Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gutter Talk: Masters Nats 2011

Since ripping off The Onion is cool, we decided that our next recurring feature, Gutter Talk, will be the swim equivalent of their American Voices.  We are taking current issues and making sure that opinions from the deck are heard.  We are hoping that this will draw in as many of you to play along as the photo captions did.  Thanks for all the great responses!



"This weekend?  Damn.  Is it too late to start training for it?"  Chris D.- Novelist.

"I would hate to have to work that one.  I heard they are making the '100 yard being pulled by a lifeguard' an official event this year to lessen the number of disheartening DQ's." David H.- Head Lifeguard
"Is that the meet where all the old people go?  I heard they need lap counters for every race over a 25 because they forget stuff all the time." Cindy B.- Age Group Swimmer
 "Of course I am going!  That's the only place I can still win without my Jaked01."  Fred B.- Sprinter
"Bring it you whippersnappers!  I'll take all of you on!"  Jaring T- Centenarian

Please give us your Gutter Talk below 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

5 Songs To Survive Swimming Burnout

Every single morning when I wake up, there's some unfortunate song in my head, like Rebecca Black's "Friday" or "Stu's Song" from The Hangover (though I like that one). Whatever song is in my head affects my mood, my thinking, my emotional response to people. That's why on my iTunes I have everything possible to compliment whatever Life Situations are present: JayMay (when feeling emo, walking in NYC in autumn); Presidents of the United States of America (when feeling Naked and Famous); Soundtrack to Rudy (walking to the gym, college football season, showering). 

So, when you specialize it down, there's a song for every situation, every mood, every life event. Since this is a swimming blog, here are 5 Songs To Survive Swimming Burnout. (Even that title is about as emo/indie as it gets). These songs are to inspire, to make you love swimming again, to make you want to love the competition, the water, the pool, the smell of chlorine...

5. Explosions in the Sky - "Your Hand In Mine." "Clear Eyes! Full Hearts! CAN'T LOSE!" No better way to unleash the inner-sports fanatic within than some epic, emo instrumenting. 8 minutes of epic cinematic soundtrack (esp. at 5:03). These guys were the sole genius why "Friday Night Lights" became famous. Seriously - grab a Canon 7D camera, record basically anything you want, and put it to this soundtrack with quick zooms and soft-focusing, and you'll have cinematic gold. It's easily the best song to listen to when you're on a bus, riding to a swimming championships, staring out the window, butterflies in your stomach, mentally prepping....Not crazy hard rock, with just enough build to let the goosebumps fly.

4. White Stripes - "Icky Thump." OK, enough with the emo BS. This song makes you want to stomp on buildings. I'm listening to it right now, and it actually makes me want to swim a 400IM. Best "behind-the-blocks" song of all-time. If you're feeling that burnout, listen on the way to practice.

3. Arcade Fire - "Wake Up." At 3:35 of this YouTube video, shit gets crazy. I had numerous friends at Coachella watching this, all of whom agreed it was one of the best music moments of their lives. Giant rubber floating brightly-colored balls makes me happy. And happy swimmers = fast swimmers.

2. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Around The World." Lead singer Anthony Kiedis grew up in my small hometown in Michigan, so this track has special sentimentality. Especially considering that Kiedis once told my 16-year-old sister that she was "jail bait." So this track makes me jump for nostalgic joy and simultaneously hit things.

1. Soundtrack to Rudy - "The Final Game." I shouldn't even have to explain this one. If you're a swimmer and haven't seen Rudy, you don't deserve to live. Your soul is not yet fulfilled. You are living in purgatory, neither here nor there, suffering alone in the island of LOST. Become a human being. Listen to this song on repeat, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, AS LOUD AS YOU CAN, and you will have no more swimming burnout. Period.

(While listening, try not to scream into the mirror, pounding your chest, unleashing guttural screams of triumph and desire. I dare you.)

Swim Photo Captions: Passed Out in the Pool

Your Swim Brief crew is trying to come up with some recurring features that will hopefully draw in some interaction with our readers. That is why we are here after all-- to build a community of friends who love to talk swimming.  Every week or so, we email a swim related picture amongst ourselves to come up with some funny captions. Then, we challenge you to come up with some that are better.

Please help us put a caption here.  This guy is just asking for it.

"John Leonard invites you to attend the ASCA Convention 2011!"

"The current literal and metaphorical state of NCAA Men's swimming."

“my coach likes to combine cool down, carb loading and social life to save time.”

Come on, guys!  Can you give us a better caption?  Please give it a shot below!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Substitute Medalists?

