Swimmers Leave BISC After Investigation Reinstates Kyle Harris as Head Coach


By Riley Overend on SwimSwam

The Bainbridge Island Swim Club (BISC) is dealing with the aftermath of an investigation into Kyle Harris that determined no allegations of misconduct warranted terminating the 29-year-old head coach.

Harris amassed 21 allegations of misconduct in less than a year since taking over the BISC program located just outside Seattle, Washington. The accusations range from SafeSport boundary violations, racism, harassment, intimidation and bullying of swimmers, and harmful training tactics. However, a 160-page investigative report authorized over the summer by the Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation District that oversees BISC ultimately concluded that the swimmers are safe under Harris.

“We had some parents that made some allegations that we took very seriously,” said Terry Lande, executive director for Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation District. “We asked (the investigator), ‘Do you see any issues with this person where kids are in danger, he’s a predator, any sort of those kind of things? He said, ‘Absolutely not, absolutely not.’”

“People have decisions to make,” Lande added. “They don’t have to agree with the park district.”

More than a dozen BISC swimmers have quit the club due to concerns surrounding Harris and the decision to retain him as head coach. Several swimmers told the Kitsap Sun that Harris “made inappropriate comments about their bodies and choice of clothing, questioned their showering practices, lurked and listened outside the female locker room, and, at times, refused to allow female swimmers to use the bathroom.” He also used an exertion scale that measured changing skin color for white swimmers and allegedly yelled at a female swimmer, “When I yell at you, you should flinch.”

Harris denied allegations of violating SafeSport rules, being sexist or racist in his coaching, and bullying swimmers. He also said he stopped utilizing changing skin color to measure athlete exertion, instead implementing a numerical system. During the investigation this summer, he wrote a letter to Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation District leadership.

“My primary focus remains … the health and safety of all my swimmers,” part of the letter reads. “Then comes culture, integrity, character, confidence, a commitment to process, and finally teaching and instructing what is needed to be competitive in the sport of swimming. At the end of it all, once you swim for me, I am going to do my best to take care of you always.”

The mass exodus is devastating for a BISC program that showed so much potential just a year ago.

Last year, Bainbridge High School’s girls team took down the meet record for most points at the Class 3A state championship. A month later, BISC swept all 20 events at the Pacific Northwest 13-14 Winter Short Course Championships. Six swimmers from that squad — Alexa McDevitt, Tierney Lenahan, Sammy Segerson, Sophie Segerson, Clare Watson, and Gracyn Kehoe — were no longer attached with BISC when they competed at this year’s Winter Juniors in Austin, Texas.

“This is his job. His job should have professional standards,” said Mike McDevitt, Alexa’s father. “When he fails to meet his professional standards, that should be a problem for his employer. When failing to meet those standards involves putting children at risk in a variety of ways, with varying degrees of seriousness, that’s an even bigger problem.”

“By staying, you are giving permission for it to continue,” another parent said.

Harris also attended Winter Juniors earlier this month with the BISC swimmers who remained with the club. He has a group of supporters within the program who believe the push for his removal is being driven by a small number of detractors.

“It’s heartbreaking, the destruction of the swimming community on Bainbridge Island,” one parent said. “It’s terrible.”

SwimSwam: Swimmers Leave BISC After Investigation Reinstates Kyle Harris as Head Coach

You must be logged in to post a comment Login