On the home page of the Paseo Aquatics website, there’s a number of badges that stretch down the left side of the page. In March, the swim club was able to add one more badge to the list after it became a Safe Sport recognized club.
The US Center for Safe Sports is dedicated to creating a safe environment for athletes, free of any form of abuse. Paseo Aquatics is one of seven swim clubs in the country to earn recognition from USA Swimming as a Safe Sport Club, and the first in Southern California.
“It is a commitment,” said Paseo Aquatics co-founder Jay Wolf. “We were the new kid on the block. Paseo aquatics, there was another club in town, we haven’t been here for a long time. We have to find ways to differentiate ourselves and stand out and we figure, I don’t know if there’s a better way than to ensure the protection and the training of our club.”
Paseo Aquatics coaches had to take part in a series of courses and training videos before the club could be certified. Most coaches have full-time jobs outside of coaching, but still were able to dedicate the time to complete the training.
Parents have been involved as well, with Kelly Zancanaro fulfilling the role of Paseo Aquatics’ Safe Sport representative.
“Being such an advocate of youth sports, I was eager to help guide Paseo Aquatics on this most pivotal certification of becoming an accredited Safe Sport Club,” Zancanaro said. “The protection, mentally and physically, of our athletes is imperative to their continued growth, progression and love for the sport of swimming.”
Wolf said he has noticed that USA Swimming has made advances in athlete safety since the sexual misconduct reports surrounding Larry Nassar and his involvement with Michigan State and USA Gymnastics athletes.
In addition to Safe Sport certifications, Paseo Aquatics is working with Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policy (MAAPP), a branch of the US Center for Safe Sport to better support their swimmers.
Paseo Aquatics, which is home to nearly 250 swimmers, also has been following USA Swimming bylaws and protocols since becoming a sanctioned club six years ago.
“You’re also dealing with a sport where these minors are probably more than any other sport, exposed,” Wolf said. “They’re in swimsuits, they’re with coaches who they believe in and train with 12 months in the year, there is no offseason and so they spend a lot of time with them and I think USA Swimming decided we need to up our game.”
In addition to becoming a Safe Sport Club, Paseo Aquatics is looking forward to hosting the 2020 Winter Age Group Championships, which is expected to feature over 800 swimmers. The meet will be held at Santa Clarita Aquatics Center and it’s the first time the event will be held in Santa Clarita.
“That’s a very big deal,” Wolf said. “It’ll be a very, very large meet. So it’s exciting and it’s a big step for us. It’ll take a lot of manpower to do it, but we’ll pull it off.
“We’re building this program for the long term. We’re not here to be a swim club overnight. We’re really here to dedicate ourself to swimming and the sport of swimming in Santa Clarita.”