Thursday, May 28, 2009
My hometown Viking Swim Club used to go to a meet in May in Prince Rupert, B.C. We thought short course meters was kind of cool, and getting Canadian money at the bank was awesome. If you turned in ten bucks they gave you like 14 of their fancy colorized dollars back! Plus, when you buy a GI Joe toy in Canada, the package is in French and English. That’s a big deal when you’re ten years old.
Anyway, the story is that I was chosen to hold the American flag during the anthem before the first session of the meet. My high point rival, Jeremy, held the Canadian flag. We stood behind lanes three and four and leaned the pole on the block to hold them out over the water.
Holding it up for both songs was kind of agonizing. I started to get a little tired and wobbly. By the end of the music I just couldn’t help it… I accidentally dipped the American flag in the water.
The gasp from the crowd sounded like an extra, mistimed cymbal crash added to the song.
Of course, they knew I wasn’t being disrespectful… I was ten years old. The team parents did point it out, but they were nice about it.
It wasn’t like the way I was treated by the parents from the University of Cincinnati at the National Independent meet in ‘93... but of course, drawing the “boo-hiss” at a college meet was kind of an honor. Those kind of gestures are usually reserved for only the best players in the premier sports. That’s the first time I was called the "Dennis Rodman of swimming" by a coach who has been called the "Bobby Knight of swimming"… but I guess that's a story for another day.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
When I was a kid, we owned a hunk of junk truck for a little while. One night, some 19 year old punk decided to take it joyriding and he ran it off into a ditch and left it totalled. Then, the next morning he was dumb enough to brag about it to one of my dad's friends.
My dad showed up at the cafe and drug the kid to the police station by his hair.
So if anyone is dumb enough to brag to you about robbing our pool last night and getting away with two desktop computers, a wireless router, a tv and some candy from the vending machine...
let me know so I can drag him to the police station myself.
This was not how I wanted to start my week.
It is a darn good thing I took a hy-tek backup home on friday.
Friday, May 22, 2009
I cut and pasted this comment from the floswimming Blue 70 Response to FINA's Ruling video. Of course, I have no way to confirm or deny any of it. For all we know someone at Blue 70 could have made it all up and posted it themselves. Or hell, maybe the Masons and the higher ups in the military who covered up the fiasco at area 51 are involved. Either way... I thought readers would find it interesting in light of all of the craziness involved with our current tech suit mess. It sure explains a lot, and it would be a heck of a thorough fabrication, if it is one.
Take it for what it is: an anonymous comment.
I am an Australian Coach with swimmers at both junior and senior nationals level. I personally really don’t care which suits my athletes wear provided they are happy. Those of us without our head in the sand have watched this Blueseventy sage unfold from months and months ago. I have been reading and watching the blogs mentioned below . The scaq article a week or so back on “fiddling” really pricked my conscious and finally I cannot keep quiet - You just don’t know the half of it.
This whole plot was hatched last year. By December 2008 Blueseventy was developing real acceptance and at the Qld Sate champs maybe 2/3 of the finalists were in these suits. The suit was seen as fast as the LZR but the popularity at age level was because the suit cost less, lasted longer, was reliable and easily available ! My parents loved it. National Head Coach Allan Thompson unusually was on deck for this week. He was quite open in going around telling coaches and swimmers that the blueseventy suit was to be banned. By the end of the week the SAL board had been assembled at the venue and within a day of the meets finish he was quite correct . They passed a ruling banning the use of zips in all suits for all age groups 18 &U;. This effectively took Blueseventy brand and its only suits right out of the volume aussie age group market in one foul swoop.
The reasons they gave were without any real foundation and incredibly transparent. Few bought into it , we all knew what had gone down. However the Blueseventy suit still continued to gain momentum with senior national level swimmers especially because of support. However during this time Mr Thompson was contacting us and talking about trapping of air in suits. The comment amongst coaches was he is “rallying support” but we didn’t quite understand for what.
So came the Dubai Charter and then came our Champs and World Trials in March. On the second day of the trials swimmers in blueseventy won three events in a row in National and two Commonwealth records. Huge media exposure - it was the talking point on the deck. The next day Speedo and Thompson swung into action. At scheduled and impromptu coaches meetings he made it quite clear that the blueseventy suit was to be banned for Rome and coaches and athletes needed to wary. We just watched as coaches and swimmers abandoned the suits and medallists that didn’t were told to roll their suits down before fronting the media. That week he was really focused and he kept plugging away at the suit and air trapping .
In retrospect he already knew what the Fina outcome was to be back then ? This must have been orchestrated months and months ago when they had to get the right presence on the Fina boards and to think we supported and voted him in there! They knew the suit would pass the tests so they created a test of opinion it couldn’t pass.
