I got challenged, once again, to write something positive today. So here it goes. It's probably not the kind of positive that my challengers were thinking of, but it's another reason to feel absolutely optimistic.
Since I began writing about the "dark ages" of coaching that we are still working ourselves out of, I've heard from a lot of victims. More have reached out in the last few weeks. I find myself very thankful for that.
There's a lot of talk in sports circles about family. But we haven't been very good to some members of our family. We're lucky they still talk to us, still love us enough to hang in there and try to help us to get better.
If we're going to get out of this mess as a sport, these are people we should listen to. Ariana Kukors Smith is certainly one of them. She continues to be incredible in everything I see her in. She is patient, thought out, and teaching us all a lot, if we're willing to listen.
I wouldn't blame her if she was angry enough to not educate us, and I won't blame her if at some point in the future she gets so tired of explaining what she actually meant by talking about shaking hands that she gives up.
Deena Deardurff Schmidt tried to educate us eight years ago. For the most part, it seems we still have a lot to learn. It seems she may be willing to help us out again, and we're lucky if that's the case.
Kim Fairley, a teammate of Deena's, seems like she has some lessons to teach us too. She's working on a memoir based around her experience growing up in swimming. I'm grateful that she will tell us despite some of the fear she must have felt over the years.
We owe a debt of gratitude, not defensiveness about the term "mean" to Jessica Gold. A mental health professional and former swimmer, she offers an educated perspective that all coaches can learn from.
Finally, I'm thankful for Irv Muchnick. Irv is not friendly in the least. But ever since he saw firsthand what was going on in swimming through his child's swim team, he has stuck with it. He has persisted through not being listened to, through exhaustive court cases, and more.
He would probably sooner poke me in the eye with a sharp stick than except some gratitude for what he's done, but I'm giving it anyway.
These people belong on the inside of the swimming community. Their voices should take over for some tired ones so we can truly move forward.