USA Swimming Safe Sport – Physical Abuse

There are a lot of great reasons to swim – at any level. As a life‐long activity, people often swim to have fun and spend time with friends. Swimming also encourages a healthy lifestyle and builds self‐confidence. Swimmers even benefit from the sport out of the water. They learn goal‐setting, teamwork and time management skills.

Unfortunately, sports, including swimming, can also be a high‐risk environment for misconduct, including physical and sexual abuse. All forms of misconduct are intolerable and in direct conflict with the values of USA Swimming.

Misconduct may damage an athlete’s psychological well‐being. Athletes who have been mistreated experience social embarrassment, emotional turmoil, psychological scars, loss of self‐esteem and negative impacts on their relationships with family, friends and the sport. Misconduct often hurts an athlete’s competitive performance and may cause him or her to drop out of our sport entirely.

USA Swimming is committed to fostering a fun, healthy and safe sport enviornment for all its members. We all must recognize that the safety of swimmers lies with all those involved in the sport and is not the sole responsibility of any one person at the club, LSC, or national level.

This is the first in a series of articles on various policies in place with USA Swimming and EGAC to ensure the safety and our athletes and their families.

CLICK HERE to download the SafeSport manual.




Physical abuse is defined as a non‐accidental injury and/or an injury primarily caused by the gross negligence on the part of a person in a position of authority over the athlete2


USA Swimming Policy

Physical abuse is prohibited by Article 304.3.13A of the 2013 USA Swimming Code of Conduct:

304.3.13A Physical abuse of an athlete by any person who, in the context of swimming, is in a position of authority over that athlete [is considered a violation of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct].


Physical misconduct does not include professionally accepted coaching methods of skill enhancement, physical conditioning, team building, appropriate discipline or improving athlete performance.


Examples of Physical Misconduct

Contact examples

  • Punching, beating, biting, striking, choking or slapping an athlete
  • Intentionally hitting an athlete with objects or sporting equipment
  • Encouraging or permitting an athlete to return to practice or competition prematurely or without the clearance of a medical professional, following a serious injury or concussion.
  • Prescribed dieting or other weight‐control methods (e.g., weigh‐ins, caliper tests) withoutregard for the nutritional well‐being and health of the athlete


Non‐contact examples

  • Isolating an athlete in a confined space (e.g., locking an athlete in a small space)
  • Forcing an athlete to assume a painful stance or position for no athletic purpose (e.g.

    requiring an athlete to kneel on a harmful surface)

  • Withholding, recommending against or denying adequate hydration, nutrition, medical attention or sleep.



Any allegation of physical abuse of an athlete by a coach will be investigated by a three coach panel named by the USA Swimming President as required by 405.2.3.