Do i think Fina were complicit, actually no, I think they were totally hoodwinked. See we have never seen a brand really challenge Speedo like this in its own domain of competitive swimming in 20 years , so some of us coaches think this was all set up from last year, to leave Speedo as last man standing. Actually we know it ! Over the years Speedo have had no real fear from TYR and Arena but in just 12 months Blueseventy changed that. They had to pull the Fina approval system down and the have it reassembled to suit them?
A few simple questions on the above will reveal and verify its integrity and accuracy. Even media reports show Thompsons outspoken support of Speedo and the LZR before and after nomination to the Fina suits committee and there’s more, much more ! Like asking only blueseventy representative athletes, to express in writing what sensation the suit gave them, such replies no doubt being edited and selectively tabled at the Fina meeting. And so on ...............
I wish i could reveal my name but to do so i will be vilified. Speedo and Thompson take no prisoners and it will have a direct affect on my family, club and swimmers not excluding the SAL controlled and nominated subsidies and grants we need to receive.
Relieved Aussie Coach
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Recently at SwimNews, Craig Lord posted the following quotes:
"The blogs and forums of the swimming world are awash with opinion and speculation and accusations that range from libellous fabrication to the probable but unknown, with a sound nugget of biting truth in between. One thing many comments have in common: many believe that the first round of FINA independent suit testing was fixed to favour the LZR."
"a footnote to the blogging blockheads who believe that scribbling notes on the internet under a made-up name places them beyond a requirement to operate within truth and the law..."
I have to ask, am I one of the "blogging blockheads" Mr. Lord is referring to? Does he consider my blog to be a libelous fabrication? I am the only swim blogger I know of who doesn’t make my personal info common knowledge, but he could just be talking about all of the “anonymous cowards” leaving comments all over the web. I have to wonder though; does Craig Lord read my blog? Is he a Viking fan?
I really do respect Craig Lord at SwimNews, even if I like to pick on him for out-ranting the best of us. We need a champion for skin. Mr. Lord is the passionate journalist who is bravely leading the charge. I have expressed this before even though I don’t agree with him on all points. I just felt he crossed the line by ripping into Fred Bousqet with what can easily be read as a personal attack. I sided with Brett Hawke on that one. I contend that past generations of athletes whose records have disappeared are not the only victims in the tech mess. With the way things are playing out, our current stars are also victims. Bousqet did nothing wrong. He was playing the game as it had to be played. No world class athlete can afford not to. To face the possibility of having a world record stripped would be hard for anyone under any circumstances.
At floswimming, it was exhausting to see everything become about suits. At times it has been the same at SwimNews… and I am not saying they should shut up about suits. It is the topic of our times and we need loud voices to hash it out until a solution is determined. I just have to say that part of the reason I started my blogspot is that I felt it was unfair to feed the suit monster at floswimming. It’s not fair to Garrett because his site is about promoting and celebrating the sport. When I posted my article about trying to gain a TYR sponsorship (which I still can’t believe hasn’t happened yet) I honestly felt a little dirty, not for what I said, but for starting an argument about suits once again. At that point, the dead horse had already been pulverized to a fine red mist. And when people started cutting into Dana Vollmer after Pac-10’s and NCAA’s I was downright disgusted. I am trying to be selective about what I post at flo nowadays because I don’t want to contribute to the negativity. Just like we need a Craig Lord ranting about suits in our troubled times, we need Garrett McCaffrey to help us to celebrate all of the awesome things that are going on during the peak of swimming’s popularity. I don’t want my contributions to take away from that, so some of my posts, you will only see on my blogspot.
Mr. Lord, I blog under a pseudonym for a reason, and it is not because I think it brings me above accountability. If I am what you consider to be a blockhead, and you want to call me out, you are welcome to join the blogfight and you are also welcome to track me down to talk it out over the phone. It is not hard to learn who I am and get into contact with me… just don’t pass my contact info on to my hategroupies. I have earned a few at flo.
And if you aren’t talking about me… well then, uh… nevermind… I guess. No big deal, eh? Keep fighting the good fight.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Last weekend was Mayfest in Petersburg, Alaska. It is the celebration of Syttende Mai, which is Norwegian Constitution Day. It is the greatest party on earth, and every year I get awfully homesick when May 17 rolls around. I haven’t been home for the Little Norway Festival in over 15 years.
Petersburg celebrates this Norwegian holiday because the town was founded by Norwegians over 100 years ago and the Norwegian heritage is very strong to this day.
I have tracked down a few good pics and links so you readers can get a taste. If you ever wanted to travel to Alaska, you really need to plan it around the third weekend of May.
And yeah… our high school and swim club mascot was the Viking, which is why my online moniker is what it is. Some of the pics below are links to more info about Petersburg and this unique tradition. I am hoping to be sent more pictures soon.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
According to Swimming World, Blue Seventy has been left off completely, and the Arena X-Glide is out as well. SwimNews says that the Jaked suits on the list do not include the Jaked 01, which is the suit Fred Bousquet used when he broke the 21 barrier in the 50 free. In glancing at the list, I see TYR models A12, A7 and A10 which Swimming World also reports are the Tracer Rise, Tracer Light and another suit in development… so that means the TYR Titan is also gone.
