve the newer coaches and all who want it, and ADVOCACY to protect our coaching community and coaching environment.

That’s the bang for the buck, and honestly, I think for $80 a year, it’s a huge bargain.

A final consideration for you and all coaches; we operate in the greatest Olympic Sport in the world. And the reality is that it is the coaches who drive this sport. Their passion, competitiveness and nurturing build careers, teams and the extraordinary success of our students that we see at the club and international Levels. The ASCA ties us all together, giving us a platform and collective voice, and an avenue to effect changes needed for today and decades to come.

Your Feedback eagerly sought. All the Best! John Leonard

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