Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘swimming

A yanked swimming scholarship, and why it's not wrong for parents to speak up

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The default position whenever parents get heavily involved in an athletic dispute involving their child is, they’re obviously overbearing, overindulgent busybodies who are turning their kids into pussies. (I’m not sure what the default substitute for “pussies” would be if the athlete is a girl.)

However, a lawsuit over a school’s role in a lost swimming scholarship has emerged in the St. Louis area that, if the parents’ allegations are true, makes me think: Yeah, I’d be suing their asses off, too.

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And I would hire Al Pacino from “And Justice for All” as my lawyer, for the drama.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Peter and Marzie McCoy of Wildwood, Mo., are suing their local school district after their daughter, a state championship swimmer, briefly lost her scholarship to Colorado State University after it reviewed a recommendation form filled out by a Lafayette High School counselor that was less than flattering. In theory, everybody followed procedure. The problem was, say that parents, that the counselor filling out the form had never met their daughter. From the July 9 Post-Dispatch:

The recommendation form, signed by Lafayette High School counselor Beth Brasel, said that Shannon McCoy was “below average” in five personal traits including initiative, character, integrity and leadership.

The McCoys said that the description of their daughter was “grossly inaccurate” and that Brasel had never met Shannon before the form was filled out.

Rockwood spokeswoman Kim Cranston said it was the district’s understanding that the recommendation form had nothing to do with the rescinding of McCoy’s scholarship, based on their contact with a Colorado State University admissions officer.

A message left Thursday for the admissions officer was not returned. [Brasel was also not available for comment.]

Predictably, many of the comments left by readers paint the parents (and their daughter, with her mere 3.0 grade-point average in an age of grade inflation) as spoiled brats, especially because they’re not dropping the lawsuit even after Colorado State, after the parents’ appealed, gave the scholarship back. At 80 percent of out-of-state tuition, room and board, that scholarship money is no small potatoes. Here is a comment by someone called cardsphan:

Cry me a river Parents. Way to teach your daughter to be a spoiled brat. What parents, teach their kids that if something goes wrong just sue for money to make it better. Did you ever think that maybe your daughter didn’t deserve a scholarship? I had one for athletics out of Marquette HS but i also had a 3.6 GPA. A 3.0 is not hard to get in HS, maybe the girl was to much into swimming and not her grades. IM JUST SAYIN

Given that grammar, I can believe a 3.6 GPA would be related to grade inflation.

As usual when these stories hit the local press, there is a lot we don’t know. We don’t know why that particular counselor filled out the form, and why she filled it out as she did. Did she really know Shannon McCoy? Had she heard stuff from other people? Had the parents and the school clashed in the past? Over what?

Until court papers are filed in response, we won’t know the school’s side of the story. Maybe Peter and Marzie McCoy are big pains in the ass who are doing their daughter a disservice. Or, maybe they do need to advocate for their daughter — and others in a similar situation — against an idiotic and possibly vindictive school bureaucracy.

The point is, we don’t know. And the other point is, until we do, we can’t make snap judgments about the parents — or the school, for that matter. But what I do feel confident saying is that it is NEVER wrong for a parent to speak out and least ask what is going on, or ask why something happened the way it happened.

There is a time and place for parents to advocate for their child, and parents deserve answers to their questions. On the other hand, parents need to approach these issues in as reasonable a manner possible, which admittedly can be difficult when you see your own child getting hurt. I am of a belief that reasonable people can reach reasonable conclusions. And, yes, sometimes that means parents finding out the hard truth that their kid is an asshole.

However, if that’s not the case here, if the school cavalierly and/or maliciously filled out a form in a way that screwed up a huge opportunity for Shannon McCoy — well, I hope the parents get every dime they’re asking for. I would want to, in that situation.

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Swim coaches drowning in child sexual abuse cases

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Pope Benedict XVI is sending a thank-you note (probably in Latin) to Colorado Springs, Colo., thanking USA Swimming for proving Catholics’ point that the Church isn’t the only one who has a problem with their touched-by-the-hand-of-God authority figures using their hands to touch the wrong people.

USA Swimming is mired in revelations that it had to ban at least 36 coaches because of sexual misconduct — and, in that, it didn’t come close to doing enough to rid the nation’s pools of creeps and pedophiles.