Tony Austin brings up a great point as always, in that FINA is allowing people paid by Speedo to be on the committee that makes the decisions regarding the list, which is ridiculous. Tony and I are both on the same page in our thinking that Speedo has too much influence and this list pretty much proves us right. The line was drawn at the LZR, and every recent suit that could be considered better was removed from competition. If I were a betting man, I would have won big cash. I really worried that the LZR would be approved and anything better would be cut. Talk about dead on the money!!
Now here is where I have issues with all of it. Everyone knows I would love to do away with the tech, but I think that FINA has made a real blunder here. Keeping the LZR and ditching the rest leaves us no better… it actually makes it all worse:
1. They haven’t solved the issue of cost. The LZR is still $550 and new suits that comply will still have an outrageous price tag.
2. We still can't compare with past generations.
3. What do we do with records set in unapproved suits? Craig Lord is already proudly announcing that the sub-21 50 free by Bousquet and sub-47 100 free by Bernard never happened.
4. With the LZR still in play, don’t we still have the same issues with ‘performance enhancement?’ The “world record bull run” started with Speedo and their “2%” improvement.
5. What happens to all of those athletes who are sponsored by companies who will now be struggling because Speedo is the only major tech suit still legal?
6. The only issue that might be solved here is that of the “level playing field,” since now Speedo will own nearly 100% of the market share.
If you are gonna allow the LZR, you better allow the rest or you have solved ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. You were right, Mr. Schubert. It is going to be a “real test of character.” And FINA might have just shown that they have none by allowing the richest swimsuit company to set the rules by which all the rest must play.
I think that this list might be the straw that broke the camel’s back to help TYR win their anti-trust lawsuit. Thoughts, anyone?
A lot of the best fiction out there in movies, tv, books, etc... comes from comic geeks. I truly believe comics are the most creative art form out there. The storytelling possibilities have no limits. If you are into Marvel Comics, you will think the Onion Radio News above is hilarious. Marvel does some great things with some very realistic politics. The mutant registration act grounded the X-men series with a sense of realism in the late 80's and 90's, and it was taken even further via the Superhuman Registration Act in the Civil War storyline that ended with the death of Captain America. The vid below is actually a trailer for a comic book series... yeah, this was pretty heavy stuff.
Marvel Civil War trailer
...but then, Marvel also puts out some pretty goofy stuff too. Check out this article from the Onion's AV Club that summarizes the strangest plotlines from the last 50-some years of the Fantastic Four. Absolutely brilliant.
Come on, guys... comics aren't just for kids anymore. Don't miss out on this great stuff.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Hey, I love a good fight as much as the next guy. I just can’t pass up a good ninja fight, girl fight… hell, I will even sit through some of the best and worst fight scenes ever to grace the boob tube. … and it had always been a lifelong dream to be part of a breakdance battle. (I have been training pretty darn hard for that 'just in case' scenario)... But now I want to reach for new heights.
In case you haven't been following along:
-It started when Lord made it personal with Auburn alum Fred Bousquet with this gem
-Then Bousquet tried to play nice with this one
-Then Brett Hawke decided it was time to throw down the gauntlet
-Then Craig Lord flew over the cuckoo’s nest with his response
I absolutely can't wait to see what comes next. This is just too good to be true! The comments at floswim have been spectacular. I only wish swimnews allowed user comments. I can just imagine what they might add to this epic, grueling battle.
Now hear this... all you swim bloggers out there. I am calling you out. Yeah, that means you Scott the Canuck, Eric Teske, Tony Austin, 17th man, RobD'Aquatics or whatever the hell your name is, Chris DeSantis, Darren Grose, Trent Staley, Bob Button, Jeff Grace, Mrs Coach, Obnoxious Swim Mom... I even want to call out the old crew from Timed Finals! Where in the hell are you guys!? Gustafsen, you need to get your gloves on! Let's throw down! There has to be something we can disagree about! I bet I can out-hyperlink all your asses! My google image searching skills are second to none. You want snarky?! I can throw snarky comments until you are all left unable to type, as your jaws (and your self-esteem) will drop onto your keyboard.
We could have the greatest blog battle of all time, right here right now! Let's rumble! It's high noon, suckas. Are you in, or are you too skeered?!
Friday, May 15, 2009
Copied from an email from Ryan Stratton:
Fellow Husky Swimming Supporters:
We have recently updated our site to include some great new content, including information about the Foundation's mission and goals, some Husky Swimming history, and donation information.
We have worked diligently over the past two weeks to file our application for exemption with the IRS and to establish our bank account. We are excited to report that we can now accept donations online and would greatly appreciate any and all support you can offer!
