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Biggest Misses of 2018

Biggest Misses of 2018

The stakes for doing so seem to high. There are more people to tell you that you messed up than there ever were. That is a bit daunting. In the same vein, there is more room for personal growth than there ever has been. So here, in no certain order, are the posts I look back at over the last year with a little cringe on my face.

Mark Schubert, Dick Shoulberg Update

So much has happened since I published the accounts of five former swimmers at Germantown Academy last week. As many have pointed out, Shoulberg and and Schubert were chummy in their day.

I had a snarky joke in the previous paragraph that has since been deleted. The reader also challenged me to solicit experiences with Shoulberg that were positive. There are in fact many people who speak glowingly of the man, including many of the top swimming coaches in the country.

I chose not to include them because these experiences are well known and well documented elsewhere. You are likely to have only heard positive things about Dick Shoulberg in your life. He has been lionized and put in multiple Halls of Fame.

These perspectives are often included when discussing abuse allegations against a prominent figure. Their main purpose, from my perspective, is to discredit accusers. I’m not interested in that. When somebody gets accused of robbing a house we don’t need to hear from all the other people who interacted with the alleged robber who claim he was a nice guy who never robbed them.

So, if you want to read about how much everyone thinks Dick Shoulberg is amazing, swimming go to swimmingcoach.org and search some ASCA talks for his name. You will never get to the end of the praise.

There is a lot of new information in both cases. So I’ll lay it out here as well as discussing at the end why I feel compelled to blog about this stuff despite my own position as a coach.

Shoulberg possibly on the outs at GA, finally

I’ve heard from multiple sources that there is a possibility that the blog post from last week will lead to Germantown Academy finally, officially, cutting ties with Shoulberg. If you recall, the initial complaint that is the subject of a lawsuit probably led to Shoulberg’s “retirement” a few years ago.

Germantown wanted to have their cake and eat it to. They wanted to appear as if they were meting out some consequences for Shoulberg while giving the appearance of a friendly parting to his rabid constituency. It didn’t really work, as devotees of Shoulberg were furious and victims were left without closure.

Since then, Shoulberg remains in the GA Athletic Hall of Fame. And he is still welcome back on campus as a conquering hero. Word is, there is a meeting this week that may determine whether those two important distinctions will continue, or whether Shoulberg will be out of the Hall of Fame and no longer welcome on campus.

USA Swimming receives report

I submitted my blog as a report to USA Swimming’s Safe Sport Manager Elizabeth Hahn. You can read her reply below:

“Thank you for reaching out and sending me your article.

 I wanted to get back with you to let you know that I have taken your report and made a report to the U.S. Center for Safe Sport. Based on all of the information, this was the next to take.

 I’d also really like to offer SwimAssist to the athletes that you mentioned in your article and any of those that did not want to be named or mentioned. SwimAssist is available as a resource to financially assist with therapy for any person who suffered abuse by a USA Swimming member during the time that they were involved in USA Swimming, . Please share this information with those that you have talked with and my contact information if you are comfortable with that. SwimAssist is available now or anytime in the future.

 Thank you again, Chris!”

I plan to follow up with Hahn in regards to why the entire report was forwarded to the US Center for Safe Sport. I was under the impression that USA Swimming’s Safe Sport division still handled non-sexual abuse complaints, and most of what is included in the post I made was non-sexual. I will keep you informed as to the response I get.

Schubert Knew

On the heels of the post, the Orange County Register’s Scott Reid, the top source for Mark Schubert related news, published a report that details more clearly Schubert’s actions to put a sexual abuser in a position of power within the organization.

The article tries to put a lot of “scoops” into one post, and therefore is kind of hard to follow. I’ve read it several times, and here are the most important details:

  1. Dara Torres has given a deposition in the lawsuit that Kukors is bringing against USA Swimming, Schubert, Hutchison and Aquatic Management Group. In that deposition she asserts that she saw Hutchison leaving Kukors hotel room late at night at the 2009 Rome World Championship. Torres told both USA Swimming and Schubert about what she saw.

  2. Despite that knowledge, Schubert went on to install Hutchison as the head of the post graduate training center at FAST (Fullerton), and helped convince Dagny Knutson to forego her amateur status and join the group.

  3. Torres account is disputed by that of disgraced former Safe Sport head Susan Woessner, who in emails dated around the time of her “investigation” into the incident says that Torres stated not actually seeing Hutchison leave the hotel room and instead spoke to Hutchison about it. Woessner had to resign after admitting to “kissing” Hutchison sometime prior to the “investigation”

The best working theory (what follows is all conjecture from me) for Schubert’s actions are as follows. He knew that Hutchison was a rising coach and would attract a talented group of swimmers to FAST. He knew that Hutchison was compromised due to his grooming and abuse of Kukors. He was also on the outs with USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus.

