Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Tostito's Fiesta Bowl only cost about three bucks... theirs was a lot more!

Paid country club memberships at multiple clubs. $1200 at a strip club. $27,000 a year as a "car allowance." A birthday party costing $33 grand. $95k for the chance to play a round of gold with Jack Nicklaus... Sounds nice, doesn't it? Those are just a few of the perks that the shirt and tie guys who run the BCS seem to regularly pay out on someone else's dime, according to the recent corruption report on the Fiesta Bowl.

Heck, Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker was finally fired for, among other things, reimbursing employees for political contributions! Really? The heads of sporting organizations might be engaged in corrupt political dealings?  I can't imagine such a thing!?

Mr. Junker already has big plans for the next World Championships.  He is weaseling his way onto the FINA Bureau as we speak.  Won't he fit right in?

Even if you already thought the BCS system was ridiculous, your mind will be blown when you read this article at Yahoo! Sports:  BCS Conducts Shallow Probe as the Party Rages On.  No, really.  Read it.  This one too, that outlines some of the details of the crazy spending spree.  The full report is here.

An excerpt:

If Emmert (NCAA President Mark Emmert) is any kind of leader, he should be furious right now with the details of the Fiesta Bowl report. Bowls’ ability to buy favor with administrators is indefensible. He should demand a full investigation into the bowl business and seize control of the sport’s postseason from these third-party businessmen.

After all, where does the Fiesta get all this money to waste? From the schools, of course (and then, in part, taxpayers and student fees)...

The BCS cuts to the very core of what’s wrong with college athletics – the arrogance and entitlement of the people in charge.

Hey, at least we aren't USA Swimming!

I have read a lot of comments on various articles that warn us swimmers that maybe we don't want to be a mainstream, big-time sport.  Maybe we don't want swimming to have the attraction of so much profit that it will lure creeps like these guys into bringing their profit-at-all-cost CEO mentalities to running the show for us.  Many would say, with all of the recent problems at USA Swimming and with FINA, that we are already there.  Is there something that attracts these people to sports in particular, or is this just our version of the evils of the corporate world?  

...of course, the Fiesta Bowl as an organization didn't really break any laws so there probably won't be any charges filed anyway.   

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Battle of Who Could Know Less

Over the weekend, there were numerous updates to the "Splash of Truth" (SOT) website. As they have uploaded depositions and articles, three things have become readily apparent:

1. When you volunteer and/or work at a high level for USA Swimming, you have a remarkable inability to remember much of anything that happened while you were there.

2. None of the strongest accusations in the SOT e-mails are verified by what has been posted so far.

3. Nobody but Tony Austin and I want to touch any of this with a ten foot pole. What else is new?

The latest deposition posted is that of Dale Neuberger. Neuberger served as President of USA Swimming from 1998-2002 and has been on the board in some capacity since 1990. Much like Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, there is much that Neuberger does not remember. This, much like the previous depositions, makes for extremely boring reading, because as any questions relating to sexual misconduct of coaches come up, Dale simply can't remember or doesn't know anything. Let me give you a few examples. As in my previous blog, I have inserted the name of the lawyer (Jonathan Little) and Neuberger for clarity:

Little: Were you on the USA Swimming board of directors in 1993?
Neuberger: Yes.
Little: Do you recall any discussions about Mitch Ivey in 1993?
Neuberger: No.
Little: So is it your recollection that there were no discussions of Mitch Ivey after he was on ESPN Outside The Lines in 1993?
Neuberger: If Mr. Ivey was part of a television broadcast, I'm not aware of it.

Mitch Ivey was fired as the swimming coach at the University of Florida in 1993 after ESPN's Outside the Lines featured several of his former athletes giving accounts of his sexually inappropriate behavior. I found an article about the program in the SI Vault that cited one of his athletes saying he made sexual advances on her when she was 15. She ended up marrying him at age 18, when he was 31 but divorced him after discovering he had a relationship with another 17 year old swimmer.

Let me excerpt another exchange that shows Neuberger's apparent "cluelessness":

Little: Do you know who Sean Hutchison is? 
Neuberger: I do. 
Little: Who is he? 
Neuberger He's a USA Swimming coach, member.                                                                    
Little: Where does he currently work? 
Neuberger:  I don't know. 
Little: Does he work for the Fast Swim Club in Fullerton, California? 
Neuberger I don't know his location of employment at this point.  