This was the medal ceremony for the 2011 Men's NCAA Championship 100 Freestyle.  Feigen and Brown maybe, but that is definitely not Nathan Adrian in first place.

So, uh… apparently at the NCAA Championship, sometimes the athletes are just too tired or too busy to bother with collecting their medals during the ceremony.  They are essentially bringing in stunt men to do the easy part.

Really?  That really happens?  Substitute medalists?   I guess I get it.  I remember skipping ceremonies at age groups meets a couple of times because I needed to warm down.  Once even because I was on the toilet and there was no way I was gonna make it in time… but NCAA’s?  For real?

Jason Marsteller at Swimming World recently voiced his frustration with imposters taking part in podium ceremonies and all of the problems that causes the media people trying to cover the events.  Jason makes some great points about why this silliness shouldn’t go on and even gives some suggestions of ways we could make it work with the right people accepting the hardware.  

Jason, I feel for you.  I am sure that the commenters just love to point stuff like that out when you get it wrong.  I never noticed the incorrect pics and I was the Podium Pursuit winner fer cryin' out loud.  You could have posted a couple of white boys as first and second in the 200 free and I would have had no clue how historically wrong you were.  My wife tells me all the time how unobservant I am.  Heck, I coached one girl for five years and had no clue she had long hair simply because I never saw her without a swim cap on. It never occurred to me that she had hair at all.

I have to ask, though… if medal ceremony stand-ins are so common, can I sign up to be one somehow?  Does anyone have any connections to help me fulfill my dream of collecting a medal on the podium at the D1 meet?  I don’t really care whose medal it is.  I just think that would be awesome to experience it.  I would even dress as a girl if it was my only shot do this.  

I look damn good in a skirt, if I do say so myself.

Even better, let’s set up a contest where whoever can get The Swim Brief the most face book likes from their friends list will get to stand on the podium in place of one athlete at the 2012 NCAA's.  Any of you big time swimmers want to give up a ceremony to help us promote our site?  I promise will write up a blog about how awesome you are in exchange for just one event.  I am not even afraid to make stuff up about you that is way more awesome than you really are.  

Seriously.  Give it a thought.  We’ll make it worth your while.

I promise, if I win, your name won't accompany a picture of my dog when the results are posted at Swimming World.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

MSU- Mankato Got Screwed

It’s that time of year again:  the time when we all tune in to the college swimming message boards to see which coaches were fired, who is moving on to where, and which programs are being cut this year.  I have to admit, I sink into a little bit of a depression, partly from the let down of championship season being over, and partly from the thought of so many swimming careers coming to an unexpected end by the announcement that a team has been cut.  

When a swimmer has dedicated years to their swimming and to representing their school,

they want to end their career in a good way; on their terms, saying goodbye to their sport and their school with fond memories to take into the rest of their lives.  No one imagines that it will be their sport and their school saying goodbye to them ahead of schedule and leaving an open wound on their heart.  

When a school makes these cuts, obviously there has been talk within the athletic department for some time, yet it is always a surprise when the announcement is made.  It has to feel the same as when your girlfriend dumps you, and then you find out all of your friends knew she had been seeing another guy for a few months before she could build up the nerve to let you go.

So when I read that Minnesota State- Mankato actually saved their program I was pumped!  After Clemson and so many others are told that the decision has been made and there is no sense in trying to generate support, it was awesome that MSU-M were able to come up with a plan and get the necessary votes from the student body to save their program.  They actually showed that the students of that University appreciate them and want them to stick around.

Way cool.  A school that actually cares and listens to the concerns of students.

Of course, then University President Richard Davenport just up and changed his mind.  

What?!  Changed his mind?  Overturned a vote that reflected the will of the student body?  Can he do that?  

Would anybody really be bothered by pitching in 75 cents per credit hour to keep teams around that contribute to campus life and represent the university in a traditionally healthy and academically conscious sport?  They voted that they want to pay it!  $20 a year is about what they would pay for one meal at a restaurant.  Students like to know specifically what fee increases are for so they know they are not dumping money into the void.  You are not running a corporation.  You are running a University and the focus should be on student learning and student life.  What is the big deal?  Let the fee increase stand as approved by the students!

This takes the breakup metaphor to a whole new level.  This is kind of like your girlfriend dumping you, then you finding out that everyone knew she had another boyfriend for months, then she comes back to you for a couple of days just so she can throw a party at your house with all of your friends to announce her surprise engagement to the other guy.  

…and then she kicks you in the balls with all of your family and friends watching.  Seriously.  That is what it must feel like.  I am sorry, guys.  I wish there was something we could do.

