Mass. HS Stripped of Sectional Title After “Club/High School” Overlap Accusations

  107 Braden Keith | October 25th, 2012 | Featured, High School, News

According to the website Boston.com, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletics Association (MIAA) has taken away a Sectional Title from one of the state’s top high school program after they deemed that the Gardner High School girls’ swim team was more of a “club team” than a true high school team.

Several local news outlets are reporting that it was a State Championship stripped, however that would seem inaccurate. After news of the investigation was leaked to Gardner officials, they pulled head coach Don Lemieux from the State Championship meet, causing him to resign his position. In response, many of Gardner’s swimmers chose to skip the meet altogether, and the program that won 16 titles under Lemeiux finished only 24th last year.

The program has been the breeding ground for many of Massachusetts’ best swimmers, including 2000 Olympic gold medalist Samantha (Arsenault) Livingstone.

According to the article, the organization sent a letter to the Gardner High School team that read “The conduct of your swim program has been of concern to the Board for many months . . . it appears that MIAA championships earned by your teams over the years, if this past year is any indication, were achieved by a non-school “club team” rather than an education based high school team.”

The debate over club-versus-high school rages in almost every corner of the country, but is an even hotter topic in the Northeast. There, many states have very careful rules to protect the separation of club and high school sports.

In Massachusetts, for example, there is even a section of the handbook titled “Loyalty to the High School Team: Bona Fide Team Members.” That section reads:

A bona fide member of the school team is a student who is consistently present for, and actively participates in, all high school team sessions (e.g. practices, tryouts, competitions). Bona fide members of a school team are precluded from missing a high school practice or competition in order to participate in a non-school athletic activity/event in any sport recognized by the MIAA. First Offense: Student athlete is suspended for 25% of the season (see chart on Rule 62). Second Offense: Student athlete is suspended for an additional 25% of the season, and is ineligible for tournament play immediately upon confirmation of the violation.

The MIAA Board of Directors cited multiple instances where swimmers skipped high school practice to participate in club activities.

Where the case becomes really peculiar is the claim by the investigators that a roster submitted in August of 2012 “includes only one Gardner High School student who was not connected to the team through school choice, home schooling, or through a cooperating school. This is unusual.”

This statement implies that only a single member of the team would be enrolled in a “traditional” manner at the school. Livingstone, then Samantha Arsenault, wasone of these “school choice” swimmers in her time with the program.

The letter continued that the roster “also reflects that every member of your swim team (with one possible exception) was a member of the Greenwood Swim Club, another suggestion that your team was more reflective of a non-school club team than a school team.”

The team is now on two years’ probation, where further violations could lead to further sanctions.

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107 Comments on "Mass. HS Stripped of Sectional Title After “Club/High School” Overlap Accusations"


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NDB
3 years 9 months ago

What a wild scenario. I am a strong believer in competing for your high school but there is no substitute for year round club training. Is there some sort of minimum requirement for the number of high school workouts a swimmer must attend or is the definition of “consistently present” arbitrary? Club and school programs should be mutually beneficial systems not stuck in a perpetual battle. Both sides need to step back and do right by the athletes and not the systems.

From Mass
3 years 9 months ago

In MA, “Consistently Present” means you can miss HS practice for homework or illness, but not for Club Practice or Junior Nationals.
Additionally, it is up to the HS AD and coaches to enforce, so it’s not consistent from school to school.

ChestRockwell
3 years 9 months ago

This is a huge issue where I coach. Club swimmers are forced to choose between HS and Club. The HS coaches/association won’t let club swimmers compete for the HS unless they exclusively train with said HS. This not only is a detriment to the long term development of the athlete, but hinders the overall level of HS swimming in general. It seems like California has it right.

zz
3 years 9 months ago

California is no better – it depends on what school the athlete attends. Coaches have the final say. High schools in the same school district can have different requirements and some will not allow their athletes to swim Club during HS season.

PBRFridays
3 years 9 months ago

Soooo were there any punishments/follow ups for first and second offences? Just a point of order. Further, I feel that this is just a blanket athletic rule which fits well in football/basketball/baseball programs that just doesn’t mesh with the unique type of training required for the sport of swimming and organization/focus of swimming in the United States. I think the place of highschool swimming is to act as a stage for high-level swimmers to compete at the statewide level and for student-athletes who don’t have the ability and/or time to commit to a club team but they genuinely enjoy swimming so they go out for their less demanding HS team. So highschool swimming is caught between elite swimmers for whom highschool practices are too easy and infrequent and lower level swimmers for which high school practice is perfect. Let the kids swim at the level they want as long as their swimming isnt interfere with schoolwork.