Keep in mind this was January 7th, when everyone was wondering whether Sean Hutchison would continue on after rumors floated about his involvement with a swimmer. Neuberger goes on to say he has little idea of how the National Post Graduate Centers were set up, their funding, or how coaches were chosen. But, how should we expect him to, he's only on the board, right?

Things get quite heated and both Mr. Little and the attorney for USA Swimming, Jean Weil, get very frustrated. Little shows his frustration with this line of questioning:

Little: Do you take drugs, Mr. Neuburger, any kind of  psychiatric drugs? 
Neuberger: No. 
MS. WEIL:  Do you, Mr. Little? 
Little: Are you under the influence of alcohol in this deposition? 
Neuberger: No. 
Little: Are you under the influence of anything that could impair your memory? 
Neuberger: No. 

Which brings us full circle. USA Swimming members be alarmed that the people at the very top of the organization seemingly know very little about very important parts of the operation. Still, there is nothing concrete that I have read so far that validates a cover-up or any of the far more serious charges. The question now becomes, how long do we wait for SOT to prove it?

A Little Relief from Apple's Arrogance

I have been pretty loyal to Apple since I got my first iPod. I have had my iPhone for almost two years now, and it has always bothered me that when I am browsing the web it doesn't read flash. I guess there is some kind of geek tech pissing contest going on between Adobe and Apple about whose code is best or something.

It has bothered me enough that if my contract was up for my phone I would switch to Android right now and when I think about getting a tablet I really want to try something else.

When my wife got an iPad for Christmas, I honestly could have cared less. Why bother browsing on a fancy tablet if most of my favorite sites are half blank and none of the videos will play? Swimming World is pretty much a list of dead links and a few ads on an iPad, which sucks because I spend a lot of time there. Also, a lot of buttons and drop down menus don't seem to work correctly without flash either.

A few months ago I downloaded the Skyfire web browser to my phone because it promised it could play flash video. I was disappointed at first because it was very limited in what it could play, but they have been constantly updating.

This morning I pulled up and the videos actually played! Woo hoo!! I am pumped to go home and load it to the iPad tonight. Finally, a little relief!

Apple, Skyfire just saved your butt. I was totally ready to bail on my iPhone. But I will warn you... video is not enough. I won't be buying myself an iPad until you get over yourself and allow me to see web pages the way they were intended. I would rather give my money to a company that values my user experience more than their own ego.

If you want flash video to play on your iPhone or iPad, I can now strongly recommend downloading the Skyfire web browser from the app store. They really are helping to make the swimgeek experience more complete.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

31 years?!

In 1980 the Olympics were boycotted; KISS released Unmasked, their last album with the original line-up of Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter; and The Empire Strikes Back was in theaters, which caused every annoying geek on the playground to impersonate Yoda way too much and made an entire generation say "eeewwww" in unison when we realized a few years later that Luke Skywalker had kissed his sister in a way that was not really okay.

1980 was the last time Cal's men won an NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship. Congrats boys. You deserve to celebrate your 2011 title. You swam your hearts out.

1980 was also the beginning of the longest winning streak in any NCAA sport at any level. That streak ended this weekend when Denison's men snuck past the Kenyon Lords by one point at D3 Nats. One point! 31 years!

I can't imagine that it was as awesome to be a swim fan in 1980 as it is now. I marvel at how amazing it is to be able to follow along through media that is so abundant.

Oh yeah, by the way, I won the podium pursuit picks. Yay! OldWahooVA and Smurphy had me a little scared there after day two. I owe you guys a tall one if we ever meet. I was having such a good time picking my top 3 swimmers this year that I didn't even bother to make a March Madness bracket. Podium Pursuit has announced that they are making some changes next month. I am excited to see what they come up with. If you haven't been playing, be sure to start an account before Worlds. It is more fun than you might think.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chuck Wielgus Doesn't Know Anything (and other things I learned from the USA Swimming Depositions)

In the past 24 hours, "Splash of Truth" (hereafter I will to he/she/them as 'SOT') has begun posting the depositions from Jane Doe vs USA Swimming. After giving each of the posted depositions at least a cursory reading, I am struck by a consistent theme throughout.  They are extremely boring reading, mostly because the witnesses being deposed seem to have a very foggy memory about anything related to the case.