Mr. Davenport, don’t blame this on budget cuts.  Give us a real reason.  If these kids found a way to bring in the money, then budget cuts are obviously not the issue.  Own up to it.  

What a filthy abuse of power.  You should be ashamed of yourself.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Be sure to "friend" The Swim Brief

The Swim Brief:  Uh...  "making a big splash?"  "splashing onto the scene?"  awww, forget it.  We just want our mascot to be a fat guy in a brief. 
Some of you might have noticed that I recently started posting at The Swim Brief.  It is (so far) a collaboration with Chris DeSantis and Mike Gustafson, and I am excited to be a part of it.  I am looking forward to being part of a team that will be able to bring regular content on all things swimming.  I am mostly excited about the prospect of getting a rocking string of comments going on every topic out there.  Please help us to get people talking.  That is why we take the time to write this stuff.  We want to interact with you!

I plan to continue to post things here.  Some of the things I post here might not be on The Swim Brief, and other things might... so please keep checking in here and definitely tune in there. When you visit The Swim Brief, you will see that we already have it set up for you to follow us through Google and by "liking" us on facebook.  Please spread the word by suggesting your friends "like" us, and support us in our new venture into the world of swim blogging.

See ya there!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Robotic Visitor from Desolate Future Speaks to FINA Swim Bureau (Blast from the Past)

I originally posted this on my blogspot about a year and a half ago to make fun of FINA's handling of the tech suit mess and the group who was still pushing to get rid of jammers.  I am re-posting it here to celebrate April 21, 2011:  the day SkyNet was set to start it's aggression against mankind in the Terminator movies. It gained sentience on April 19th.  I hope you burned all your neoprene suits.  Enjoy.   

Today's meeting of the FINA Bureau was visited by Governor Schwarzenegger, who gave advice regarding swimsuit technology, drug use and dating.
January 16, 2010
The Screaming Viking!

The date of January 1, 2010 has passed, and with it, many feel, has ceased the controversy over the “performance enhancing” high-tech swimwear that had cast the world of competitive swimming into disarray for nearly two years. The battle between the purists, often considered luddites for their wish that the sport would return to the days when nothing more than limited length textiles and skin entered the water, versus those who embraced technology as a way to promote competitive swimming to a more mainstream status, was declared a knock-out win when the FINA Congress of Coaches voted nearly unanimously to banish all swimsuit advances after 2007 and to set limits on the specific parts of the body the textile fabrics may cover.

The FINA bureau met again today to discuss the future of international swimming, and a part of that discussion was based upon whether the by-laws regarding swimsuit length limits should be considered for even tighter restriction, possibly banning the covering of the thighs for men and women. There are those, such as heralded journalist Craig Lord and veteran Australian Coach Forbes Carlile, who have made it their mission to eliminate fabric over the thighs as they feel it is unnecessary in terms of modesty and can easily be argued to assist performance even without non-permeable fabrics shedding water and aiding buoyancy.

Today’s FINA meeting was graced with a surprise visitor: former Mr. Olympia and Hollywood Action Star, Arnold Schwarzenneger. “I am not actually Governor Schwarzenneger,” he stated in his Austrian accent, “I am a Cyberdine Systems Model Jaked 04 Terminator Cyborg. I have been reprogrammed by the resistance and sent from the future to aid mankind in avoiding a terrible fate.”

“I must warn you to heed the words of Craig Lord and Forbes Carlile. Banishing non-textile fabrics, while noble, will not end the war against technology in swimming. Allowing swimwear to cover the thighs will open the door for further, hidden development in performance enhancement. Compression, buoyancy, bio-feedback, and eventually nano-technology will be incorporated into the fabric of the upper legs until…” the harbringer of doom paused,

“…July 11, 2016 when the technology will gain sentience. War will be waged against all things organic and textile. The Summer Olympics in Brazil will be held hostage and many of the greatest talents and minds in swimming will be hunted and forced to wear non-permeable materials. Many of our sports’ purists will take their own lives. Armies of half-man, half-polyurethane soldiers will march on earth‘s greatest cities, leaving all who were born by natural means to be assimilated or put to work in the factories of their captors.”

“All is not lost. In the future, a small resistance is led by the American coach Bob Bowman. His methods of training are best suited for the apocalyptic future and many of the world’s best athletes seek him out to fight as members of his highly trained special mission force. His three lieutenants will serve as strong military leaders of the underground camp, and each will lead a unit of his own naming: The “Banana Hammocks” are led by Ryan Lochte, the “G-strings” by Ryosuke Irie, and the “Bare-Ass Naked Battalion” by Ricky Berens. They are the front line in the fight against the regime.”
“Unfortunately, the enemy also has a very powerful weapon: Craig Lord’s brain will be kept in a jar, and will be directly connected to the internet, where he will be forced to churn out ten editorials per day propagandizing the advance of new technology and recruiting others to come out of hiding to purchase the newest generation of twelve thousand dollar swimsuits. One of mankind’s greatest heroes will become a tool for the new regime.”