Diana Rugg
3 years 9 months ago

Why are we still getting caught up in this nonsense? This was an issue back in the 1970’s with my club team and high school, and my family was caught up in the drama and tug-of-war for good swimmers that went with it. Club teams were broken up and high school teams wrecked because of it. Kids can’t choose where they go to public school, but they can choose a club team that best fits their needs. We should allow kids to go where they can develop best physically, mentally, and emotionally. If they want to also compete for their schools — often against their club teammates and best friends — more luck to them! Sounds like someone was upset that their son or daughter was beaten by a kid who practices with a club team who did 3x the amount of work and deserved it. Grow up, everyone. It’s about what’s best for the kids — not the schools, the teams, or the childish grown ups who are so outraged by club swimmers winning for their schools.

3 years 9 months ago

While this comment might be valid in some cases, I don’t think it fits given the particulars of this case. From what I can tell, this is basically a club team masquerading as a HS team.

And I never want to pull out the “Did you even read the article!?” card, but you used the phrase “son or daughter” in reference to an article about a girls team.

Coach
3 years 9 months ago

I read in to this a little more on the net. This whole thing was started by one bitter parent with an axe to grind against the coach. Typical overreaction by the school board/school. Unfortunately, the times are a changin and not always for the better.

Here is the article:
http://www.telegram.com/article/20120307/NEWS/103079989/0&template=MOBILE

3 years 9 months ago

Ah, woof. That mom does seem a taaad bit crazy and with a definite vendetta against the coach. (Getting on-deck at that state meet and pushing for her daughter to be captain…that’s just gross.) But I mean, the coach still seems like he was breaking these rules, right? Because if not actually illegal, using that “school choice” loophole to fill Gardner’s HS team with club kids is definitely against the spirit of the bona fide rules.

Diana Rugg
3 years 9 months ago

Yes I read the article, Steve. It is a widespread problem. It crashed my club team back in the 1970s, which had repercussions for my high school team years later because it had been starved of its best swimmers after the club team pulled out. I swam for both. Now I coach, and my kids swim. I would never tell a swimmer he had to swim for me if he (or she) felt there were better options that fit him (or her) personally somewhere else. And I’d expect the same for my children. Most states have some form of this rule (in Florida it was the Chrissy rule while I was growing up) but it is lenient enough to allow flexibility. Don’t be so condescending next time, please.

3 years 9 months ago

I tried not to be too condescending, but I just wanted to keep stuff on-point to this situation. I apologize.

anonymous
3 years 9 months ago

I hate to bring her up in every conversation..but the first person I thought about after reading this was Missy Franklin. Didn’t we spend all summer applauding her about how great it was that she was still willing to swim for her high school team while training for the OLYMPICS? She said herself that she practiced mostly with Todd/STARS, which makes complete sense. So now instead of applauding her, we are accusing her? I know this is about Massachusetts not Colorado, and Missy goes to private not public school. Nevertheless, the concept should be the same. And when taken from the perspective of an Olympian, it shows how ridiculous this rule is.

Corey Coon-Cassily
3 years 9 months ago

I guess this is something I do not understand. I applaud Missy for wanting to and swimming with her high school team. I think she is a great example of an elite swimmer who greatly wants to represent her school and be on a school team and be a great teammate. What if she was in a place that did not allow her to swim for her club team at the same time? What if her high school coach wanted her to do 25’s easy. What if her high school was in a different district than her club team? What if her high school told her she could not compete at the state championship because she competed in an “out of district swim meet” (the Olympics). This has happened in the past.

baxter
3 years 9 months ago

this happened – ian crocker in maine with cheverus hs. he didn’t swm hs 10-12 grade….

3 years 9 months ago

If high school athletic associations continue to make decisions like this that in the end hurt the athlete, we as a swimming community will have to face the same decision soccer recently went through. In September, U.S. Soccer mandated a 10 month season for its club teams, and banned all club athletes from participating in high school soccer. This decision was made to help the overall development of the athlete. We do not want it to come to this.

I love high school swimming, and the peer recognition that it brings for swimmers. However, in a large part of the country high schools do not provide adequate coaching, facilities, or rules that put the athlete and their development first. Unless archaic rules like this one are thrown out of high school swimming, we as clubs (and the swimmers themselves) will have to make a very hard decision to skip high school swimming altogether.