As of this posting, SOT has posted four depositions. One, by Chuck Wielgus, is in two parts, alongside depositions by Christine Schemmel, Ross Wales and Ron Van Pool. Schemmel, for those unaware, is officially titled "Business Operations Administrative Assistant" and was charged by Wielgus with taking any sexual abuse complaints to the law firm HRO for investigation. Wales is deposed as a former USA Swimming Board member, the same for Van Pool.

Wielgus' is by the far the longest and most confounding deposition. It's pretty amazing the things that he claims not to know throughout the deposition. Let me excerpt a few exchanges as they appear in the deposition. In the first one Allard (the attorney representing the anonymous party suing USA Swimming) is asking Wielgus the names of USA Swimming Board members, whom he reports to as Executive Director. I've inserted their names for clarity in excerpting these exchanges:

Wielgus: And there are -- Would you like me  to try to name the others?
Allard: Yes, please.
Wielgus: I may fail this quiz.
Allard: That's okay.  You only came here with the contents of your brain that you woke up with this morning.  So that's okay.
Wielgus: There's not much there.

Later Allard asks Wielgus a question about ASCA:

Allard: Let's talk about ASCA for a minute.  Who is the president of that organization currently?
Wielgus: I'm embarrassed to say I don't know

When the topic turns to Pat Hogan's responsibility for administering the CPP (Child Protection Policy), Wielgus seems to qualify his putting him in that position:

Allard: And who appointed him to that position vis-a-vis the child protection policy?
Wielgus: To the staff liaison position?
Allard: Yes.
Wielgus: I probably did that.

Later on, Wielgus claims that he doesn't remember the contents of e-mail exchanges from a couple of days before the deposition with the swimmer who wrote him about coach Andy King originally in 2003.

The last and most troubling theme of the depositions is the connection between USA Swimming and USSIC. USSIC is a captive insurance company, meaning that it was founded to insure both USA Swimming and its members. All USA Swimming members have dues going to the USSIC. Throughout the testimony, it is revealed that the USSIC board is almost entirely made up of former USA Swimming board members. In Ross Wales testimony, he is protected from answering questions about USSIC and there is contention between the lawyers as to whether USSIC is a defendant alongside USA Swimming in this case. I am curious to see how this is resolved.

Even as I write this blog, the site is being rapidly updated. To view all the material I'm discussing and citing, click on the following link and please feel free to respond in the comments section.

Men's D1. I'm all over it.

Who's in the lead after day 1 of the men's D1 NCAA meet?


I aced the pick on the 50 free with all three spots in order, picked the winner of the IM, and named two of the three in the 500.

I am feeling pretty good about today. Log in to podium pursuit and join The Viking Ship if you think you have a chance to catch me. Join in the fun.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

RIP Mark Taylor

Conventional wisdom says you shouldn't judge a person based on one interaction. For the most part I think that's right. The sample size is far too small to get the whole picture of a human being. Still, when Mark Taylor passed away Friday, I couldn't stop thinking about the one time I'd met him.

I admit to feeling quite guilty that I waited until after his death to recount my meeting with Mark. He'll never read about our chance meeting and how much it meant to me. The best I can hope is that this sits alongside the countless other testimonies to the person Mark was.

It was a blustery spring day in Chicago during May of 2009 when I met Mark. We were both attending the CSCAA (College Swim Coaches Association of America) conference. To this day, I still have no idea why he picked me out but he saw me standing with another coach in the lobby of the hotel and said something to the effect of "I know an awesome place to get lunch, and you guys are coming with me".

As I've said, it's hard to judge someone off of one meeting, but Mark was the type of person that you met and you felt as if you'd known him your entire life. With in moments of starting the walk to lunch we were talking his favorite subject: coaching swimming. I was surprised to find out that Mark had spent quite a bit of time coaching in my home country of Denmark, and had more than a little success.

What followed was a round table of coaches (I believe there were five of us there that day: Chuck Noles from Pittsburgh, Mark, Bob Pearson from Macalester and Dennis Dale of Minnesota). I definitely would have felt like the odd man out, the Pennsylvania part time assistant. But Mark was playing host, and would have none of it. Lunch was way beyond my pay grade, and Mark didn't even let the check hit the table, snatching it from the waiter before any of us could get a look.