The latest such accusation comes in a lawsuit, filed in Independence, Mo., by a 21-year-old Kansas swimmer against the national swimming governing body, a Kansas City swim coach and her old coaches, saying they did nothing when an assistant coach made sexual advances to her, sexually harassed her, and eventually made “sexually inappropriate contact.” The lawsuit says that USA Swimming’s background check system is inadequate and that the organization has turned a “blind eye” to such issues. In fact, the lawsuit says that USA Swimming was informed of the coach’s conduct, but did nothing.

Naturally, USA Swimming denies the charges, the third time recently that a Kansas City-area swim coach has gotten accused of sexually inappropriate conduct. (The first two are serving prison time.)

The lawsuit, filed April 19, comes only a few days after former champion swimmer Diana Nyad said she had been molested by her youth swim coach, following Deena Deerdruff Schmidt in making a similar allegations.

Pretty soon, swim coaches and priests are going to be spoken of in the same breath — a fetid, stale breath.

Written by rkcookjr

April 20, 2010 at 12:47 am

Carmel hazing update: 1998 revisited, and time to take off the tinfoil hat

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The other day I noted that at Carmel (Ind.) High School, center of criminal investigations into alleged violent and sexual crimes into two separate hazing incidents involving the boys basketball team, had a similar situation pop up in 1998: three senior swimmers accused of harassing, beating and sexually assaulting a freshman teammate in what may or may not have been a case of hazing. I also noted that I couldn’t find any record of what happened to the alleged victim’s lawsuit against the school district and the swimmers.

WISH-TV in Indianapolis got a hold of the court documents and found the boy’s attorney. (Thanks to the intrepid Your Kid’s Not Going Pro reader who tipped me.) Tonight (March 5) the station aired a report that while a bit over the top in linking the swimming incident to the basketball incident — hey, it was 12 years ago, and none of the administrators overseeing (or not) things then are not the ones overseeing things (or not) now — do provide some disturbing parallels into how these incidents happen, and get so out of control. Most disturbing, perhaps, to those who want to see Carmel’s basketball players, coaches and school administrators hanging in the courtyard at dawn is how the 1998 case ended up being resolved.

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Actually, the most direct parallel is with the three seniors being investigated for assaulting two freshman teammates Jan. 22 on a bus trip back from a game in Terre Haute, a 100-mile trip. Like in that case, the victim apparently never stepped forward for whatever reason (in the swimmer’s case, fear that no one would believe three well-liked teammates would do such a thing), and the apparent assaults came to light only when the victim was injured badly enough to go to the hospital, which reported the injuries to the state’s Child Protective Services division.

In each case, coaches and administrators initially appeared to either not believe the victim or failed to appreciate the gravity of the situation. According to WISH-TV, the swimming coach told the freshman, when he complained, to tough it out, that a little “horseplay” was part of being a freshman. In the basketball case, Carmel principal John Williams went on television — WISH-TV, to be exact — to note that, even after a police report on the alleged assault was released, “I’m still pretty comfortable with what happened on that bus and our knowledge of what happened on that bus.” Depending on how the case develops, that sentence could be his career epitaph. (After all, the three seniors were suspended from school and the team for whatever happened on that bus.)

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However, Williams might be OK in the end. In the swimming case, then-coach Tony Young was charged with failing to report a crime — but those charges eventually were dismissed. The swimmers never faced criminal charges. The lawsuit against the school and the swimmers, filed in 2002, was settled for an undisclosed amount soon before trial was scheduled to begin, according to WISH-TV.

One incident in 1998 and another in 2010 do not a pattern of violent hazing behavior make. However, each case shows a common pattern in any school where such an incident emerges: victims are afraid to speak out, coaches don’t want to hear it, and administrators are either left in the dark, intentionally or by their own desire to not hear anything they will have to recite later in a deposition.

That’s why I’m calling for everyone across these Internets who are screaming cover-up to can it. Hazing cases are notoriously difficult to investigate, because you have a lot of potential witnesses, and you have a lot of people who don’t want to say what they’ve seen. (A reason cited as to why the prosecutor in Grand Rapids, Mich., elected not to file criminal charges in a hazing case involving a high school cross country team.)