Please take a few minutes to check out the new information on our site at http://www.huskyswimmingfoundation.com and please pass along our address and cause to anyone you think may be interested in helping achieve our goals.
Ryosuke Irie’s recent backstroke world record video was posted and it was good enough footage that we all got a really great look at his above and below water technique. He is incredibly smooth and looks amazingly relaxed for a guy who just took down a very respectable record by a full second. The most noticeable thing about his stroke though, is his body position. He allows himself to “sit-up” in the water… and if you have ever coached age groupers, that is a pretty big NO-NO.
I remember hearing Gregg Troy speak at a convention once (with Ryan Lochte demonstrating drills) and he really stressed that they made a point of allowing a wide hand entry, with a focus on quickly driving the hand deep and palm down. When I swam I remember focusing on shoulder rotation and getting my arm basically behind my head (which I feel now was over-reaching) and entering pinky first (but never getting beyond that to palm down for a press.) After the clinic I came home and played around with it to decide how I wanted to implement it into my program. I felt that coach Troy was right in that it helped to relieve stress on the shoulder, allowed my tempo to be more relaxed and ultimately quicker, and gave me a better catch which lead to more leverage and power in the water.
Then I got Mickey Wender’s videos from Championship Productions (which are excellent, by the way) and he also stressed the palm down press and said it should be as early in the stroke as possible. This reminds me of an interview with the coach of Krisztina Egerzegi (I wish I could find a link) in which he said that what set her apart from other swimmers was her incredible range of motion that allowed her to pull completely under her body, which I feel would lead to an earlier press and gives Wender‘s advice more credibility.
On Wender’s video, he made mention of the Japanese developing a “new backstroke” where they were almost entering palm down rather than pinky first, which brings the press to it’s earliest possible point in the stroke, thus maximizing it’s benefit. I remember when I first saw this video, I could not imagine how anyone could do that without compromising their “leaned back” body position. I just thought the trade-off would be too much. I just assumed that the Japanese might be on to something but that it would lead them on the “path of diminishing returns” as Jonty Skinner would put it. Now we see Irie crushing the world record with what most would consider a compromised body position and more rotation than Lochte and Piersol.
So that takes me to my previous blog about the changes in sprint freestyle recently. Jonty Skinner’s point was that the suits might be allowing swimmers with what would normally be considered “inferior technique” to excel. I see a lot of swimmers who compromise body position when they are learning backstroke, because that slight “sitting up” position is more comfortable and often gives them a more powerful pull. We usually eventually break them of it over the course of their age group career because we know that not getting the head back and hips up creates too much resistance and can hinder rotation… but in the age of the technical suit, is that wise? Could that little bit of buoyancy put us over the edge of the diminishing return? Are the Japanese on the right track now that suits are part of the equation? Could the suits have nothing to do with it? Is Irie just that much more efficient? His line and balance are spectacular, so it is not inconceivable that he would be the world's best even without the influence of technology.
Like I said before, my brain is buzzing. Ryosuke Irie might just be pioneering the new direction for backstroke and changing everything I have taught my swimmers in the past. I have a lot of video analyzing to do.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Hopefully this resolution (cut and pasted below) is a sign of the right people starting to make noise to get something done in Seattle before it's too late.
Associated Students of the University of Washington
WHEREAS it was announced by Scott Woodward, the UW Athletic Director, on Friday, 1 May 2009, to eliminate the UW Swim Teams effective for the 2009-2010 academic year (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sports/2009157966_budgetcuts02.html), and,
Whereas, the UW Swim Teams have had a long tradition at UW, with the Men's team having been established in 1932, and the Women's team established in 1975, and,
Whereas the UW Swim Teams have produced many alumni who have distinguished themselves in later life, to include Medal of Honor recipient Col. Gregory Boyington, USMC, Class of 1934, and,
Whereas the UW Swim Teams have demonstrated their excellence year after year, where members of the Men's team have earned 12 individual NCAA championships (http://web1.ncaa.org/web_files/stats/champs_records_book/1999-00/m_swimming.pdf), and,
Whereas this year, the Men's team was ranked 16th in the NCAA, and the Women's team was ranked 15th in the NCAA, which is a major statement of the level of commitment and determination that has been a part of the program, especially considering that the UW Swim Teams do not field divers, where diving is a major component of team rankings, and,
Whereas, if this cut is made, the Pac-10 conference will no longer be able to sanction Men's Swimming, as it requires at least six universities in the conference to have a sport to sanction it,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON:
THAT the University of Washington to all it can to retain the Swim Teams, and,
That this resolution be forwarded to Mark A. Emmert, Ph.D., President of the UW & Scott Woodward, UW Athletic Director, upon passage of this resolution
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The May 8th storms did a number on my back yard. The swingset was a pretty major loss. My two year old loves to tell people that the wind knocked it down. My wife has been awesome about communicating with insurance and getting estimates. I was driving to work friday morning. It was sprinkling when I got in my car. 5 minutes later it was raining so hard I couldn't see the road. Then my wife texted that our fence was down, so I drove home to hide in the closet with my family. It was definitely a hurricane level storm. Some of our neighbors' garage doors were ripped completely out. What a day! We are blessed to only have $4000 in damage to repair. We are extra blessed that no one in our neighborhood got hurt. What a weekend!
