A year after being criticized in multiple news reports for alleged behavior on the job, a nationally renowned swimming coach from Pleasanton is back in hot water again.
Earlier this month, Pacific Swimming publicly reprimanded Steve Morsilli, the longtime head coach for the Pleasanton Seahawks club, after video footage surfaced depicting Morsilli throwing a plastic cone toward an underage competitor in the pool during a recent meet.
The host team recorded video of the incident, which took place at a May 21 meet in Concord between the Seahawks (PLS), Concord Terrapins (TERA) and Livermore Aquacowboys (LAC).
After the video posted by anonymous accounts made the rounds on social media starting in late-July, Pacific Swimming -- one of USA Swimming's 59 regional associations across the country -- issued a statement on Aug. 6 addressing the incident and acknowledging it opposed the behavior while Morsilli had apologized for his actions.
"Pacific Swimming does not condone the behavior of the coach in this instance and the coach should have worked with the Meet Referee to resolve the issue instead of the action he took," officials said.
According to officials, Morsilli threw a plastic cone at a competitor during the meet and "interfered with the meet operation in order to stop a swimmer from participating during an event."
Officials added, "This behavior was an unacceptable interaction between an adult coach and an athlete and violates the (Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies) MAAPP policy of USA-Swimming."
When the coach initially failed to get the swimmer's attention after "assuming the swimmer was trying to cheat the restricted team entry criteria of the meet," he then "threw a plastic lane marker cone at the swimmer in the water to get his attention," according to officials.
Video footage of the incident appears to corroborate Pacific Swimming's narrative of the event. The cone landed close to the swimmer as he approached the pool wall; it was unclear in the video whether the cone made contact with the boy.
In a statement, Morsilli said he was under the impression that the swimmer -- a former Seahawks member now with the Terrapins -- had "illegally" entered the race.
"As it turns out, this was not the case, but I was unaware of the background at that time," Morsilli said.
Prior to the beginning of the meet, coaches downloaded their entries from the FastSwims platform and received heat sheets from the Terrapins, with both data sources had the swimmer in question listed incorrectly under "PLS." Morsilli said he knew the swimmer had not been on the Seahawks "for a while" and was told by team members that the boy was currently on a different team.
"The registration check from PacSwim came in noting that one of our other swimmers (who scratched) was not registered" but did not mention the Terrapins swimmer, according to Morsilli.
Morsilli said he's "since learned that the Fastswims coordinator changed his entry from UN-CROW to PLS," adding he didn't know why the coordinator did so. "UN" refers to the designation "unattached."
"Since we have had problems in some of our intrasquad meets with former swimmers entering our meets to get a chance to swim even though they are no longer with us, I was concerned that the system was once again being abused," Morsilli said.
After notifying the meet entry person via email that the swimmer "had entered as part of my team but was not a member and should be scratched from all events because this was a closed meet for PLS, TERA and LAC only," Morsilli said he "presumed that this had been done."
After noticing two Seahawks swimmers were listed "in the heat according to the heat sheet I had received" from the Terrapins, Morsilli then saw the boy "was not wearing a PLS cap or a TERA cap."
Feeling "offended and victimized that a swimmer would illegally enter my team name to gain entry to a closed meet in which he did not belong," Morsilli said he approached officials about the matter "but they were busy counting."
At that point, Morsilli walked toward the boy's lane and then threw the orange plastic lane marker in the water toward the boy. The coach said he "interrupted his swim and challenged him as to why he was in the meet representing my team."
Coaches from the Terrapins then came over and informed Morsilli that the boy had transferred to TERA and "was actually UN, not PLS as the heat sheets stated."
Officials said the incident was "immediately addressed and resolved by the meet referee, coaches from the host team (TERA) and the PLS coach following the incident" and that Pacific Swimming "took immediate and appropriate actions."
After reporting the incident to the Safe Sport contact person of USA Swimming, officials said, "USA Swimming did not recommend that Pacific Swimming take any further action at that time."
Morsilli acknowledged that he "clearly frightened (the boy) and angered his father and his coaches and I am sincerely sorry for that."
"I offered at the time to pay for his entry fees, and I am still willing to do that," Morsilli said. "Other than that, all I can offer is a heartfelt apology."
The swimmer's father contacted the Weekly prior to the publication of this story but declined to speak publicly about the incident.
The viral video of the cone-throwing incident came almost exactly one year after Morsilli was cast in the spotlight in 2020 for past actions -- from a prominent ex-club swimmer alleging physical and emotional abuse while she was in the Seahawks program as well as from a group of abuse survivors who allege Morsilli did not properly report complaints of sexual abuse made against another coach. Morsilli has denied allegations of wrongdoing in both instances.