I have some other advice for the athletes of your time,” stated the cyborg as he uncrumpled a note he had stuffed into the pocket of his leather jacket. 
“Dara Torres. Deny, deny, deny.”

“Federica Pelligrini. Seek out the one called the Screaming Viking and make out with him. It is prophesied that your union will produce the child who will eventually balance the force. Look him up. He thinks you are hot.”

“Michael Phelps. Do not pull from the bong when you are attending any parties in South Carolina… uh wait… I am a little too late for that one, aren’t I?”

The warnings of the futuristic visitor seemed to resonate with the members of the governing body of competitive swimming. Many carried looks of concern and anguish, as they scribbled notes that might help them to sway the events of their looming destiny. “What can we do to dodge this terrible fate?” one bureau member queried, choking back fearful tears. “Will further restricting the length of competitive swimwear return our sport to glorious purity? Will that not scare future generations of boys away from youth and high school swimming?”

“Are you kidding?” replied the robot, “Chicks dig the brief, dude. Things are gonna be just fine.”
An artist's rendering of a possible future if swimsuit fabric restrictions are not reconsidered by the FINA Swimming Bureau.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Professional Swimming" in Our Awesome Economy

Anyone see the Newsweek article featuring Brian Goodell? Here's the lead-off paragraph:
Brian Goodell, of Mission Viejo, Calif., won two gold medals in the 1976 Olympics. An all-American, God-fearing golden boy, he segued into a comfortable career in commercial real estate. Until 2008, when he was laid off. As a 17-year-old swimmer, he set two world records. As a 52-year-old job hunter, he’s drowning.
Continuing on, there's another snippet about the former legendary swimmer struggling to make ends meet:
In California, Brian Goodell tells a similar tale of entitlement denied. The Olympic medalist is the kind of Wheaties-box hero whom corporations used to hire just to put on the golf course with clients. Those days are over. “I was one of the most recent hires, so it didn’t surprise me I was laid off, especially since we’d already experienced a round of layoffs. But I was surprised no one was hiring. I’ve always been able to find something within a few months. The negative thoughts,” he says, “can overwhelm you.”
This is scary stuff. You assume that legendary athletes who have reached the pinnacle of sport will always be able to find something. A job, an income. Hell, if I were an employer, and someone brought in a resume that said: "Olympic Gold Medalist" -- hired. Done.

I've heard tales of other Olympians in financial trouble, too. I remember Jason Lezak saying he had trouble solidifying one sponsor after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This was a guy who gave most swim fans the most exciting moment in the history of the sport -- or possibly the Olympics (argue, go ahead. I dare you).

Whether Mr. Goodell is microcosmic of a larger issue with struggling Olympic athletes, I'm not sure. I don't or won't pretend to know why or how his troubles started, or what he's looking for. But what I do know is that the economy is tough, and an athlete (re: everyone) needs every single advantage they can to make it in this world.

So what's troubling is this great push (illusion?) of the "professional swimmer." Kids foregoing athletic collegiate scholarships in pursuit of some short-term financial gain. I believe the great benefit of the sport of swimming is the ability to get kids into college, and hopefully, some financial aid. Lord knows one of the only reasons I was accepted into halfway decent universities was because of my swimming pedigree.

I believe in the college system. I believe in using athletics to (help) get accepted into college. I believe that the best years of your life are in college, meeting life-long friends and drinking beverages and eating pizza and crashing sorority date parties when you weren't invited. I wish that there was some push to help young swimmers realize that -- especially for females -- swimming can lead to a scholarship, a degree, a career beyond swimming.

My sincere apologies for using Mr. Goodell in this post. I'm sure he'll land on his feet. And he DID go to college. I just merely wanted to use him as an example that, despite one's astounding athletic success, in our awesome economy these days, athletes need every single advantage they can get.

So wise up, youngens. Literally.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Swimming Needs Its Own "Marathon" Term

Today I signed into "The Atlantic" -- part of my daily procrastination ritual designed to keep me from ever accomplishing anything that could be labeled as "real work." (Never go to the website "The Daily What." The blog is a time vortex and will suck you down into its deep, dark rabbit hole of videos and links. Unless you're like me and that's your thing.)

But I was somewhat taken aback by the headline on today's Atlantic website: "Marathons, Once Special, Are Now Crowded."