Monday, May 11, 2009
The NCAA is supposed to be about creating opportunities for student-athletes through sports. It has now become about generating revenue… which causes athletic and academic ideals to be cast aside pretty quickly. Sure, Title IX has complicated things, but it is in no way to blame for our woes. The modern landscape of sports has changed. We are recruiting entertainers rather than athletes. If it were about athletics swimming, wrestling and track would be premier sports. John Kruk said it best: “Lady, I’m not an athlete, I’m a ballplayer.”
I think the problem would be easy to solve. Here’s what I propose… how about the NCAA does something to really promote equity? We can eliminate the difference between the have’s and have-nots within the NCAA structure. It’s simple, really. Put a cap on spending. Easy-peasy. For fairness sake we have a cap on the number of scholarships offered for each sport, right? Why not a cap on coaches’ salaries? Why not a cap on recruiting budgets? Why not a cap on extravagances? Why not a limit on the way coaching contracts can be written to eliminate multi-million dollar firings? Even professional sports have salary caps. It can’t be that hard to make it work.
NCAA president Myles Brand is obviously on board… “One of the things we have to worry about is competitive equity…If some schools have too small a budget, it could affect their play, and that isn’t fair.”
Well, Mr. Brand, hadn’t we reached that point before the economy ever took a down-turn? Come on… isn’t the entire BCS system based on that inequity? The gap between the haves and have-nots is only going to get bigger in our poor economy. Isn’t it time to apply a bandage of common sense, rather than forcing schools to amputate perfectly good limbs?
We have all heard the stories about frivolous spending. Even at mid-major schools, football and basketball squads routinely stay in hotel rooms on the night before home games to eliminate distractions. Recruits are staying in five star hotels with room service and more. I can’t confirm it, but I have heard from a friend on campus that Arkansas (who cut men’s swimming in 1993 by the way) has taken the taper game to new extreme with the purchase of segway’s so that their athletes can conserve leg strength on game days. And how many big screen plasma tv's do you need in a locker room anyway?
I once had a lab partner in a chem class in college who explained to me that he had a full ride as a practice player for football. My swim team at the time had only 4.9 scholarships (in division 1 which allows 9.9 for men.) We had an Olympian on the squad with half-tuition. When he told me that he has a friend on the basketball team who stays in a hotel the night before games and gets a catered meal or two before they play every game, no one on my team believed it. Just think, I lost 13 pounds over Christmas training my junior year of college because my school bought us one meal every other day and gave us $25 to cover our meals for the rest of the three week break. 24,000 yards a day on two 99 cent whoppers and a coke because it was all I could afford. Yeah… I really loved swimming. Way more than I loved money, or even food. I swam competitively for 15 years and was never once given a locker without paying a rental fee.
Here’s an excerpt from an article at AZCentral that confirms the hotel thing is really happening. I am not just going by what my lab partner was telling me:
At some schools, there's even talk of scrapping the longtime - and expensive - practice of quartering football teams at a local hotel on the night before home games. Coaches have long insisted they need to sequester their players to avoid "distractions" - an argument that may carry little weight in these times. "We talk about things like reducing the size of travel squads and giving the student-athletes less-expensive gifts at the championships," Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said. "But at the same time we're talking about all that, we're spending enough on lodging Friday nights before home football games to pay for two to three non-revenue sports a year on a lot of campuses. It's not a small expense item."
Swimming had better find a new system. The NCAA is deserting us. We are not pulling our weight financially, and apparently that is all that matters.
The Husky Swimming Foundation website is up and running. They are still working on their method for securing donations. Richard Quick apparently did the math for them:
For those of you that are members of the “Help Save University of Washington Swimming” group on Facebook, legendary coach Richard Quick posted a valid idea. Coach Quick noted that there were 3,600 members of the group (at that time) and that if each member could donate $100, we would have $360,000 in donations!!
Let’s show the UW administration that we are not going to allow them to tell us that Husky Swimming isn’t worth keeping. A little bit from everywhere can add up to a lot, and if we get the ball rolling with small donations, larger ones might follow from sources inspired by our willingness to fight.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Americans' passion for sports is far from unique. Many nations share our love of athletic competition. What is unique about America is the extent to which we have linked sports to our universities. Only in America are intercollegiate athletics a national obsession.
