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.”