High School Coach Fired Over Inappropriate Text Messages

Paul Silverzweig, 60, swim team coach at Rogers High School in Newport, R.I., was fired due to allegations that he sent inappropriate text messages to students, The Newport Daily News reports

School Committee Chairman Richard Gomes told The Daily News, “It’s being investigated, but we had to remove him due to the nature of the allegations against him. I don’t think it was anything physical in nature. The extent of what we are aware of at this time is inappropriate text messages and phone messages.”

On Jan. 13, School Committee members were notified by the superintendent that Silverzweig sent unprofessional text messages to female swimmers. School Committee member Robert Leary told the Daily News, “The police were alerted. The parents have been contacted and all swim team members were interviewed by the principal and staff.”

“I used profanity,” Silverzweig said to the Daily News on Jan. 14. “My problem is I’m old and I text as if I’m talking to you. As a result, you miss my tone of voice. I can understand where the parents might get bent out of shape over it.”

Silverzweig spoke openly with The Daily News about the incidents that prompted his firing. 

“What happened, there was an issue at practice,” Silverzweig said. “One kid was happy to be swimming the backstroke. The other kid beat that kid. The kid went home and said, ‘I’m always second to that girl.’ Now he’s going take me out of backstroke.’ The dad called me and met with me,” Silverzweig said.

“He said, ‘My daughter is very upset about being cut out of backstroke.’ I said, ‘I didn’t tell her she’s being cut out.’ I ended up talking to her after I talked to her father. The other kid, who is the rival, is a year older. I wanted to talk to her as well. She had English class or something and didn’t have time,” he continued. 

“I texted back, ‘F– you and everybody who looks like you. That’s Southern French — I know it’s a weird dialect.’ I shouldn’t have written that,” Silverzweig said. “I knew it as soon as I sent it and I apologized immediately. But it’s the way it went. That’s the kind of thing I would say to an adult. It’s meant tongue-in-cheek and not to give offense,”  The Daily News reported.

Silverzweig had several incidents that included texting swimmers at 10:30pm, yelling at swimmers on the pool deck, and other questionable messages. 

Silverzweig explained to the Daily News, “I’m sure I probably came off poorly to more than one of the kids. I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t go cursing a lot to kids. I was trying to get them to be responsible and motivate them. Coaches sometimes use curse words around the kids. Teachers probably don’t. Coaches aren’t supposed to, but they do. I was even told that by one of the football coaches. It’s inappropriate. I agree.”

Silverzweig coached both the girls and the boys, who practiced together. He says that he regrets losing the position he enjoyed over poorly worded text messages. In addition to his coaching duties, Silverzweig was also a substitute teacher.

“I’m probably not going to ever text for the next five or six years,” he said. 

Newport This Week reported that Karl Manger will now coach the team.

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3 months ago

Rule #3 for texting athletes: Ask yourself “will this text end up being a story on SwimSwam?” Apparently he didn’t read the rules.

Reality Bites
3 months ago

If your kids can’t even handle being cussed at a little, how in the hell are you going to have the mental fortitude to overcome real obstacles in life? This is ridiculous. Admittedly, it’s an odd thing to say. He obviously felt way too comfortable around his kids, but my god have a little resilience. The coddling you demand of young people today isn’t helping them, it’s hurting them. And don’t @ me with the lame “you approve of verbal abuse of children”. Bullshit, it’s tough live in a lot of cases and there is a difference. We live in a very hard world, and you don’t do teenagers any favors by treating them like they’re made of tissue paper.

Reply to  Reality Bites
3 months ago

So you’re saying that if an athlete tells their coach to go f*** themselves, there should be no consequences? Because those coaches are hardened and prepared to deal with those “real world” obstacles?

FWIW – I’ve had a job for a long time, and not once in my life has any colleague told me to go f*** myself.

Reply to  Reality Bites
3 months ago

Absurd comment. I don’t pay a coach or the school district to cuss at my kids. If that’s the best way you know to motivate athletes then you best be finding a new profession. Maybe check out Proactive Coaching.

In my 30+ years of work, I’ve never been addressed in this manner. It’s more suitable to those engaged in a road rage incident. Is that what you mean? Being immature and inappropriate around kids prepares then for interactions with an immature, irrational and belligerent individual?

Time For Barta To Go
3 months ago

Here for the comments. Did not disappoint.

Relay swammer
3 months ago

I can see why the coach might’ve had some swimmers’ phone numbers. I had my (club) coach’s phone number in high school. Sometimes texting is just easier logistically than other forms of communication. But the communication was always so much more professional than this. Cursing, especially in the context of what was clearly an ad hominem attack, seems totally inappropriate.

Carol Macphail
3 months ago

Wah wah. Oh and he yelled??? Big deal

Reply to  Carol Macphail
3 months ago

Said the Karen with no kids.

Swim Parent
3 months ago

My son’s head swim coach for high school and club violated safe sport just about daily including cussing at the youngest swimmers. He ran his team like it was a fraternity including hazing. He is still the head coach since the adults in charge lack the judgement to protect the children being abused by this man. Thankfully, when we found out what he was doing, we moved our son to a safe program with responsible adults in charge.

3 months ago

Is my daughter’s club team the only team that requires a parent cc’d on any txting between coach and athlete? I get every practice change, sets, etc between my daughter and coach. Isn’t this a safe sport best practice?

Reply to  Swimpop
3 months ago

I believe so. Other clubs do it too.

Same Same
Reply to  Swimpop
3 months ago

Exactly. I thought SafeSport rules meant coaches aren’t allowed to text a child under 18 unless parent is also cc’ed

Reply to  Same Same
3 months ago

In this case, he was a high school coach and not a club coach. I’m not sure if this situation actually falls under the safesport umbrella, even though that practice should have been applied anyway.

Reply to  sven
3 months ago

This probably doesn’t fall under the SafeSport umbrella, as there is no evidence that he’s the athlete’s club coach.

If this were a club interaction, the policy would actually be the MAAPP interruptability policy. Believe it or not, I can’t find anything in MAAPP or the Code of Conduct that prevents a coach from telling an athlete to f*** themselves, unless it became so extreme as to rise to a level of child abuse.

My suspicion based on previous conversations with SafeSport people is that if presented to USA Swimming, they would likely have a phone call with the coach to correct the behavior but not go through SafeSport proceedings.

Coach Pete
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 months ago

I’d say correcting the behavior would have been the proportional response… a coach I work with swam for this guy at college, and says he is fond of quoting things, everything from Einstein and Newton to Yoda from Star Wars and other movies and songs… this was a quoted remark… I’m sure the guy meant no harm…

It also says primarily female kids received inappropriate texts, and my colleague points out that there were 3 times as many female swimmers as male on the team(s) and that the texts were mostly about schedules and technique coaching for individual kids, but that the guy likes to talk to the kids as adults, and if a kid shows up to practice… Read more »

Corn Pop
3 months ago

If he said ‘ yeah but that kid has it & you don’t’ , Newport parents would also call the police .