In many ways, the incident could seem mundane, but it lent great insight into Mark's character. He was clearly a man who loved what he did, but also the people he did it with. When you're a young coach your interaction with older coaches can often feel like you're pledging a fraternity. With the loss of Mark, swim coaches lost the kind fraternity brother who already treated you like you were part of the club.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Women's NCAA's was a blast, and I didn't even get to watch!

Okay-- I have to tell a story on myself.  I am kind of an idiot.  After the World Champs last year I was 4th place over all in Pursuit Points.  That was before I realized how valuable it was to "gear up" my athletes.  I started outfitting them after two full days were already over, so I wasn't too disappointed with 4th place.  David Rieder actually let me bump up to third (long story, thanks SwimGeek!) but I was a little disappointed when I realized there were a couple of events I would have won if they had been in gear.  For Worlds there was a $25 prize on the line for the best picker on each event.

For the D2 Men's and Women's meets I think I won, although there were two guys whose scores kind of randomly popped up ahead of mine on the list and then would disappear from the rankings.  I don't know if the PP guys ever showed a comprehensive list like the one above.  There weren't any prizes on the line for that one, so no big deal. Not sure what the glitch was.  Oh well.  I suited up my swimmers for that one... well, kind of.  My scores didn't match up but I didn't care because I was kicking butt. 

After the Women's D1 meet I had to email the Podium Pursuit team to find out what had happened to my score because again it didn't match up but this time was a bigger deal.  According to my calculations I should have won by a longshot.  I had earned 225 points!  They checked for me and found out that I had not suited up my athletes correctly.  Apparently I have made picks for four big meets without knowing how to do it right!  

They told me that some events were suited and some were not.  Hmmm....  example:  I picked all three of the top finishers in the 1650 in the correct order.  That should have earned me 34 points, but since they were somehow not suited, I ended up with 10.  As a matter of fact, all of my day 3 scores were unsuited points only.  Ouch.   I had some pretty big plays there.

Oh well...  I don't blame Podium Pursuit.  I blame me.  You three guys at the top should consider yourselves lucky.  Ain't gonna happen for the men's meet.  Game on.

As far as the the big show over the weekend... I didn't get to watch any of the live video and I still had a blast following the meet through live results.  Outside smoke.  Records broken.  A tight team race.  I don't think a fan could ask for more.  

The surprise of the meet?...  Some of you have to agree it was Haley Spencer squeaking past the pack in the 200 Breast to bring it home for Minnesota.  She is awesome.  I interviewed her once for floswimming a few years ago.  After watching this video again, I am a little disappointed in myself for only having picked her for third place. 

Later in that meet I interviewed her again.  She broke Liz Smith's state record in the 100 breast and it was a best time by a full second.  It is a rare kid who can keep her head glued on that straight while fighting the flu.  I will be picking her for the win next year.    

Please join the Viking Ship at Podium Pursuit if you think you can take me down.  I did my research for the men's meet.  You better pack a lunch.  It's gonna be a long weekend.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Georgia's Secret Weapon- Jerry Champer

"We're number one!" or a subtle threat?
I am betting on Georgia to win the Women's NCAA Championships this week.  Not because Jack Bauerle knows what he is doing.  Of course, he does.  Not because they have insane depth and can do things like put three girls in the top 8 of the 500.  

To put it simply... it is because they have crazy bad-ass former Viking Jerry Champer on their staff.  It is hard to see the power this man wields in the picture above.  His shiny head barely peeks out from behind his fellow assistant coach there, but look closely at the way he is holding out that finger.  He is about to jab that 'number one' into someone's eye.  Notice the raised eyebrow and the way his mouth is sneering.  He is not celebrating their success... he is laying down a threat to all of the other teams who think they have a shot at the NCAA team title.

Trust me.  I have seen that look directed at me.

Jerry Champer was my coach at the Viking Swim Club and PHS in Petersburg, Alaska from 1989-92.  He launched a successful career on the back of my talent. (just kidding!)  It was his first real coaching gig, as he came to us straight out of Wisconsin- LaCrosse.  He wasn't old enough to drive the rental car at state my sophomore year.  Now that I am a little older I can see more clearly what a great job he did for us, and especially for me as his role far transcended mere coaching after my father passed away and I sorely needed a mentor in my life to help me stay on track.  I was such a space case back then... I hope Jerry understands how much I appreciate him now. I can only hope his job has gotten easier since he moved on!  