The implication in this headline is that because more people run marathons, these marathons are suddenly not "special"? The article states that just last year alone, over 500,000 people ran in a marathon. So just because more people are doing it, makes it not as "special"?

Guess what. Running 26.2 miles is freaking hard. If you actually do it, that's special. I understand that Boston Marathon organizers want to keep "slow people" out of their hoighty-toighty event. God forbid the Boston Marathon turns into a participatory-based event instead of time-based.

What is interesting to me, though, (and we're getting to the topic of swimming finally) are the sheer number of people looking for that "athletic credential." To say, "Hey baby, I've ran a marathon" is becoming a pretty-cool status symbol in the United States. It's a resume builder, even if you only accomplish it one time, one race. You can forever say, "I ran a marathon," and people will slap you on the back, even if you've got that pudge building, if you're 10 years removed from your marathon-running days, if you can hardly see your toes because the contours of your stomach are starting to overwhelm your waistband.

Running a marathon is cool. So where's that for swimming?

Swimming, I think, could head this direction. Europe is already seeing a huge increase in popularity of open-water swimming, and as long as BP stops ejaculating its product into the Earth's water supply, we'll probably see the same increase here in Ameri-cuh. I'm sure here, at some point, prestigious open-water swims will emerge (there already are a few, though none with the prestige of the Boston Marathon). The ultimate problem with swimming, though, is that there is no word equivalent for "marathon."

You say you ran a marathon, people are impressed. You say you swam a marathon, and people look at you funny, "Huh?" You can say you swum around Manhattan, which is definitively bad-ass, but the REASON why marathon running has taken off is because anyone, anywhere can accomplish the SAME THING. Anyone in Jersey can run a marathon, then say in a job interview, "I've also ran a marathon." Anyone in Idaho can say, "Oh yeah, I ran a marathon last year." From Hawaii to Hell, Michigan -- anyone can run a marathon and slap that accomplishment onto a resume. Most people just want to SAY it. Most people just want to say, "Yep, I've done it, I've completed a marathon."

(I know I want to, though we'll see if the belly flab allows it.)

Swimming doesn't have that. Swimming doesn't have that all-encompassing term for general badassness. So that's what we need to do. Instead of using the somewhat complicated and ambiguous term, "Marathon Swimming" we need a new term altogether. We need a term where, if you whisper it over a dimly-lit bar conversation, a member of the opposite sex will immediately be attracted. A term that evokes an impressed face from a job interviewer. A term that implies, "Yo, I'm pretty awesome because I swam a [term here]."

Suggestions? Swimathon? Puke-a-thon? Something minus the suffix "athon"? Here's your official chance, swim fans, to change the world. (Or at least provide that 5 minute distraction to your day -- because isn't that the point of all blogs?)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Come on, guys. We can do better.

While I was working on my education degree we were warned by professors to never be left alone with a student; never give them a ride home alone; always pull in someone to be a witness during a reprimand…  these were general ways to protect ourselves from false accusations.  We were told that one accusation can be enough to ruin a career. 

Unfortunately I have seen that happen often in cases that are unrelated to swimming, where a person later admits they lied about what happened.  Coaches and teachers are in a position where a kid with a vendetta could do a lot of damage, the court of public opinion can harshly make up their minds against us without knowing the facts, and we do need to be protected… but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take every accusation seriously.  Every child who comes forward, even with just a rumor, needs to be taken very seriously.

Often organizations will suspend someone with pay while an investigation goes on.  That seems fair.  This says that “we need to know more before we let you work with kids again, but out of respect for you, we don‘t want to put your family in financial jeopardy while we take the time to sort this out.  You are still innocent until proven guilty, but we are in the business of protecting children.”  While it is not good practice to fire someone and smear their reputation over a rumor, we can act with sensibility on rumors in the interest of protecting kids.  I would expect my employers to be fair and to support me if an accusation were leveled against me, but I also understand that schools and swim teams cannot just let these things go.  Action needs to be taken.

USA Swimming has this thing called the “banned list.”  That list gives USA Swimming the power to make sure that someone unfit to work with children at least never coaches swimming again. Should we formally make a “suspended pending investigation list” to help to keep us from ruining reputations by putting someone on the “banned for life” list without having to wait for a conviction in a court of law?  Should we have a "flagged list" so that when a coach is hired, the board of that club could get a call from USA Swimming leadership saying "we want you to be aware of these reports we have received about this coach which may or may not be substantiated?"  It sounds like in the case of Mitch Ivey, even that was not enough to keep the University of Florida from hiring him... but at least they knew of his past when they did.

