Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How is This Controversial? MIssy Franklin and High School Swimming

Last week, in the comments section of Swimswam's coverage of Missy Franklin's first high school meet, the haters came out. They suggested that the five time Olympic gold medalist should not be swimming high school. One poster, commenting under the name "Concerned Mom" said Missy was creatring an "unfair" advantage for the "vastly overrated" Regis Jesuit High school team. The comments were so hyperbolic that they were easily dismissed as the rantings of some online troll. Rational people everywhere could breath a sigh of relief. That is, until yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled "I Have to Swim Against Her?".

The subtitle proceeds "Missy Franklin is racing for her high school- which is fun unless you have to face her". The article goes on to air the sour grapes of a rival high school swim coach and swimmers. I'll reproduce a few quotes here and you can see if they go along with "Concerned Mom" above:

"She won so many gold medals. I don't know what you're there to prove." -Tiffany Bae, a mother of a swimmer on the rival team (Cherry Creek High School)

"I don't particularly like that she's swimming at state" -Alex Bae, Tiffany Bae's daughter

"If they didn't have her, they had no chance of winning" -Cherry Creek coach Eric Craven

"I don't know why Michael Phelps insists on competing, it's really unfair for the rest of us" -Every other swimmer at the Olympics ever.

I only made up one of those quotes! Now, to be fair there is some chance that the Bae's and coach Craven lacked the media savvy to understand how quotes could be selected out of context. The same goes for former Cherry Creek Swimmer and National teamer Bonnie Brandon, who added the somewhat less inflammatory "It's really frustrating when Missy kind of shines above everything" which is the kind of comment I imagine some lesser known pop starlet making about Taylor Swift.

I have some advice for all of the above, not that they asked for it. Take a few deep breaths and find a way to see how awesome this is. The closest I ever came to this experience in my swimming career was in 1999, when in my high school sectional meet I got to race a handful of strokes a lane over from Erik Vendt (50 breaststroke on a 200 medley relay). Now, Vendt was not a star on the order of Missy Franklin, and he was still a year away from making his first Olympics. But it was clear he was pretty special at this point. Let me tell you something about that race: it was awesome. I got beat soundly and it was AWESOME!

Count me among the people who are a little bit uncomfortable with those who extrapolate all sorts of other greatness about Missy from her swimming ability. I've never met her, but she definitely seems nice. The one thing I am sure of is that she is a phenomenal swimmer, and her amazing ability doesn't take anything away from anyone else she competes against. So please, let's all stop being so "concerned" about her swimming for her High School team.


  1. Yes everything is fine and dandy and Missy has every right to compete for her high school team...so maybe you should explain why Michael was never allowed to swim for his college team? Basically, it's the same thing - you have a person whose skills are well above the rest and who gives his team tremendous advantage. The only difference is Michael took the money and Missy refused the money she was offered. Double standards.

    1. Its not the same thing at all....Michael took the money. That's the only explanation needed. Had he not, he would have been swimming NCAA.

    2. Michael never went to college full time.

    3. How is it a double standard when you listed the reason, as defined by NCAA rules, yourself? Is it really double standard to follow the rules? Then the right standard is to skew them however they fit us? Missy has passed on plenty of money offers just to keep her college eligibility, which is quite awesome. Some other National teamers, recently, decided to go pro and skip college swimming (Dagny Knutson being the most prominent example).
      I'm just baffled at how someone would list the rule itself and call it a double standard for crying out loud!!!

  2. HATERS - i think it is simply wonderful that in colorado swimming coach Todd has been able to have club & HS coexist. This doesn't really exist anywhere else that I know of. Others that I've observed, Dave Walters & Ian Crocker, have had to pack up their bags once they hit a certain level and opt for club only as HS doesn't permit the type of training required to perform and excel at the international level. What they are also opting for is leaving their peers and losing an extremely vital social development piece of their young-adulthood which is very unfortunate. Missy, and the rest of Colorado, is extremely fortunate to have this once in almost never opportunity to watch a kid support & engage with her peers and represent her academic institution - ALL WHILE TURNING AWAY FROM MILLIONS IN ENDORSEMENTS!

    Those who get it get it, those who don't hate. Boooo to those who speak ill of what she is able to accomplish with her HS. Try instead to live up to the unseen and unheard of example she is setting. Don't we beg of that from our adult contemporary athletes and pop icons!?!

    Shame on those that don't get it, and rather than consider all persectives choose to insult and demean.

    Yay, to Missy. I wish her the best of luck for the rest of her career.

  3. Chris, your long-ago former coach here. It's been fun following you here, and I couldn't agree with you more on the above. It's an honor and a privilege to compete with someone who is heads and shoulders above us, especially when he's/she's such a positive face for the sport. Swimming is a process-oriented sport if there ever was one, and competing against faster athletes makes us better in the long run, even if we eat wake in the process. Haters can put aside their sour grapes and be grateful that they have a front-row seat to watch Missy race.
    Thanks for this post, and best of luck this season!
    Merideth Cox (Ostrer)

    1. Meredeth,

      Thanks for giving me a ride to practice every day for what was still the most fun swimming season I ever had!

  4. And St. Vincent-St. Mary's wouldn't be good without Lebron James, neither would the patriots without Tom Brady, the Yankees without Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig (or Lance Armstrong and steroids).

    You can't take the best athletes off the team and say it wouldn't be the same, that's too easy. Would there be as much a stink being raised if she swam for a HS where the only points they would get would be from her individual event victories? I would venture to guess, no.

    The fact that the whiners, er, haters even have the opportunity to voice their frustrations NATIONALLY is because of her status. Their dual meets would receive little to no press and for some, it would reduce the visibility to colleges. If the state meet was being shown on ESPN 3 (or The Ocho don't have my ESPN programming schedule in front of me), some college coaches wouldn't be able to watch. This exposure is bigger long term and this sense of entitlement to your time in the sun is ridiculous. She is eligible, plain and simple.

    Shut up and swim.