This was quite a crew... five went on to swim D1 at Northern AZ, Western Illinois, MO State, San Diego and Auburn.  I believe there were five AK state record holders in that pic.  Not bad for an island with a population of 3000!
Jerry's sense of humor is tremendous and he was the most convincing cow I had ever seen for Halloween.  I have had some really great stories to tell that center around Jerry.  If you know him, ask about the time one of our seniors got a hold of the keys to the rental van, and definitely ask about the time our plane couldn't land to pick us up to travel to Anchorage for the state meet. 

This was the most embarrasing picture I could find.  If you see Jerry on deck this weekend in Austin, be sure to let him know I posted this and tell him I said 'good luck' to all his girls. 

Enjoy, Jerry!  Once a Viking, always a Viking!

We tried to fight off his vicious rampage with the only weapon we had handy.  It didn't even slow him down.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Division II Nats

Congrats to all competitors at the NCAA Division II National Championships on a spectacular weekend of racing.  It was fun to follow!  Special congrats to Drury for once again bringing home the Men's and Women's trophy!  Drury's depth was amazing.  Their strength was not in a couple of studs racking up big points... they had several events with four scorers.

At one point I thought Wayne State's Andrey Seryy was going to edge out Drury's Jun Han Kim for men's swimmer of the meet... but in my opinion that 1:42.99 200 fly launched Kim into outer space.  Seryy's 42.9 in the 100 free was awesome, but not quite as awesome. On the women's side, Casey Hurrell-Zitelman was the sure bet for a win every time.  She really put on a show.  I wish I could have had access to the live video feed all weekend because there was a lot of great swimming going on from too many teams to list.

I added up my Podium Pursuit scores for men and women and without gear I had 68 points on the men's side and 79 points for women.  With gear those scores were 185 and 205.  I think I won, but I am not sure.  I believe they are still tabulating scores.  The only event I picked all three places correctly was the men's 200 fly, but I picked the winner in 19 events throughout the men's and women's meets.  There were no prizes for D2 picks this time but there will be for D1.  Make sure you get your women's D1 picks done in time, and don't forget to click "Groups" and join "The Viking! Ship" to talk some smack as the meets go on.

See ya there!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Splash of Truth

If you're a USA Swimming member, you probably got the same e-mail I got yesterday. Signed "A Splash of Truth", the e-mail was the second in the last month to allege that there is high level corruption across USA Swimming.

One of the reasons I felt compelled to blog again was the original e-mail. I wanted to write to make sense of it all. The first anonymous e-mail was followed by a swift denial from USA Swimming. If you haven't received this most recent version, I will excerpt some of the most dramatic parts. First the allegations of corruption

"Now that USA Swimming swept the Hutchison scandal under the rug, Hutchison is off to Brazil to coach with a five year, $400,000.00 per year contract.  It should be interesting to see which post graduate athlete(s) follow Coach Hutchison to Brazil"

This is perhaps the strangest part of the e-mail and the hardest to believe. I could be wrong but if Hutchison was in Brazil then I would think more people would know and it might get a little mainstream coverage from the Washington Post.

"Where does the money from the three million dollars in "Safety Rebates" that USA Swimming receives every year from United States Sports Insurance Company (USSIC) go?"

And then there are allegations like this, of the like that I have heard whispered by club coaches across America. There does seem to be a genuine demand for more information about this, but few have had the courage to ask.

"Unfortunately, Wielgus and USA Swimming have a lot to hide and, at their request, the second deposition is sealed"

Count me among the people who would love to see Wielgus' testimony unsealed. When Wielgus was deposed I tried in vain by myself to find the records of his deposition. If you're someone with more legal experience than me that can tell me why someone would want their testimony sealed besides it being very embarrassing to them I would be interested to know.