No doubt, the authorities in Carmel don’t want a bruise on the Indianapolis suburb’s well-polished image as a high-class, desirable place to live. But if no charges end up being filed, if no coach or administrator loses his or her job, it will be a testament to police and administrative incompetence and/or witnesses refusing to say exactly what they know.

On the other hand, those across these Internets, including Carmel’s own city attorney, who are screaming about how the mean ol’ media is attacking the Bestest City in the Universe and harassing poor, innocent high school kids also need to can it. Without the media attention, it’s doubtful there would be a police investigation in the first place. Maybe that’s what those screamers wanted. If there’s any “cover up,” it’s going to come from community pressure to get basketball players and other witnesses not to talk, not an orchestrated campaign by the police.

(Oh, by the way, Carmel lost at home tonight in its own sectional to neighboring Indianapolis ‘burb Westfield, so everybody’s season is over, not just that of the four seniors.)

“I am not a role model”

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Remember when bad-boy Charles Barkley told us he wasn’t paid to be a role model? That parents should be role models? And by the way, parents, you could be great role models if you buy my shoes?

It was a controversial message in 1993 — kids look up to you, Charles, and not just because you’re tall! — but it’s been reinforced in spades these past few weeks.

First, there was Michael Phelps, suckin’ the bong.

Now there are two stories, one huge, and one developing.

The huge one, as you probably guessed, is Alex Rodriguez’s admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003, an admission goosed out of him by an SI.com report that his was one of the 104 samples that tested positive for two anabolic steroids in 2003.

Rodriguez told ESPN’s Peter Gammons that he started taking PEDs after signing a $250 million contract with Texas, that he felt pressure to live up to the contract and being baseball’s greatest player, and that, hey, the other cool kids were doing it. (I’ll let others dissect the connection between Rodriguez easily folding under the pressure of his contract to his easily folding under the pressure of the playoffs.) The surprise here was that Rodriguez had an image of being clean. A self-absorbed asshole, but clean.

My gosh, what do we tell the children?

The developing story is Dwyane Wade’s divorce, which is nasty, nasty, nasty, and undermining his image as a clean-living, religious, family man. Basically, based on the papers being filed in the divorce from his high-school sweetheart and the allegations of a former business associate, that image is Bizarro Wade.

The allegations (all denied by Wade’s people): he gave his wife STD’s; he had pot-and-sex parties (hey, Michael Phelps wants to know when he gets invited); he’s pretty much abandoned his children; he’s a lousy businessman.

What do we tell the children?

Well, first we tell them their charter school isn’t named after him anymore.

The Rodriguez thing seems not to have sent the nation’s youth into a tailspin. The steroid discussion in baseball has gone on so long, and will go on so much longer, the biggest conversation with kids is not to tell them tearfully that their hero is made of clay. It’s to tell them, and their parents, that maybe going all-in on dreams of a baseball career might not be a good idea if even the league’s best player thinks you need performance-enhancing drugs to get by. President Obama said during his news conference last night that the lesson is there are “no shortcuts,” but he’s wrong: there ARE shortcuts, and the question is whether it’s worth it to take them. After all, most young players who try steroids still aren’t going to get near the major-league level.

The Wade thing is a little more personal for me because my kids are more than likely (unless we win the lottery to pay for private school) going to go to his old high school, which happens to have a new basketball court paid for by Wade, er, one of his sponsors. He even got Kanye West, who went to a nearby high school, and Jennifer Hudson to show up for the dedication.

I know the superintendent for Wade’s old high school, and he has talked glowingly of how nice Wade is, and how great it was to deal with his family. Wade is still very involved with ol’ Richards High, coming back to watch his school win a state championship, and filming a shoe commercial there.

Heck, my wife once struck up a conversation with Wade’s mom at the UPS Store while she was shipping his trophies to Miami.

Fortunately, the Wade situation doesn’t seem to be filtering to the youth of America, and not to the youth of my household.  (UPDATE, JUNE 4, 2009: Wade has filed a libel suit against his old business associate over the pot-and-sex party claims. And, previously, the allegations in the divorce case about giving his wife STDs were dropped.)

What would I tell them if they asked? Well, that just because somebody is a sports star doesn’t make them a good person, and just because somebody does bad things doesn’t mean they can never be a good person. And that athletes and celebrities are not role models.

So says Charles Barkley, who should know.

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