So he installed Hutchison at FAST, hoping he would last long enough to do some solid recruiting but then be taken down. Schubert hoped to replace him, and despite some confusion about where the money was coming from, there would be little Wielgus could do to interfere since the post graduate center coaches were payed by the USOC.

Oh and by the way, Schubert’s lawyer friend is finally, officially, out of options to try and reverse the blame he got for his deception of Dagny Knutson, and is facing possible disbarment.

Why am I doing this?

Readers have often asked, “why are you doing this?” and not often in a kind way. I am aware of some discussion that I am somehow conspiring to take down "big names” in order to advance my own career.

The fact is, criticizing people like Mark Schubert and Dick Shoulberg has made it exponentially harder for me to continue coaching swimming. There are literally hundreds of coaches who have banked career advancement with precisely the opposite strategy. So if I was truly a craven opportunist, I would be licking the boots of these two men and not making these posts.

I am in the awkward position of doing “journalism” in something that i am participating in. I cringe at that word, mainly because I know what I do doesn’t meet any standard of true journalism. This is a blog. I have a strong bias that I do not apologize for. I am mostly editorializing, and not reporting “news” and I rely on true journalists to report news that informs what I do.

However, I think that there is critically little discussion of some really important news within our sport. The major news “outlets” for swimming do woeful coverage of these issues. USA Swimming still treats abusive coaches as much more of a public relations problem than a priority problem for them to solve.

So I’m often uncomfortable doing this, however much some people may think I “like” it. I would glady hand over the reins to someone else who was not a coach if they were willing to do it. Unfortunately, we need many more of such people to reach a critical mass to change things. Until then, I can’t just ignore it, I’m in too deep.

As a reminder, I’m going to continue on this beat for free. If you want to continue enjoying it for free, go ahead. There are no plans to change that. However, if you can make a contribution you will make it far easier for me to continue to do this work.

Addressing the Latest USA Swimming Letter

Addressing the Latest USA Swimming Letter

On Friday evening east coast time, USA Swimming sent out a letter to members. It was their first communication addressing "Safe Sport" since Executive Director Tim Hinchey wrote a letter two months ago.

It has been nearly two months since Hinchey's letter, and each passing day begged the question "what are they actually doing?".

Unfortunately, the answer is not much

A Radical Reimagining of How We Do Swimming (Sport)

A Radical Reimagining of How We Do Swimming (Sport)

I think swimming needs dramatic change, that change will be very hard. I think it's worth it, however. Not just for stopping the terrible, abusive, horrible things from happening to people. Reimagining sport around the experience and well-being of people doing also offers the chance for a lot more good things to happen.

What's to Come With Nancy Hogshead Makar

Later today I will be recording a podcast with Nancy Hogshead Makar. It's a conversation I've been wanting to have for a long time. Because the podcast with Nancy comes at such a crucial time, I'm treating it a bit different than a typical podcast.

For one, I'm doing way more homework than usual. Hogshead Makar is probably best known currently for her fight to get the Safe Sport Act through congress. But that is just one angle that she's used to chip away at the maltreatment of athletes in sport. Her personal story is deeply moving and important to understanding what she stands for. 

In swimming circles, Hogshead Makar spearheaded an effort to prevent the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) from inducting Chuck Wielgus in 2014. She was successful in that effort, which only looks better and better the more that we know about Wielgus' reign at USA Swimming. 

Although Wielgus was kept out, there are still a lot of ignominious names in both the ISHOF and the ASCA Hall of Fame. I plan to ask Nancy about these. Specifically, what I continue to here from ASCA loyalists is that it would be a violation of rights or due process to keep people like Paul Bergen in the Hall of Fame.

I'm not a lawyer, but as far as I know there isn't any law that gives you a right to stay in a Hall of Fame. Here's a list of honorees from one or both halls with serious questions surrounding them:

  1. Paul Bergen  CORRECTION: I made a mistake in asserting Bergen was in the ASCA Hall of Fame. He is only in the ISHOF 
  2. Jack Nelson (both)
  3. Murray Stephens (ASCA)
  4. Don Easterling (ASCA) . Not often mentioned, the NC State coach was found liable in 1990 by the State Industrial Commission in the death of one of his swimmers. 

But Hogshead Makar is about a lot more than just Halls of Fame and legislation. She has fought this problem from all angles, and I'm eager to here about them and share that knowledge with listeners. I have heard from many that are eager to find out how they can make their own corner of the swimming world go above and beyond USA Swimming's "efforts". 

Finally, we will discuss the departure of Susan Woessner and Pat Hogan from USA Swimming, and what possible changes may be yet to come in Colorado Springs. This is an ongoing story with Scott Blackmun resigning from the USOC yesterday. All in all, I expect a packed conversation.