3 years 9 months ago

This is another comment that, while valid in a broader sense, doesn’t really seem to fit with what this article’s talking about. A group of girls from a single club team competing together as a high school against other high school teams is a bit outlandish.

The rules associated with club vs high school swimming are written with the best intentions, but it is hard to either live with them or without them. I can’t think of a perfect solution, but I know I wouldn’t want what this Gardner team did to be acceptable.

barbotus
3 years 9 months ago

To me there are two separate issues that are noted in the article that were cause for the striping of the title. I disagree pretty strongly with one, and I don’t feel like I have enough information for the other.

To me, prohibiting the missing of HS practices to attend club activities, by the state body is misguided. Where I live (northern NJ) this type of prohibition would generally preclude any/most club swimmers from participation in HS swimming. Most HS coaches here have the club swimmers attend the state-mandated minumum number of team practices, and then return to their club practice schedules. It generally benefits all: club swimmers get the training they need, the non-club swimmers get more attention and coaching from the HS coaches, and the HS coaches get to better utilize scarce pool time to train the non-year round swimmers to maximize their potential.

For reasons stated in other comments, year-round club swimmers would be ill-served by skipping club practices for HS practice, and it’s probably unreasonable to expect most to attend both (and still get their schoolwork done). And while it may seem inconsistent, I don’t particularly have an issue if an individual HS district/coach insists that swimmers attend their practices. While I can see where the state making the distinction theoretically levels the playing field, I still just can’t agree.

Not knowing the full story, I’m curious about the second issue. The quote states “… only one student who was not connected to the team through school choice, home schooling, or through a cooperating school.” My questionaing may be the NJ thing. In a broad generalization, most of suburban Northern NJ public school is hometown/district specific. There is not a lot of school choice, other than non-public. Do the other schools in the school choice areas have swim teams? Pools? Do the cooperating schools? Are there other reasons (location, schedule, etc) that students and in particular swimmers are drawn to this particular school? Is the club team the only game in town? Or the “big dog” in the region? While there’s clearly smoke here, I’m not so sure that I completely agree with “club team masquerading as HS team”.

3 years 9 months ago

I mean, there are some ways kid still do both. We used to have club kids swim the first half of HS practices, then they’d leave and go to whatever club they swam for. (Others just took 3 months off from club and swam only HS, some swam in the mornings with their club and afternoons with HS…bunch of random less-than-deal options.) The rule does keep many club kids from swimming high school, which is a bummer, but I thiiiink I’d rather it be that way than just letting the club kids swim in meets, like ringers or something. The same rules kept me from running track and swimming, so I’m not a huge fan either way.

But yeah, found another article that made it seem a little worse from the coach’s POV. This shorter article / video does make it fairly clear that all but one of them were coming from different communities. (One girl from 84 miles away?!) I didn’t even know about the “school choice” thing, and from this page it seems as if it was more to actual take classes at the receiving school, not to just play sports. Taking girls from around the state to swim on your high school team…a lot of the big HS swimming dynasties in MA just got like, super sketchy.

3 years 9 months ago

I think many who comment here do not understand the swimming situation in New England. Gardner is a small town in central Massachusetts. Any high school swimmer wanting to train year round would either train with Don Lemieux or have to travel a far distance to find another club. Top clubs are so limited in New England many swimmers travel an hour or more to and from practice. Don Lemieux is a coach of the level where swimmers actually move to train with him and then either home school or school choice opt for Gardner High School. This is not a club team ‘masquerading’ as a high school team, this is national level coach drawing swimmers to his small town and allowing them to swim high school. It would be the same as if NBAC transplants chose to swim high school in Baltimore. We have many high schools in Mass who can’t even field a team because they have no pool and no club to feed their roster. Then Mass has many top club swimmers who opt out of high school swimming because the MIAA rules are so strict participation often means ‘triples’ and 15-20 practices per week, depending on the coaches involved. Shame on the MIAA for discouraging top swimmers from also swimming high school just because in this small town they are also on the same club.

3 years 9 months ago

Having been one of those kids who had to travel over an hour to swim club in MA ten years ago, I kinda get it. (I unfortunately couldn’t keep it up very long, because money, but been there either way.)