In earlier times, college athletics were predominantly a way for students to continue in sports they played in high school. Athletics also became a vehicle to nurture school spirit, develop a sense of community and keep alumni connected to their alma maters…
Since college sports attract a disproportionate share of publicity and stir such strong emotions, it is critical that we leaders of universities make sure that our athletic programs are a reflection of the values of the university. Integrity, commitment, collegiality, merit, competitiveness: These must be the core values of the academy and the arena. When fans watch our teams play or listen to our coaches talk, these values should be clear for all to see. We must expect to compete successfully, and we must insist on doing so within the framework of our values.
The sense of fulfillment in reaching a goal to which you dedicate yourself is thrilling. To do so with teammates and colleagues working hard toward a common goal is even more thrilling. We aspire to have all our students develop the values and skills essential to reaching their goals…
College sports, when properly integrated into the university, can provide our student-athletes with just these skills and values. Sports can serve as a resilient glue that holds a far-flung community together. They can give us all great enjoyment. But, if unattended to, college sports can also carom out of control, causing significant damage to a university's reputation or, worse, putting student-athletes at risk to injury or injustice. Intercollegiate sports are a valued and valuable part of our traditions. But we must keep them in perspective, something often challenging to do.
This article was one of the most level-headed and intelligent writings I have ever read concerning modern sports. It amazes me that the man who wrote this allowed his athletic department to cut swimming, which above all sports aligns with his ideals so closely. How could a leader with this kind of vision allow UW to invest so heavily into the football arms race and allow the swimming team to fall victim to the shortcomings of the poor leadership of his subordinates? It gives me at least a glimmer of hope to know that the team is still fighting.
Just this morning I got the following email from UW supporters:
Hey Everyone, I have been in contact with Anttimo Bennett, the President of the Associated Students of the University of Washington. He as well as the student senate are really fired up about this and want to do everything in their power to get the program back. They are a very influential force and work with UW president Mark Emmert and the rest of the UW administration. ANYONE who cares about this is strongly encouraged to come attend the next student senate session which will be Tuesday, May 12 5:00PM at the Husky Union Building (HUB) on campus room 300. Antimmo said he wants as many people there as possible to make the biggest impact possible. Thanks for the support, keep fighting.
GO DAWGS! -Jon Banker, UW swim team
Also, in my google exploring, I have discovered that Whitney Hite might just be the classiest guy on the planet. In an article and a video interview he makes efforts to defend Athletic Director Scott Woodward against the cold and uncaring caricature that angry swimmers and the press have been publicizing since the “cut meeting” was held. I don’t think I could do that. I don’t think I have that much restraint. A great injustice has been done and needs to be corrected. Those responsible need to be held accountable.
Quote: “We are going to write a new chapter in the rich history of UNO athletics. We will assist in season ticket sales and buy season tickets. We will work to get a long-term vision and solution for students to earn a degree and excel in their sports. You have a promise from me--we will get this done!"
Another leader in the fight is former UNO athletic director and head baseball coach Ron Maestri who said "I'll be damned if this is going to go away. As long as I'm here, we're not going to let this go away."
The possibility of another student vote is also not ruled out, if the business sector can pull in the money required to at least spare the program from a full shut-down. UNO Chancellor Tim Ryan said "Sometimes, it takes more than one time around the block to get things done."
Article and video of the press conference here.
Another obstacle for UNO is maintaining their D1 status. Post-Katrina they were granted special exception to remain in division 1 even though they were hosting less than the minimum number of sports teams. The NCAA gave them a five year deadline to rebuild to meet D1 standards, but their current troubles will force UNO to ask for another extension. If that extension is not granted, they will most likely be bumped down to division 2 for all sports.
The Screaming Viking wants to wish Head Coach Randy Horner and all UNO athletes and coaches the best. We are pulling for you. It sounds like all the right people in New Orleans are starting to get involved and make noise. You have friends all over the country who are pulling for you too.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The fact is that tainted supplements are an issue, and Kicker Vencill and Jessica Hardy are not the only two athletes who thought they were clean but were not. In 2008, eleven Greek weightlifters tested positive with supplements from a Chinese company who incriminated themselves with an email apologizing for their "tragic mistake." Those supplements were given to the athletes by national team coaches!
Swimming World ran a story on Hardy, and one of the comments posted by someone calling himself "rcoach" really struck me. I think that whoever posted it is spot on about the issue:
"Last year I was pretty vocal about this topic and about the use of supplements. This issue has raised an interesting point in my mind, regardless of which side of this issue you sit. In the United States should you take a supplement blindly or with a "promise" that they are clean (as Advocare obviously gave Jessica)? NO! Do pretty much most of the elite athletes in our sport use some sort of supplementation with some having to use products that are probably sketchy at best and could lead to a positive test because they need some form of training aid that regular diet is not giving them? YES! Here is my issue. No one at the USOC, USA Swimming or any other body, if you sit in their meetings will give you any "specific" information on this topic. All you get is "supplements....bad.....take at your own risk". Why? Because they are afraid if they start naming names of supplement companies either way (good or bad) they will get sued by the other side. The supplement industry is a very strong and wealthy one in this country right now. But that doesn't help our athletes. Not when we all know that elite athletes in Europe have had a system in place for years where they can buy guaranteed clean supplement products made from an endorsed medical lab and then their own federations make testing labs available for these athletes to be able to send tests of their supplements to ensure their purity. We KNOW this goes on. We KNOW they do this in Europe. Countries and Federations protecting their athletes but at the same time ensuring that they have the best training advantages they can have. I know this may sound like I am endorsing systematic state sponsored doping of a sort (and this definitely could be abused), but that's not my intent. My intent is to point out two things: 1) Most elite swimmers are using a supplement of some sort in this day and age and are doing so with no safety net in the U.S. 2) Why isn't our NGB or the USOC stepping up to the plate and offering the same type programs to PROTECT our athletes from using something from a company that may be less than reputable? Doping is one thing, but a positive test from a supplement doesn't have to happen."
