Monday, July 16, 2012

Catching Up

I go away for a few days, and miss so many bloggable moments. First came the comments from Tyler Clary, which this blog has already covered satirically. Then, in news more tangential but no less important, the Freeh report on Penn State and their handling of Jerry Sandusky. In an attempt to catch up, I'm going to hit on a few of last weeks topic in random, attention deficit fashion. 

I was struck in reading Tyler Clary's comments at just how common they are. Who hasn't been on a swim team where there is tension between a swimmer who "outworks" another, faster swimmer. I mean, it's practically impossible to avoid. There is little inherent drama in what Clary said. Maybe he does "work harder" than Phelps. I often find, however, that swimmers tend to rationalize their own definition of hard work that includes mostly what they do and is naturally exclusive of others. What made this dramatic were the ego's at play. Clary's ego is caught up in his "work" rather than results, of which Michael Phelps has far more. He would be wise to remember there are many insanely hard working (maybe harder working than Tyler Clary, even) swimmers that never sniff his level of success. If Phelps was actually upset afterwards, which he has not publicly indicated that in anyway. Rumors have always swirled that Clary and Phelps have a cold relationship and their body language in Omaha certainly suggested as much.

As for the Freeh report, I was happy to read such a thorough investigation of how far Penn State had gone astray to protect its institution rather than the children Jerry Sandusky was molesting. I felt wistful that such a thorough internal investigation will never happen within USA Swimming. When I was in Omaha, Chuck Wielgus and I missed meeting up several times, very understandable given both the magnitude of the event and the wildfires threatening Colorado Springs. Since meeting in December we have kept lines of communication open, although we still remain far apart on many issues. The Freeh report is a reminder that he benefits from how small time the entire sport of swimming is in comparison to one big time university and their football program. The size of Penn State has meant far more light has been shed on how the system failed so mightily- and the level of accountability for those in power has been far greater as a result. When I met with Wielgus in December he was particularly upset that I had posted a blog with his picture alongside Joe Paterno. I never pressed him on why- perhaps he considered Paterno's passing along up the chain of information on Sandusky far worse than his own.

In Omaha, I finally realized that the process of cultural change on this issue will be generational and slow. I am hopeful that the rising generation of swimming power brokers has a predominately appropriate view of coach/swimmer relationships and won't accept in their ranks what this current generation has. Greater visibility of the issue, through media coverage online, is painful. It also reveals a willingness by the community to hold coaches more accountable. That's all I'll have to say on this issue for a while- the following weeks check back for the lead up to London!


  1. wow! powerful, hard-hitting stuff! floswimming might be gone, but swimswam & the swim brief have more than filled the void.

    1. Thank you. And Chris...

  2. Haha. Wait, who is the dark side in this joke? USAS or Swimswam?

  3. I know I walked away from coaching a HS program because I didn't like the way the head coach interacted with our swimmers...made me feel "creepy" though I had no hard evidence on anything. Coincidentally, he's now on his 6th and 7th assistants in the three years since.

    But like you said, swimming is small time. They don't practice on campus, and the parents (who aren't ever at a practice) haven't said anything, so the drum beats on. Coaches of other teams in the area have gotten the same vibe, and have stopped inviting him to meets. There's no clear way to deal with those types of people, at the HS, summer league, USA Swimming, or any other level.