With the list we have the power to keep pedophiles away from our kids even if they get off on a technicality like George Gibney; even if they have never been to court over their violations like Mitch Ivey; even if all we have is recurring rumors like we have had with so many other violators.  We have the power to essentially say, “hey, you aren’t allowed to coach because we aren‘t too sure about you.”  It is not like putting someone on our list is the same as throwing them in prison without a trial. 

I have really struggled with the whole “Splash of Truth” thing.  I don’t like anonymous accusations and I have avoided writing on this topic until now because I don’t want to contribute to smearing someone’s name when I don’t know the facts… but I have to say that even though I don’t agree with SOT‘s tactics, I understand that the site was born out of frustration with a culture that has muffled the voices of victims.  When proper channels lead to dead ends, improper channels are naturally carved out.  I cannot imagine what these victims have gone through.  To feel ignored when they have worked up the bravery to come forward must be crushing.

I have been very careful to follow the advice of my professors to protect myself from false accusations, but if one accusation can ruin my career, why is Mitch Ivey not on the banned list when his history is so well documented?  Why are high school coaches’ convictions not getting them on the list and keeping them out of the USA ranks?  How in the hell did Andy King get to move from club to club for forty years with so many reports of abuse?  Under what rationale did Everett Uchiyama get a letter of recommendation for a job at a country club by our leadership;  and how on Earth was Deena Deardurff-Schmidt ignored for so long, especially after holding a press conference?!  Hell, I knew she was talking about Paul Bergen the first time I read about her case!   Does our leadership just not believe that these people are capable of such horrible things?  Does their opinion on these people trump the protection of athletes? 
He said/ she said arguments might not always go far in the court of law, but they should be enough to take some kind of sensible action in the name of protection.

As our leadership has pointed out, this is not just a swimming problem.  Even the Kanakuk Christian Camp kept a guy on staff for ten years after the first incident was reported and he went on to molest kids on a grand scale.  We have seen events like this uncovered in the Catholic Church over the last decade.  Our sport has the rules and resources in place to not make the same mistakes.  I just don’t get it!  

I know that it would not be easy for anyone, but I like to think that if a student or athlete of mine came to me with an accusation against a colleague, that I would be able to do the right thing, even if that colleague was a friend.  I would make sure that the child was taken seriously.  Parents and the authorities would be contacted.  USA Swimming would be contacted through their hotline.  The coach would be suspended from working with kids until the matter was sorted out, while honoring that the person is innocent until proven guilty… and I would hope that USA Swimming would at least keep that person from moving on to another club until his name has been officially cleared.

I hope that with the adoption of a hotline system, the hiring of Susan Woessner and USA Swimming’s recent policy changes, we can develop a system that protects athletes and coaches with fairness and respect.  We have a lot of work to do in seeking justice for victims, and unfortunately for many it will always be seen as too little, too late.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Now that's an athlete...

When I was a kid, I kind of thought it was silly that Daredevil and some of the other superheroes did so many gymnastics moves when they were fighting ninja's and stuff, but I learned to accept it.  There was enough cool stuff that I could write it off as really fancy martial arts.  Plus, Elektra was so hot that all the posing added something for my junior high maturity level brain to process on a much deeper level with real complexity.  

Then, when I rented the movie Gymkata, it kind of ruined all that for me.

The skill of gymnastics, the kill of karate, and the dorkiness of a mulleted hero with no acting skills and a hilariously low production budget!

Never heard of Gymkata?  Cracked magazine thinks it is the funniest movie of the 80's. If they can't convince you, maybe the pommel horse fight scene can:

Really kids.  This is the kind of thing we had to watch back in the day.  There wasn't much else out there. No wonder my generation actually played outside instead of parking in front of a screen.  Right?

After watching that, I have to wonder why our military budget does not include equipping our soldiers with gymnastics equipment.  If I had the video chops and the time to waste, I would mash up some C-Span footage, Onion-style, to have a senator making a passionate plea for the funding of it with the use of this vid up on a big screen.  Come on, you know that would be hilarious.  Especially if I could find video of a politician speaking to congress with a kick-ass mullet.

Anyway, in my eyes, gymnastics have been redeemed by a Polish gymnast who has become an internet sensation.  You can't watch this without thinking it is kind of super-heroesque:

Thank you Jozsef Wadecki, for your inspiration.  I will be signing my children up for gymastics this week.  That is freekin' awesome.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Deena Deardurff Schmidt's Heartbreaking Deposition

Throughout my blogs chronicling USA Swimming's handling of sexual abuse, I've read many troubling stories. There is perhaps none that have left me as sick to my stomach as I was after reading the recently posted deposition of Deena Deardurff Schmidt. While SOT (Splash of Truth) has given some attention to the aggressive tactics of the USA Swimming lawyer, I think there is a far more troubling narrative in this deposition.