Many people make a big deal about products being on the NCAA list. Most people don't realize that the NCAA has a "banned" list and they also have a "coaches can't hand this out list." According to an NCAA notice, this means "in accordance with NCAA Bylaw 16.5.2.g, only non-muscle-building nutritional supplements may be given to student-athletes for the purpose of providing additional calories and electrolytes, as long as the supplements do not contain NCAA-banned substances." That means that even sports drinks that contain protein, and several multi-vitamins you would buy at Walgreens would be excluded. Amino acids above a very minimal level are not allowed in anything handed out by an NCAA athletic program.
In many cases, the difference between food and supplement is something as simple as protein. Gatorade is not considered a supplement, but Accelerade and Pure Sport are, simply because they have added protein. Phelps, Peirsol and Hansen represent Pure Sport, as do Eddie Reese, Randy Reese and Bob Bowman, and because it contains added protein, it is a product that coaches are restricted from providing to NCAA athletes. Athletes can buy it, but they can not receive it from a coach.
It has been shown that adding protein to a sports drink helps with training and recovery in endurance athletes. How many athletes out there consider the danger in something as simple as that? How many athletes out there are claiming they take no supplements, when in actuality, by definition, they really are simply because they consume something as common as a sports drink or a multi-vitamin?
American sports have a supplement problem that we really can't just plug our ears about. It is certainly not going away. The problem is not that athletes are taking supplements; it is that we are allowing them to play Russian roulette when they do. We need to get organized and set up a real system to test products and hold companies accountable or there will be a lot more people going through the same turmoil as Hardy, Vencill and even Tara Kirk.
Bob Condotta at the Seattle Times went above and beyond today by giving us a larger perspective. He goes into detail on the fascinating history of the program, even going so far as to include a timeline from 1932 to the present.
You might be very surprised when you read this article. Most people don’t know just how rich Husky swimming tradition is. In the 70’s, Earl Ellis was able to recruit three Olympic medalists in one year (Rick DeMont, Robin Backhaus and Doug Northway) and had another two on his roster (Rick and Lynn Colella.) The women’s team was actually started in 1975 which was the first time the UW administration tried to cut the men at their height. That year, coach Earl Ellis lost a chunk of his budget and several athletes to transfers before it was announced that the team had been spared.
The article also gives some insight into the building of the Federal Way pool, which has been wonderful for swimming in the northwest, but could have meant so much more to the Huskies. The pool was intended to be built on campus when the Goodwill Games were hosted in Seattle at virtually no cost to the school, but UW administration rejected the idea. They would have been insane to accept a multi-million dollar gift, right?
Please take the time to read Bob Condotta’s article and scroll through the pictures. It is very moving. We have to keep up the fight, and articles like this just might help to inspire the right people to come forward and give the kind of support that might just turn the tide.
Also, please pass on the links to the following articles to others who might support Husky Swimming:
Chris Toomey, Seattle Times
Steve Kelley, Seattle Times
Daily UW 1
Daily UW 2
Daily UW 3
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Even though the student body voted NO in regard to an increase in fees to save the athletic department at the University of New Orleans, it looks like they might still have a chance. The City Council and several local businesses including the New Orleans Hornets might pitch in to help them out of trouble.
It is not uncommon for students and the general public to feel that athletic departments need to keep their hands out of students' pockets and away from "academic" money. The sad fact is that only about 40 athletic departments in the nation can fund themselves without using tax dollars allotted to their school. Many also feel that football revenues should go to football and basketball revenues should go to basketball. We non-revenue sports are fighting the academics and the jocks. If it weren't for the 16 team rule in division 1 and title IX, non-revenue sports wouldn't exist at all within the NCAA during the modern age of sports.
I mention this because, like Arizona State in the past and the entire New Orleans athletic department now (which just happens to not have a football team,) funding to keep programs alive will have to come from the community. A different kind of relationship needs to be built, and out of desperation, the UNO Privateers might be showing us how it can be done.