What follows these allegations is a name by name breakdown of individuals involved with USA Swimming that
"Splash of Truth" believes have engaged in illegal behaviour. I won't rehash too much of the list, but the accusations are pretty heavy stuff. The largest portions are devoted to former USA Swimming President Dale Neuberger, whom the writer states "
denies knowing the circumstances or having any knowledge of why Tony Young was dismissed from Carmel High School...Young was criminally indicted for covering up and not reporting a vicious hazing incident where a mentally handicapped swimmer was impaled by a shampoo bottle...Neuburger later hired Young at the Indiana Sports Corp". The writer also states that ASCA Executive Director John Leonard aided George Gibney, a former Irish National Team coach who was accused of sexual abuse by 27 of his swimmers, in leaving Ireland for the United States.

The list goes on, and now we, the American swimming community, are left to make sense of it. No doubt there will be some sort of response from USA Swimming in the coming days as there was after the first e-mail. What will that response be? It seemed that the first response was quite strong as well. The e-mail promises a website in the next ten days. Is this website going to be the Wikileaks of swimming or is this pure slander? I feel conflicted myself- one part of an accusation (about former Kansas City Blazer Coach Pete Malone's attire) seemed downright petty and completely unnecessary. Another line states that Sean Hutchison is coaching in Brazil, which I don't know of and seems a fairly crazy to me. Most of the other accusations are not revelatory in so much that they are the type of thing someone will whisper to you if you hang around enough pool decks. Good luck, however, finding anyone who wants to make the same accusations with their name attached.

What confuses me much more is the lack of dialogue about what is going on. It seems that there is fear to be on one side or the other of this argument. People fear siding with "Splash of Truth" because if you believe the e-mail then you probably also believe that USA Swimming will come after you with a vengeance. At the same time, reading the e-mail would definitely make someone think twice about crossing the writer. Still, a greater part of the indifference may have to do with people not wanting to lend any credence to the argument at all. I'll put myself out there as at least curious. As I've stated in my blog quite definitely, I think that Chuck Wielgus has at best been an embarrassment to USA Swimming and that there are many pieces of information that there are many things about the overall organization that I believe are wrong. This situation deserves more information, and I'm starting to believe that we're going to get it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is There a Big Meet Coming Up?

It's good to be back. A couple months ago I penned a silly "retirement" blog. Silly for two reasons: the first being that I mentioned I was writing a book and now have friends asking me all the time about how its going. Here's an update for you: I've done almost nothing. The second reason it was silly is because when you stop writing, you stop writing. I'm convinced that I haven't made any progress on my book because I simply stopped writing. Writing is a lot like swimming- you can't just not work out for two months and expect to put up a best time in the mile. That's not how it works.

As I write this, I am anxiously awaiting an NCAA Psych Sheet that will tell me that two of my swimmers just barely missed making the meet. It's odd that its not up yet, and I can't help but run wild with speculation that somehow the planets have aligned and my swimmers (ranked in the low 30s) somehow will be vaulted into the top 24 by some crazy circumstance. Maybe the pool for PAC-10s was an inch too short! Maybe not.

I urge anyone capable of rational thought to take a good look at this year's sheet however. It's been only two years since FINA, the NCAA and USA Swimming all cried wolf about how body suits were going to lay waste to our sport. And yet, the qualifying times this year are creeping ever so close to the 2009 times. I predict that by 2013 we'll probably have a faster qualifying time in more than half the events. Despite the worst naysayers, swimming just keeps getting faster.

Contained within this year's likely qualifiers is a story that is part of my motivation to come back to writing. Clemson Swimming and Diving will likely have a relay and an individual qualifier at this NCAA Championships. If you don't know by now, they've been told they have one more year before their administration cuts the cord because of facility inadequacies. Before I focus on how amazed I am by Clemson, let me get the negative out of the way.

It is idiotic for Clemson University to walk away from their swimming program. There are literally dozens of programs (ours included) that have sparkling 50 meter facilities that won't be represented at the NCAA Championships this year. Their criteria has been proved to be an utter falsehood.

As I said, I want to focus on the positive. Clemson's season is proof positive that if you are strong enough to overcome adversity it will make you stronger. Their situation is among the most adverse a program can face. The relay and individual qualifier don't tell the whole story- I watched their team race at our pool a couple weeks ago and their improvement to a swimmer on the team was nothing short of amazing.

I feel much better having said that.

Charlie Sheen and the Athletic Mind

Charlie Sheen has revolutionized the self-help industry in a matter of weeks.

