Shoulberg: “I haven’t done anything wrong”

For the first time since leaving the pool deck almost two months ago, Germantown Academy head coach Dick Shoulberg spoke on the record to Philly.com about what he’s terming a ‘leave of absence’.

“I haven’t done anything wrong, other than being 741/2 and looking people in the eye and telling them, ‘You’re wrong,’ ” Shoulberg said to the Philadelphia Enquirer. ”

“I know I’m old. But I’m efficient and old,” he said. “My girls’ team last year broke the [national] record” in the 400-yard freestyle relay.”

On November 15th, Claire Crippen and Chris Lear were officially announced to the team as interim head coaches, marking the first time since the program started in 1969 that anyone other than Shoulberg held a title of head coach for the teams.

Neither the school or Shoulberg have elaborated on the specific circumstances (we were able to confirm the interim appointments with school officials, but little else). There have been allegations of bullying and hazing within the team, and while there has been some suggestion from Germantown alumni that this is related to Shoulberg’s absence, we have been unable to draw a link between the two from any official sources.

Shoulberg’s desire to remain a part of the Germantown program is strong based upon his comments. He also told the Enquirer that “I have no desire to ever coach anywhere but GA…I’ve been offered positions – ‘Come coach with us now.’ No. I’m GA. That’s it. I’m not changing anything in my life.”

He spoke that even if it was in a reduced role from head coach, he just wanted to continue to be a part of the program that he spent over 40 years building into one of the country’s most revered high school programs.



  1. fight club says:

    if this is your first night at fight club, you’ve got to

  2. Mikal W. Grass says:

    I don’t know the Coach, but having closely observed the machinations of a local private school and how the swimmers’ parents expect their children to be treated (solely because the parents are forking over 10s of thousands of dollars a year) it wouldn’t surprise me if a parent was offended at the way his or her child was spoken to. It also wouldn’t surprise me if GA wanted “younger” blood or if an administrator is flexing his or her muscle, only because they can.

    Someone needs to follow the money.

    • Anonycat says:

      Mikal, as a student who currently attends to Germantown
      Academy, I can tell you we aren’t really allowed to disclose
      anything, but I will tell you that Shoulberg is not to blame. He
      did not haze. He did not bully. You may speculate all you want but
      Shoulberg helped the kids–he didn’t hurt them.

    • Mike Gentilucci says:

      I’m not disagreeing with the comment about parents, I’ve
      seen some of that myself, but the speculation about the
      administration at GA makes no sense. Why would you want “younger
      blood” when Shoulberg’s girls broke the national record last year?
      Clearly he’s still effective, and clearly the administration knows
      that many of the best swimmers in the region are attracted to GA
      because they want to swim for Dick. The man is a legend. To the
      kids below, I find the “I can’t comment” bit a bit strange. Can you
      really get in trouble for speaking your mind?

      • Mike Gentilucci says:

        More I would say the today’s culture and climate have a tendency to go perhaps too far in terms of the school and the administration protecting their own ass. They’ll call it standard procedure when something like this happens. It is highly questionable however whether this was necessary, or the best thing to do for the students, but let’s be real, it’s not about the students so much is it is about protecting GA from any possible lawsuit.

  3. s gomez says:

    m. grass, i share your opinion exactly. i’ve seen similar things happen at many private schools, not necessarily with the swim coach but with coaches and teachers who are highly revered by the school and community.

    one more thing to add, typically a school administration doesn’t neccesarily understand swimming, and while shouldberg is a legendary swim coach in the swimming world and doing anything to scoot him out of power is viewed as blasphemous to us, we can’t expect the school to feel the same way.

    so yeah, interesting to see how this plays out. i hate to make the comparison, but isn’t this just the slightest bit similar to mark bernadino situation? maybe i only mention this because of how close the 2 were and the i’ve met one through the other

  4. Bill Thompson says:

    GA Board and Administrators, shame on you. Coach Shoulberg has dedicated his career to this program and done a Hall of Fame, unmatched job of creating a powerhouse while developing character in his athletes. He would be welcome at any club, any high school. The problem is not with Coach.

  5. DutchWomen says:

    One of the reasons I have a love/hate relationship with this sport….Parents of the new upper class that don’t understand old school work ethic and can’t handle a coach telling their little Johnny or Suzy “no” or “we can do better,” or “you are wrong,” as Shoulberg said.

    This is the world Shoulberg is dealing with – http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/local/2013/11/09/washington-a-world-apart/

    Check out the mainline in Philly and where GA is specifically….drawing from PA’s most affluent and highly educated zip codes, these parents and kids are used to getting what they want, when they want it, and they don’t care if they run over a coaching legend in the process.

    I am all about coach owned programs – a parent board is a recipe for disaster – it just takes one pretentious kid with one parent who thinks Sally can do no wrong and BAM, you’re done as a coach. Coaches – own it baby, and show them the door on the way out when they don’t want to work in your program.

  6. Mikal W. Grass says:

    Bill, GA is a private school so they can play by a different set of rules than a public school does. Yes, shame on them but I think they don’t really care especially if budgets are tight and they can get two younger coaches for the price of one older coach.