And I mean, obviously this is all unverified and from a fellow comment on a news article, but it’s got enough specificity that I’m inclined to believe it has some merit:

I’m not an outsider. I had a ringside seat to this whole debacle. My child was a successful and respected swimmer on both teams and I was an active supporter for many years – until everything blew up. For a bit of clarification: the issues are not as they have been spun. Having Club swimmers on the team wasn’t the problem: it was having the team be open to only club swimmers & actively discouraging other students from joining that was a problem. Having Home-schoolers on the team wasn’t a problem: it was the coach allowing a parent to promote a child from 8th to 9th grade mid-year just to swim that was a problem. It’s not about school choice or schools coming together to form co-ops: it’s that the coach engineered some student’s choices that is problematic. Finally, the practice issue, the problem here is that there wasn’t a real HS team practice: only the club practice that had a portion designated on paper as a HS practice, but that was never run as a HS team practice. I agree that the MIAA is penalizing the wrong people at the wrong time. Over the past year, I have learned that this pattern had been the norm on the GHS team for many years. I think it’s wrong to penalize the administration that finally took charge. It is all the athletic directors, administrators, and school committees that were so blinded by success that they overlooked violations that should be sanctioned. More than anyone else though, it is the coach that so flagrantly violated MIAA rules that should be sanctioned, but he resigned before proper sanctions could be applied. Perhaps he won’t get past the NCAA so easily.

That kinda sounds like a club team masquerading as a high school team. That could all just be from that crazy mom discussed elsewhere, but it seems credible-ish.

(And I don’t think the MIAA would’ve just up and penalized a team just because all of the swimmers happened to swim on the same club – that they all ended up at Gardner High because of the club is what they seemed to take issue with.)

GC
3 years 9 months ago

Steve,

You really don’t understand MIAA. I grew up in MA and sadly do. For a few years they let us do BK starts from out of the water. Last year, the GIRLS state champion in the fall could have been a boy (google it). MIAA really has no idea what they are doing and just knee jerk reaction to anyone who would like to make noise.

I did not swim for Don, nor do I know him personally but I am friends with a lot of coaches who do. In case you are unaware all H.S. swimming team encourage Club swimmers to participate and really don’t care about Non-club swimmers. Look around the country – if a top swimmer misses a practice all hell breaks loose (almost always a club swimmer) but if non point scoring swimmer misses a meet that swimmer may not even be addressed (normally a non club swimmer). These are facts. H.S. swimming is built around winning. Club swimmers help you win because they train 11 months a year and H.S. only swimmers don’t. So often they are faster.
The same goes for Club coaches vs. seasonal coaches. Club coaches are professionals who work 11 months a year with the same kids on a plan that often started when the swimmer was 10. Seasonal coaches work part time and are usually just concerned with winning meets (not the long term development of the swimmer as a person). I will freely admit there are GREAT season coaches that do not have the time or inclination to work year round. The swimmers miss out because of that.
In the end swimmers end up serving too many masters. They either feel no sense of team, limited sense of team (one team matters the others don’t) or they end up having to manage themselves in spite of their coaches. All those scenarios sound awful. Some kids are luck and can do it but most can’t because in the end they are just kids and can’t get any consistent guidance.
To me it is sad what happend to Don – not that he is prob too sad being as he is now in a 50m pool training swimmers in an organization that rewards hard work (USA swimming) vs. a organization that seeks to limit swimmers (MIAA). Don was doing what every other H.S. team in the country always does.

Jcoach
3 years 9 months ago

Steve – I would guess that the quote you put out from an involved parent is the crazy mom who put together a binder full of scrapbook material to get lemieux out when their precious had a run-in with him. She is the only person over the last 8 months or so who has made those kind of statements.

3 years 9 months ago

GC: Yeah, I know all too much about that boy almost winning states last year. (I may be a volunteer coach with Norwood…the boy who broke that sectional record swam for us. Awkwardest coaching moment ever. But that’s a whole ‘nother horrible can of worms.)

The high school versus club thing is a tricky issue and I really don’t know what the right course of action is – I understand why the MIAA put their bona fide team member rules in place, and I understand why they’re problematic. I’ve always been affiliated with high schools that try to follow those rules are closely as possible and we’ve definitely lost swimmers because of it. I know there are plenty of schools that are less strict in their interpretation of those rules and that does kinda grind my gears a little bit, but ain’t no thang. Either way, whatever the kids end up doing, no matter if it’s just swimming for their high school or just for their club or some hybrid combination, I always hope it’s done with the best interest of the kids driving the decision. (Winning high school meets should be fairly far down the list.)