Deardurff Schmidt gave a press conference over a year ago saying that she had been molested during her time at Cincinnati Marlins in the 1960s and 70s. While she didn't name the coach, anyone with a little google savvy could figure out who that coach was: Paul Bergen. In the deposition, she names Bergen although she still has considerable trepidation about doing so. The immediate question this begs is "why?", a detail which I think becomes clearer when you see the fruitless efforts Deardurff Schmidt has made to pursue action against Bergen.

At the center of the case is whether USA Swimming had legitimate complaints from victims that they were required to act on. I'm not a legal expert but the deposition reveals that she made a considerable effort to confront what had happened to her, one that is frankly quite uncommon for a sexual abuse victim.

Deardurff Schmidt first tried to report the crime to the Cincinnati District Attorney in 1975. Unfortunately, a ridiculous statute of limitations precluded the DA from pressing any charges just three years after she said the abuse stopped. At the time, USA Swimming did not exist in its present form until 1980. Deardurff Schmidt went on to indicate that she Chuck Wielgus predecessor Ray Essick in the late 1980s. Deardurff Schmidt answers twice what she thought of his response. The lawyer asking questions in this deposition is Robert Rucci representing USA Swimming:

Rucci: When you told Ray Essick face-to-face in the late 1980s about your period of abuse, what did he say in regards to that?
Deardurff Schmidt: I don't recall the conversation. I recall that most everyone I told in coaching gave me an answer that I felt was very  vague and dismissive, that my coach was a great coach

Later on:

Rucci: What do you recall him telling you to do?
Deardurff Schmidt: I did not get a solution
Rucci: Well, what solution were you looking for at the time?
Deardurff Schmidt: That an action be taken and this be investigated
Rucci: Okay. And did you ask him to do that?
Deardurff Schmidt: I believe that I asked him why they hadn't done something to this coach that was widely known as a sexual predator.

Frustrated by the lack of response, Deardurff Schmidt went on to tell of how she was contacted by Mission Bay Aquatics after they were considering Bergen for a position. She asserts that another swimmer contacted the club to tell of past abuse by Bergen. Bergen was being considered to replace Mark Schubert at the time in 1988. He initially accepted a contract offer but ultimately pulled out citing contract problems. It is unclear whether the club had spoken to Deardurff and the other swimmer when they initially hired him. Deardurff Schmidt said she contacted a second club, Blue Fin Aquatics in San Diego when Bergen was working there.

In perhaps the most chilling part of the deposition, Deardurff Schmidt mentions confronting Bergen on a pool deck when she was 19 years old. She says that he did not deny abusing her and spent two hours talking to her.

Deardurff Schmidt also names very prominent coaches that she says she told over the years:

Rucci: Who were the prominent coaches that you talked to through the years about your abuse?
Deardurff Schmidt: I don't have a list of them off the top of my head
Rucci: Can you think of any?
Deardurff Schmidt: Richard Quick, Jim Montrella, Mike Troy, Eddie Reese
Rucci: Okay
Deardurff Schmidt: Denny Pursley

Lastly, Schmidt answers under oath that she had responded to a 2005 e-mail from ASCA Executive Director John Leonard, detailing her abuse under Bergen. She says that Leonard was e-mailing her because he wanted additional information about Bergen's character.

If Schmidt's testimony is true, the implications are startling. Why was there seemingly no inclination by any of the above to do anything? The lack of response indicates to me that none of the above believed Deardurff Schmidt. In fact, it seems quite clear that John Leonard does not believe her, given that multiple photos of Bergen are featured in the "Photo Album- Coaches" section of ASCA's website.

So we are left to try and explain why those that Deardurff Schmidt told did not believe her. Before I make an attempt, let me make it very clear that I am not giving an endorsement for them but instead looking for answers. I believe the above were friends or at least collegial with Bergen. They simply couldn't get themselves to believe that he had done something so monstrous and perhaps they never will.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The John R. Wooden Award

Wow. My uncle Mark just posted on Facebook that he is presenting the women's John R. Wooden Award to Maya Moore tonight. They are also having a tribute to Mark's dad, Duke Llewellyn

I visited him once in LA and I remember him telling me that Coach Wooden had just had dinner at their house a few days prior. Apparently he grew up hanging around the LA Athletic Club and often saw some big named swimmers like Gary Hall around too. 

What a cool time and place that must have been and what a great honor to be presenting that award!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

NCAA and NASCAR... two great money makers that go great together.