As a coach, I feel that the athletic mindset is something I am expected to teach.  It is not always natural.  I have seen way too many swimmers talk themselves out of good races by letting self-doubt corrupt and dominate their thoughts, sabotaging all of the work they have done to get to the big meet.  I teach my athletes to not let the negative thoughts enter their minds.  Replace them with positive thoughts.  This is a pretty common concept in athletics... your mind and inner dialogue are one of the few things you can control in your sport.

Beyond that, I believe in delusional self-confidence.  Tell yourself you are a bad-ass often enough and eventually you will start to believe it, and be it. 

This is why I love the first few weeks of American Idol.  William Hung is a hero to me.  I show Idol tryouts to my team sometimes just so they can see that confidence doesn't have to be reasonable.  Some of them are horrible singers and even experienced record execs and successful recording artists can not convince them otherwise.  Others, even though they suck, still land record deals!  If Simon Cowell couldn't convince some of these people that they aren't good at singing, are you really gonna let some other high school kid convince you that you can't beat him or her in a race?  Really?

As an athlete I have a responsibility to carry myself like I am the greatest in the world and no one is gonna tell me any different.  If I don't believe I can be the best, there is a 100% chance I never will be.  Right?  On American Idol you have to not be afraid to make an ass of yourself in front of millions... but in swimming, is there really a negative consequence for being delusionally self confident?  You don't really have the opportunity to sign up for the Olympics unless you actually were fast enough to get there, so...  why not just convince yourself you are awesome enough to win your heat and go faster than you ever have every time you swim?

This is why I am disappointed that Charlie Sheen is such a drugged out, porn-addicted loser.  I can't really point at him as a role model.  He has the mindset right.  He is absolutely the greatest example of delusional self-confidence in history.  He is completely unafraid to just let himself be as awesome as he thinks he deserves to be.  

"dying is for amateurs."

"they picked a fight with a warlock."

"I am on a drug.  It's called Charlie Sheen.  It's not available.  If you try it once you will die."

"I'm tired of pretending like I'm not special.  I'm tired of pretending like I'm not bitchin', a total freakin' rock star from Mars."

Think about it guys.  With thoughts like that replacing all of your self-doubt, there is no way you won't swim all best times every time.  I challenge you to be tired of pretending you are not a total freakin' rock star today.  

Just stay out of trouble, okay?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The New D2 Selection Process

...but apparently DII won't choose me to go to nationals if I rank 11-16th place. 

I made my Podium Pursuit picks for D2 men and women the other day.  I am pumped for the competition.  Drury's men are so stacked, they might actually be better than their team from '99 that beat Indiana in a dual.  One of my former swimmers was a 46.1 and 1:42.00 in the freestyles and was on the invited list and still did not make the DU National team because they can only take 18 men.  Their depth is absolutely crazy. 

When going through the psyche sheet, I marveled at what it took to get into the meet.  This is the first year they have been operating with their new selection process that was modeled closely after D1.  Last summer at a club meet I asked a very successful D2 coach what he thought of the decision to change selections and he was very vocally against it.  Even after I explained to him that the new process would favor him since his relays will allow him to pull in more swimmers he said he still thought it was bad for D2.  There was supposed to be a meeting this week to find a better way, and I hope that coach was able to be heard.

I went to the message boards and found a thread where they were arguing about it and posted this:

I saw these problems coming from a mile away. Last year I went on my tirade ( about the D1 selection process being ridiculous, and then a few weeks later D2 adopted it. In my opinion, you guys have taken all of the flaws of the D1 system and magnified them by applying them to a smaller fish bowl. Even D1, with much higher participant numbers, doesn't fill 16 places based on the formula. How stupid is that!? D2 can do better.

I love that there are passionate coaches who want what is best for all involved tweaking it to better suit D2, but I am sure that when the list came out everyone was a little shocked by what it took to get invited. It is ridiculous that 16 don't get in when 16 score, and no formula is going to solve that completely. Some fast kids are going to be left out. Kids who should score. With so few individuals being invited, 95% of swimmers are going to be too afraid to not put in a full rest at some point just to get qualified. Is that what everyone really wants?

In my opinion this could be solved pretty easily. It doesn't sound like the issue with overpopulating the meet has anything to do with deck space. It has to do with cost to the NCAA. In my opinion, relay-only swimmers shouldn't cost the NCAA anything. If you want a real selection process that is fair, you make the schools pay for their relay-only swimmers and do not include them in the cap. I say take the top 20 for each event, allow 16 relays. Just put the expense for un-invited swimmers on the schools that are sending them.

