Missouri HS Coach Fired For Controversial Remarks At Practice

On Friday, the head coach for the Rock Bridge, Hickman, and Battle high school swim teams, Laura Wacker, was fired after allegedly making some controversial comments to her swimmers during Rock Bridge and Hickman’s morning practice. In the wake of her absence, her former assistant coach Zach Mertens will take over as head coach.

Although neither Hickman High School athletic director J.D. Coffman and Columbia Public School community relations director Michelle Baumstark provided a reason for the personnel change, both confirmed Wacker’s dismissal. According to one anonymous member of the team, tension began to build among the swimmers after a small group of them violated a “Dead Week” rule imposed by the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

The rule outlines restrictions on practices in the seven-day period before the season begins, essentially banning any training done under a club or high school coach. This includes activities such as clinics, camps, or group lessons. The five swimmers who violated the rule were suspended from their next six meets, as well as barred from working in any camps, clinics, or group lessons the week leading up to the State Championships on February 19th and 20th.

The swimmer stated that an argument broke out on Friday after six members of the team approached the suspended swimmers about the ruling. Wacker caught wind of the disagreement and stopped practice to address the situation. She then allegedly made comments disparaging the MSHSAA and the rules, comparing the five suspended swimmers to holocaust victims and their rule-abiding counterparts to German citizens who stood idle during the atrocities. According to the swimmer, the incident lasted between 20-30 minutes.

When asked for comment, Wacker said that she was still processing the information.

“I am sorry to say that I don’t even know what to say at this point,” she said. “I am shocked at the events that transpired yesterday after practice and the fact that my coaching staff and I were not asked to address the comments about what occurred at practice before the decision to fire me was handed down.”

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The “dead week” rule is absurd, as was the punishment handed out to the swimmers who broke the rule. The overreaction by the HS for her comments (firing the coach) seems about in line w the pattern, though comparing the punishment to holocaust victims is a bit of a stretch.

My Way

Agree completely with you, Bobby. The punishment was excessive. And to fire a coach over her remarks is also draconian. She has a freedom of speech. In her opinion, she did not agree with the swimmers’ punishment. She used an analogy when trying to explain. The analogy may have been extreme, but who hasn’t made an extreme analogy to make a point. Yes, there may have been more appropriate ways to handle the situation. She could have told the kids that while she does not agree with the dead week rule, at this point the team needs to abide by the rule. Maybe coaches should meet to discuss the merits of the rule, and also to discuss appropriate punishments for… Read more »

Swim mom

What is currently controversial and questionable is the fact that these swimmers broke a rule, the rule everyone else had to follow. But they are allowed to return just in time for the last meet of the season, the high school state championship meet. So while all the other swimmers
are working out with their high school coaches, these individual swimmers were getting elite training with their club at the University of Missouri. it places them at an advantage to the regular high school swimmer. MSSHAA
has made a spectacle of our state swim program and its a shame! Hopefully this will bring about a discussion to abolish the dead week for the sport of swimming!


Sounds like changes should be made to where “elite coaching” is available to all swimmers the entire season.