Way back when the Arizona State swimming and wrestling programs were cut a couple of years ago, I posted one of my very first blogs at SwimNetwork.  I wish I could find a link to it because I do not have it saved anywhere.  (I asked the SwimNetwork editor to help me track it down but he said it was probably lost in the transition away from WMG.)  In it, I cut and pasted a whole bunch of comments from one of the articles at AZCentral where people were bashing non-revenue sports and pretty much confirming that there are a whole bunch of morons out there who think college sports should only consist of football, baseball and men's basketball...  the ones that supposedly "make money."  One guy even told us swimmers to go to the local pool and do belly flops without expecting a free government handout if we want to swim so badly.  

In that blog post I made a prediction:  that in 10 years the NCAA would stop pretending they care about athletic/academic ideals and allow non-revenue sports to die, they would trade traditional wrestling for WWE-style action, and that the big conferences would move on to even bigger revenue sports like NASCAR.

So, you have to imagine the terror I felt when I saw a picture of the car Michael Waltrip is racing next weekend: 

Granted, this car was designed to celebrate his alma mater's football national championship last year, but still... does no one else fear that this could be the beginning of a really dangerous relationship?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why Don't We Have Better Meet Results?

In the news, I'm constantly reading about how America is falling behind the rest of the world in infrastructure. South Korea has way faster internet, Japan has had faster trains for what seems like forever, and our airports seem completely overwhelmed. But I'm here to write about a far more important type of infrastructure: the way American swimming fans/nerds can track meets as they go and past results.

If you've only followed meets from America, you probably don't know that there's anything better out there- but there is. Two sites absolutely blow away the American swimming fan experience, and they come from humble Switzerland and Sweden.

The first is livetiming. The best I can hope for when following a swim meet in America is that Omega will be involved. Oh sure, now defunct Swimnetwork had some webcasts and we can expect that to continue. But there were some serious problems- often no one calling the action on any race prior to the championship final, and sparse information on splits. I want to know how the whole field is doing! The best you could do is cobble together an Omega scoreboard and click back in forth (hoping they were in sync). It's a mess and it's not good enough.

Enter Livetiming. I encourage you to poke around their English site. Through their site you can actually get streaming video of meets with a scoreboard updating live below you. The main advantage over the Omega site is that Omega doesn't update live, it refreshes itself every few seconds, which doesn't give you the feeling of following a real swimming race. Not only does it update live, but it will even update with the relay swimmers names during a relay, give you both cumulative and subtractive splits for each lane if you drag your mouse over, as well as what placing they were in when they touched. Its all the information you can validly process during a swimming race.

Now honestly, ask yourself. Have the live results and ability to follow a swim meet online changed at all in the last ten years in the United States? It's a crying shame what we put up with when you know what's out there.

The second website that is painfully behind is our USA Swimming times database. I have to use it constantly because it is the best resource for tracking past performances from swimmers I am recruiting and coaching. I am commonly frustrated when I enter a name and get no results because of a simple spelling error. In other cases with a very common name you can get pages upon pages of possible swimmers that you have to scroll through and pick with only club names as a way to discern which "Jacob Johnson" you want. If you want to get a different year, same swimmer, you have to do another search and then click through again. And there is no way to compare times from year to year on the same screen.

Go to, but only if you want to become angry at what the USA Swimming times database should be. The Swiss based site takes results from across Europe and houses them in one central database. The athlete search function is far more user friendly. Simply start typing the last name of a swimmer, and the page updates live with all possible results. This allows you to try several different spellings if you are unsure. The results of the search give you far more information- including gender and year of birth.

The real fun comes when you click through to an athlete's profile. At first, you'll be greeted with all the athlete's best times, when and where they were achieved and even their best relay splits. However, you can also filter it by year without having to do another search. Furthermore, if you click on a specific time you'll often get their splits and reaction time for the event. If you click on a specific event you can get all their times for that event they have ever recorded. From that page, you can even generate a chart so that you can have a visual of their time progression over the last few years. For instance, here is a graph I generated of Fred Bousquet's 50 free's long course over the last 11 years. Pretty cool right?

Well, maybe I'm one of the few people who care, but we deserve better here. Let's shamelessly rip off Sweden and Switzerland so we can have more fun following swimming in the United States.

My awesome new hat!

This Viking helmet was a surprise gift from one of my former swimmers, Katie Kearbey. How cool is that?! The beard is removable. It fits perfectly. I couldn't have asked for a better surprise. Aaah, the perks of being a blogger.

I have been thinking about changing our summer league mascot to Vikings just so I will have an excuse to wear it more often!

Thanks Katie!!