    As S. Gomez stated, most school administrators do not understand swimming or swimmers. Most school administrators want a successful swim team but even then, they along with many of the students in the school, cannot fathom why swimmers do what they do. One of my law school buddies told me that when he was in high school and college, he and his wresting teammates hated swimmers because they could eat whatever they wanted and still parade around in a small bathing suit. I told him that I liked wrestling but never understood why a person would run around a track for hours in a plastic or rubber sweat suit, prior to weigh in.

    I didn’t read the article closely enough to see if DS is being paid during his “leave of absence.” If he is, then this is a push to get rid of him but they do not know how to properly do it. If not, then somebody did something wrong.

  7. GAMom says:

    As a parent of a student who attends and swims at GA, I feel I need to speak about the tenor of the comments that are being posted. Many of them have speculated that the issue is with affluent and overbearing parents who are demanding that their child be given a leg up. This only proves that the people who post these comments have no clue as to how Shoulberg runs his program- he would never stand for petty nonsense and the school doesn’t either. I’m tired of the comments saying that rich spoiled kids attend these schools and are stamping their feet when they don’t get what they want. We are a family that scrapes by to put our child through GA and academically it was the best decision we could have made. Our child has blossomed athletically as well, but this was purely by chance since we entered in the fourth grade. We would like to see Shoulberg reinstated, or at the very least, be able to retire on his own terms, but the community must know there were serious issues that were dealt with properly by the school leading up to this baffling series of events. The parents of the swim team have no idea what has been going on behind the scenes, but Coach Lear and Coach Crippen have been doing an incredible job of training the kids and keeping morale up. At the end of the day, the focus must be on this incredible group of hard working young men and women who continue to honor the tradition of the Germantown Academy Aquatics Club. Long Live GAGV and GABV!

  8. Mary Ellen says:

    This makes no sense – and the comment above doesn’t make
    any sense – about very serious issues that no one knows about but
    somehow resulted in Shoulberg being fired. He was a wonderful coach
    - and always taught me to look out for the next generation of
    swimmers (that was back in 1989 when he coached me on the National
    Team). This whole situation stumps me – he’s touched so many lives
    - that’s why so many people across the country are wondering

    • GAMom says:

      Mary Ellen,
      Shoulberg has not been fired, he is on a leave of absence. As to the serious issues, GA AND Shoulberg dealt with them. We as parents are baffled as to why the next step of him being placed on leave occurred. I don’t want to overstep my boundaries here since minors are involved.

  9. cheri says:

    I have known Dick Shoulberg for 49 years. At the age of 4
    he was my first coach at Mermaid Lake. I can’t say much more about
    Dick that hasn’t already been so eloquently put in the letter: “an
    Open Letter, An Open Life” written by Chuck Warner and the notes to
    follow his letter. Please check out, SHARE, LIKE and SIGN the
    petition on the two new links to help support the reinstatement of
    Coach Shoulberg to Germantown Academy.
    and https://www.facebook.com/reinstatedickshoulberg

  10. former teacher and alum says:

    I am sadden by this news and hope the students who were involved are truly healing and receiving the support they need. GA is a place I consider home. While Shoulburg is a legend, GA is a school I know first hand puts its students first and foremost. The school may have had to make a difficult decision based on the severity of the incident. With that said, I Hope and Pray that GA will reconsider and reinstate Shoulberg as head swimming coach. He has coached and inspired countless swimmers, is as genuine as anyone can be and is a respected leader among our community. His dedication to our school should be proof enough.

  11. DutchWomen says:


    So reading between the lines – some kids couldn’t get their acts together and Shoulberg was the scapegoat – how is that any different than what I said? Forget holding the kids accountable….just blame the coach! When little Suzy or Bobby can do no wrong, we all have lost.

    • GAMom says:

      The fact of the matter is, there are people who are more apprised about the situation that yourself and you need to understand that the school is acting this way because there is more to this than the public knows. All I will say is, there was SERIOUS abuse involved within the team, the situation was handled by Shoulberg and GA , and now there are detectives and the District Attorney involved, and the school has been gagged by lawyers. Trust me when I say there is more to this than Bobby or Suzy stamping their feet because they didn’t get their way. Stop blaming the kids for not having their act together, because the fact is, it took a lot for these kids to step forward to stop this pattern of behavior.

  12. Jim Green says:

    I am a 69 year old masters swimmer and Coach. Being from Penna I have known Coach Shoulberg my whole adult life. He has been unstinting in his time when I was setting up some dryland programs for some local colleges. He is a true legend in blending dryland training with swimming fast. I don’t know what has happened at GA but I would suspect it goes deeper than some spoiled kids. Let’s be honest, spoiled kids don’t last long in competative swimming. I think we should all push hard for his reinstatement and hope he is alloweed to finish this great career with dignity and on his own terms. Jim Green

  13. Tim Manley says:

    I don’t know Coach Shoulberg, met him once briefly at an ASCA convention. I do know one of his former swimmers very well and he told me about some of his sets that sound insane and I’m sure he’s tough, that works for some kids and not for others! Either way, I heard a great quote once that I’ve never forgotten!

    “The problem with parents in swimming is, sometimes they just get in the way of swimming!”

    Just another club with power issues that just happened to affect a great coach!

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