JCoach – Yeah, I’m starting to think that, too. That mom is definitely petty and crazy and probably wrote that comment, but I don’t think that means there weren’t any real issues with how the Gardner program was being run.

Huh?
3 years 9 months ago

Steve, the major issue with the MIAA and the bona fide swimmer rule is that the rules are skewed to punish the club swimmers…

Let’s say a swimmer (John Doe) swims for Club ABC… and goes to XYZ High School… His club coach is planning on going south for the Christmas break to train. John Doe is in a pickle because he can’t skip out on the 4-5 HS practices during that week to go to the 6 day training trip where he will likely get in 11-12 workouts and- this is the key- MAKE HIMSELF A BETTER ATHLETE… If John Doe decides to go south to train, he gets his status as a bona fide member of his team revoked and he can’t compete…

Now let’s say John Doe has a teammate… Fred Smith… Fred only swims HS, and decides over the Christmas break that he’s gonna go out with his buddies, get hammered and crash at some dude’s house… He sleeps in because he’s hungover, and maybe his HS coach gives him a hard time about missing a practice (but probably not as GC said above- he’s unlikely a major point producer and so therefore his coach is less likely to care if he misses a practice)… but he doesn’t lose the right to compete…

The bona fide swimmer rule is CRAZY (and it’s why I’ve always discouraged my athletes to not swim for their MA HS teams). It wears kids down, and isn’t concerned with their beyond the scope of HS swimming goals…

And last point- and I am using caps because this cannot be stated enough… THE MASSACHUSETTS HS SWIMMING FORMAT IS A BLEEPING JOKE. IT’S A TIMED FINALS MEET. THERE ARE TWO DIVISIONS OF BOYS, AND FOUR DIVISIONS OF GIRLS (two in the fall, two in the winter)… ALL FOUR COMBINED COULD BARELY SCRAPE TOGETHER A FAST FINAL HEAT.

Teams have won the meet with FOUR GIRLS competing…

Anyone who would advise a swimmer to put aside their club training to serve the HS team for 3-4 months just to swim at a freaking AGE GROUP MEET is not acting in that individuals best interests. One of the boys divisions has to swim at 7am… SEVEN AM!!! For the TITLE! It’s a complete, utter JOKE.

3 years 9 months ago

Yeah, I know all this. (Even if your examples are a biiiit skewed.) And I mean, another way to look at the bona fide rules is they don’t allow kids to be rewarded for not swimming with their high school all season. The MIAA just didn’t want to hold a bunch of meets where the only kids that qualify were basically ringers. I can see the merit in that, somewhat. People’ll be unhappy no matter what they do…though this site’s readership is a bit skewed to really committed swimmers and against the current rules.

And yeah, the post-season meets are a little less than ideal, but there’s no way to combine the fall and winter girl seasons. (That was one initial proposal to solve the boys issue, but that would’ve killed a lot of teams. No pool time.) They should definitely combine all the divisions for the state meet though, those don’t make much sense to me any more.

Corey Coon-Cassily
3 years 9 months ago

I’m sorry but this is another one I do not understand. I get that you are in favour of high school swimming, and I have ABSOLUTLY nothing against that. However, I do not get this, or a lot of other HS only arguments. If you want to hold a HS only swim meet, fine. No problem with that at all. But again blaming others for working above and beyond? Do not understand that. Basically ringers? Again, those who put in more and harder work are bad? I do not understand that. If we want people to only represent HS that they actually should and do attend, I am all for that. Not a swimming issue, a school district issue. Skewed towards really committed swimmers? Again yes, don’t see that as bad. (And yes, MIAA saying it is good to have boys swim during girls season is a MAJOR point against you guys!) Would I be ok with a high school championship with only swimmers who trained at high school practices? Yes. Would it be the best championship that included and recognized the most people? No. Again, I would be OK with that.

3 years 9 months ago

I definitely support HS swimming, but I don’t unequivocally support the bona fide rules. I do like the idea that whoever’s swimming in meets for a team also practices with that team, but I would appreciate the added competition having more year-round swimmers swimming HS would afford. (Faster swimming breeds faster swimming, so that might end up being better for everyone.) The “really committed swimmers” point I made was just about the general demographic of this site, nothing about MA swimmers.