The arms race in football and basketball spending has no ceiling. No matter how much money a department can bring in, they will always continue to spend more to be ultra-competitive. Non-revenue sports will always be victims when those high dollar programs have a bad year for whatever reason.
When the Washington AD pointed out that 5 or 6 losing football seasons contributed to swimming being cut, they were laying it out for us. It could be a bad hire. It could be a losing season. It could be a temporarily poor economy. At some point, every school depending on football while also feeding the football spending monster will have a down revenue season and another sport will have to suffer the consequences for their poor planning.
I am not bashing UNO here. They were brave to rebuild after Katrina. They have done great so far with their limited resources. I only hope that they can move forward rather than having to hang it up because their student body didn't want to raise their fees. It will give me great hope if the local business community comes through for them, and in doing so, sets the example for the rest of us and what we can do in our efforts to keep Olympic sports safe.
Monday, May 4, 2009
According to the AP, Jessica Hardy’s suspension has been reduced to one year and she will be able to compete again starting July 31st.
When Jessica Hardy tested positive for Clenbuterol at the ‘08 trials, it was major news for the US team. It wasn’t reported to the US coaches until after the deadline to add new athletes to the roster, which pretty much ended Tara Kirk‘s career with frustration and bitterness since she would have earned a spot on the team if the deadline had been met. It was mishandled.
A lot of people blamed Hardy and gave no sympathy. USA Swimming gives the warning “take supplements at your own risk.” We all know that supplements are a risk. There are no guarantees, no matter what is said on the bottle. Supplements have become so common, it is hard to believe that there isn’t a true regulation system in place that can hold companies accountable and ensure that what you are buying contains exactly what the label says. The point also has to be made that not all tainted supplements were intentionally tainted. In the case of Kicker Vencill, it was intentional, and the thing that caused him to test positive was a common multi-vitamin.
I truly feel for Jessica Hardy, just like I felt for Kicker. I suspected that her positive test was not the result of intentional cheating. She was an unpaid endorser for Advocare. You might be surprised with how many swimmers have been a part of this company. I was a part at one time. And the reason I got into it… because of the swimming names on their endorser list: Brad Schumacher, Gabe Woodward, Larsen Jensen, Jessica Hardy and more. There are a lot more swimmers taking Advocare supplements than you might imagine. They are pretty common among the college crowd.
Even more reassuring were the names on their sports advisory council. They had a former Olympic wrestling coach, the strength and conditioning coaches from major universities including Auburn and Oklahoma, and several who are employed by professional teams. What can make an athlete feel better about a product than that?
I even gave a presentation in one of my classes about the supplement industry and used Advocare as the example of how companies in modern day sports are going to have to be innovative to get people to buy their supplements by hiring independent companies to test their products and being endorsed by coaches and athletes who are willing to stake their reputations and careers on the products being clean. When I saw that Hardy had tested positive, I felt like a chump.
Now that it has been determined that it was Advocare who stole her Olympic dreams by giving her tainted supplements, you can bet I will have nothing to do with them. I can only hope that Jessica Hardy can restore her reputation and get past this major turbulence in her career.
Be careful guys… don’t even trust what you buy at the mall or Wal-Mart. Not even your Flintstones vitamins.
Friday, May 1, 2009
I am heart broken. I am horribly disgusted.
The University of Washington cut men’s and women’s swimming today. I don’t even know what to say. I want to punch somebody.
I have had many friends involved with the program through the years. I wanted to be a Husky when I was an age grouper. I proudly helped my first scholarship earning athlete to sign with them in 2003. I hope they put up a fight. Whitney Hite has done an incredible job, and the Huskies have been moving up. Now their success is just salt on the wound.
To make it worse, the University of New Orleans lost their vote this morning. I don’t know if that means any programs will be cut, but from the looks of it, I can’t imagine it is good news. Randy Horner has done amazing things in the short time he has been there too. I hope they get to hang on.
I have a lot to say about the current state of college sports. I wrote this one at swim network when I was angry about Arizona State and their battle to keep swimming. There are so many layers to the problem. I have my master's degree in Athletic Administration and I have a close relation who is an AD who has had to cut teams recently. I could go on all day about non-revenue programs being cut.
But not right now…
…right now, I am in mourning. I imagine I am standing with horns low on deck at the Husky pool. I grieve for the generations of Husky swimmers who have given so much of themselves to carry their rich tradition from the early days of NCAA swimming through to the present day. If the program can't be reinstated, it at least deserves a Viking's funeral, with flames and smoke carrying a message on high so that all can see that this is terribly, terribly wrong.
We have to fight this. It is not okay to just let it go.
The Kitsap Sun is reporting that Nathan Adrian is going to be on an upcoming episode of Mythbusters on The Discovery Channel. They don't give any details about the myth to be tested, but apparently the episode is titled "Swimming in Syrup." The article also said that Tara Kirk was in an episode of "What Not to Wear." Did anybody see that one?