In Missouri, the state high school association pays for 40 athletes to attend a state championship football game. Our school sends over 100. And the band. And the cheerleaders. And then the teachers all get together and rent a charter bus. And then they buy every player, including the 80 kids who sit on the bench the whole time, a big fat custom made ring. It's a big deal.

So why does the NCAA have to pay for every participant? Why not just the individual qualifiers? I don't see any school administration refusing to spend the money on a couple of plane tickets to fill a relay that should score. Nationals are a big deal. Plus, for many of them, they could just fill space in hotel rooms that are already paid for by the NCAA. Individuals should come first, at least out to 16 (or 20) places in a meet that scores 16. Being on a relay that gets in should not get a slower kid in the meet to swim all of his B cuts at the expense of a swimmer ranked as high as 11th in the nation. Come on guys! does anyone really think that is fair?

I would love to rant a little more about it... any of you guys have something to say to a swim blogger who sends a lot of swimmers to D2 schools? I would love to hear from some of you guys about what you think could be done better. GCU. Todd Peters? anyone want to get on skype to explain the process and some ideas to make it better?

if so, email me at I would love to hear what some of you guys have to say and give you a chance to bring it to a wider audience. I would probably even get Greg to let me post it as a feature here. Let me know if you have something to say.

I haven't received any emails, but there are a couple of responses that made it sound like maybe I am not being received as a lunatic like some did with the whole D1 argument last year.  I have already had two swimmers commit to D2 schools this year.  I do care about getting them to fix this.  I want D2 to be better than D1.  I already think that their combined men and women 4 day format is better.  Why did they have to go and screw it up by trying to be like D1?

Please, if you have something to say about it, comment below.  And if you think you can pick D2 better than me, join my group, The Viking! Ship at Podium Pursuit-- but you better bring your A game.  I am planning to win that one. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Waitaminnit? How many people actually played in that game?

That is not just a football made of diamonds.  It is a mystical gem powered by the souls of the swimmers who were cut at Arkansas in the 90's.

When Auburn Football went to the National Championship they didn't just lose $600k on the trip. That was the amount they spent over the $2.3 million dollar allowance given to them to cover costs! 

And here we are in swimming, limited to a ridiculously small cap of athletes who are invited to our championships because it costs too much to justify inviting 16 to a meet where 16 score, and cutting programs like crazy because schools have no choice but to participate in an arms race to keep up with schools (and conferences) with that kind of spending power.

I didn't make this up guys. Read about it at USA Today.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What's with all the crazy DQ's?

I have been too busy to blog for a while.  I apologize because I know that some of you depend on me to get you your swimming news (NOT).  My school told me to make a wish list for facility repairs and improvements, and then told me to find all of the contractors to turn in the bids to get the work done myself.  And then they told me my deadline was in about two weeks instead of the two months I originally thought I had.  While it has been a blessing, I am also flying blind a little and trying to do it all while still teaching my classes is a little crazy.  I have been surprised with how hard it is to get companies to call you back when you want to give them money.  Maybe I don't sound serious enough about removing the lap lanes and putting in a lazy river. 

Anyway, I figured I had better post to bring attention to some wacky DQ's.  Stone Cold Button has had a few posts lately about the relay exchange pads not working at the big meets in Texas.  Apparently there is no sort of review procedure for even the most obvious malfunctions.  Bob even provided photographic proof.  At the Texas Swimming Blog, look up "Guest Post" and "Wake Up, Humans!" to get the full scoop. Methinks some rules need to be rewritten.

And then in Nebraska, the TV stations apparently like to interview the person who would have been state champion if she hadn't been DQ'd before they tell her she was DQ'd.  Of course chaos ensues.  It even came up on Yahoo news when I logged out of my email.   Meanest Candid Camera episode ever.  I fully expect Ashton Kutcher to start showing up at HS swim meets and making this a regular thing.  What a cluster!

When I coached age group I liked to tell the little guys that DQ stands for Dairy Queen and if the officials hand me a DQ slip it means that the kid whose name is on it has to buy me a blizzard.  In these instances, I probably would have laid off the jokes.  Some DQ's are messy enough that you just want to move on without giving the kid a hard time.