And I mean, I’m not “blaming (club swimmers) for working above and beyond,” I just understand the reasoning behind the rules not allowing kids to practice away from their HS teams but still swim in HS meets as a full member of the team. (And, I mean, there’s no guarantee club kids are working “above and beyond” their HS counterparts. On the whole, yeah, probably.) I kinda do and don’t like how “ringers” fits in this argument. Via Wikipedia: the term now applies to any athlete entered in a team competition under false pretenses in order to gain a competitive advantage by strengthening the team. That’s pretty much exactly what the bona fide rules are trying to avoid. I understand being in favor or against that type of thing…and honestly, I still go back and forth on it.

Also, the MIAA never said it was “good” to have boys swim during girls season, just that they legally have that right. The MIAA had to allow it, same reasons they have to allow boys to play on field hockey teams. The rules put in place this season do a fairly good job in separating them for most of the season, the only time they’re combined is dual meets. (And honestly, no one should care that much about who wins dual meets.)

Williecicci
3 years 9 months ago

Yet another reason to shy away from HS Swimming. With e exception of about 8 states, the caliber-level of swimming HS for the club swimmer is mediocre at best. In addition, HS coaches are typically part time coaches (usually they are full time teachers), and are coaching as a hobby rather than as a career (which makes a big difference in terms of the coach’s approach). HS practices are usually inferior to club practices in terms of quality and execution, and the HS season usually makes it hard for the swimmers full time club coach to plan a proper training cycle+taper.

For the social swimmer, HS makes sense.

bb
3 years 9 months ago

It does sound like one of the issues is that only one member of the team was actually a student who lived in the school district. Everyone else was homeschooled, or a transfer in, or actually attended a different school.

Agreed however, that club and HS programs should be allowed to coexist. Silly to force one over the other. Of course that is what is happening at the academy level in soccer.

massmom
3 years 9 months ago

I am a parent of three swimmers who participated in both club and high school swimming in Massachusetts. In general, club coaches are against high scool swimming because the practices are viewed as inferior, except for a few high school teams that have adequate pool time i.e. 2 hours per day. 5x per week.
Because of the MIAA rules, high school swimmers cannot miss practices to attend club practices or meets. You can apply for a waiver to participate in a “big” meet but it needs to be submitted one month in advance. The problem is that the coaches interpret the requirement in a variety of ways, including requiring attendance at only three practices per week, allowing swimmers to do homework during practice, allowing swimmers to substitute a trip to the weight room for practice while other coaches follow the rule strictly. There are even some coaches that allow thier swimmers to join later in the season because up until this year it was perfectly legal.This has led to a lot of abuse of the system and resentment among the high school swimming community.
In this particular situation, the coach in question runs a hard core club team. He was also the high school coach. He had a lot of control and had many out of town swimmers transfer edto the school to swim with him. In Massachusetts, individual town can decide whether to accept students from other towns through “school choice”. From a swimmers (and parents)point of view, it was probably very conveinent. It has been going on for years and everybody knew it.

ZZ
3 years 9 months ago

My kids would practice the hour with their HS (for fun) and then swim with their club for the better workout. Other coaches would forbid their swimmers to swim with their clubs during HS season. Some club/HS coaches would mandate the athlete join the club team in order to be on the high school team.
I think the two should be separated. A coach should not have the right to force an athlete to join his club team in order to participate on the high school team. Coaches should not be allowed to control what an athlete does away from the school.
High School sports provide a valuable experience for most kids – not everyone can afford club teams. I don’t agree that winning is the most important thing and when a coach stacks their teams with non-residents, it takes spots away from other kids.

theroboticrichardsimmons
3 years 9 months ago

I’m a former Massachusetts high school swimmer and this article underscores the ongoing tension between HS and club swimming that has existed for several decades. I swam high school in the late 90’s and early 00’s and, at the time, not only were we prohibited from missing any high school commitments or practices, we were also limited to three hours of training each day. This made it incredibly tough to swim both club and high school.

If you’re from California or Illinois, you might wonder why more Massachusetts swimmers don’t train exclusively with their high school. Let me make one thing clear: Massachusetts high school swimming is a terrible ecosystem for serious athletes. Most high school swim coaches are barely qualified to teach beginner swim lessons, let alone an actual competitive team. To wit: our team was coached by the football coach (!!!) my junior and senior year because our athletic director was too lazy to find anyone even remotely qualified for the job. The burden of writing meet lineups and workouts fell to me and my parents, since the only source of information our *coach* had was a 30 year old book on swimming that he found in the library. To make matters worse, our team was almost entirely comprised of dozens of girls interested in “fitness swimming” that were not the least bit interested in serious training or competition. So to summarize: terrible coach, very little lane space, and barely any competent training partners. I think I’m spot-on when I say that this describes 90% of all Massachusetts high school swim teams.

Rules that make it difficult to train with your club team are damaging to everyone involved, including the MIAA. Some of Massachusetts’ best swimmers simply avoid high school swimming altogether, which is a terrible shame. Gardner tried to solve this problem but creatively re-interpreting the rules, but it looks like this approach has finally run afoul.

zz
3 years 9 months ago

I am from California and we have the same problems. There seems to be a lot of power struggle. It’s a shame when club coaches discourage their athletes from participating with their high schools “the high school coaches will ruin their strokes”. The kid gives up the high school team and still goes “nowhere” within USA Swimming. Senior year, my son swam high school only because he was fed up with the Club coach mandating he turn in a journal of his HS workouts.

cynthiacurran
3 years 9 months ago

For a state that has Boston this is unbelievable, I bet that boys that played Pony League Football before high school are not barred. Club teams make swimmers more likely to swim in college. No wonder with the high cost of living people leave Mass for states like NC.

3 years 9 months ago

Blanket rules made my ill informed high school governing bodies dilute the sport of high school swimming in various states around the country. We have some terrible silly rules that get in the way of training our best athletes in Iowa (not to mention the fact our state championships are held in a timed finals format: that is a rant for another day). We also have some of the most stupid “contact” rules that bar the most knowledgable and certified USA-S coaches from working at the high school level. The IHSAA and IGHSAU have kicked many of the experts out of the sport in a de facto manner. The MIAA should take a hard look at the enforcement and wording of their rules or be clear that they do not want want expert coaches and elite swimmers to take part in the sport of high school swimming.

Opinionated
3 years 9 months ago

If you read the original article, an entire girl’s high school team got hosed because one family is full of complete whack-jobs. What a horrible example of parenting. A team lost a dedicated coach and a whole team of girls lost an award that they earned because some parent was petty and vindictive. I feel so bad for this team.

deserve to be stripped
3 years 9 months ago

I’ll bet every other high school in the State is grateful – maybe they’ll have a chance to compete for the title. Most people are reluctant to say anything because of the kids, but these families know d-well what they are doing (parents and swimmers) and when caught default to whining about the poor kids and the petty parent.

I don’t feel bad for them at all and I hope more programs are sanctioned and more titles stripped.

Opinionated
3 years 9 months ago

Again, referencing the original article about this situation (http://www.telegram.com/article/20120307/NEWS/103079989/0), this was one parent and her extended family who launched a campaign to get an apology for an imagined slight and ended up hurting the team, not the coach. Anyone who has coached has met a parent like this, but they usually realize that they won’t actually hurt the coach if they pursue the matter. This family clearly didn’t care. What horrible people.

And if you think that the team that is now the champion because of this disqualification performed that well without year-round swimmers on their roster as well, you are completely delusional.

deserve to be stripped
3 years 9 months ago

The epidemic in our country to win at all costs is not healthy. It’s unbelievable what people will do to give their kids/athletes an edge. Districts have had to put age caps on high school student athletes because parents were enrolling kids in Kindergarten at age 7 instead of 4 1/2 – 5 years of age or holding kids back in middle school so they would have an edge in high school sports. The adults are constantly finding loopholes to give their teams or kids unfair advantages over others.
I’m not delusional – can you name any other high school where all swimmers belong to the same club? My kids clubs had swimmers from 7-10 different high schools. My kids high school had about a dozen club swimmers from 2 clubs out of 60 HS swimmers.

Jcoach
3 years 9 months ago

I can’t name another club in Greenwood’s area that a serious swimmer might swim for other than them. There are hundreds of areas where there aren’t 7 – or even 2 or 3 clubs that serve a population.

Opinionated
3 years 9 months ago

I understand that there are crazy parents who do crazy things to give their kids some sort of advantage in sports. This is not one of those situations. These are athletes of the proper age competing for the high school they attend. The exceptions are the homeschooled kids, who legally have to be allowed to participate in their local HS athletic programs, and the cooperative schools, who don’t have pools or teams for the kids to join. With only one high-end program in the area there is only one club that dedicated swimmers would train with. I guarantee if you look at the other local high schools they would also be “stocked” with Greenwood kids because it is the only game in town. This isn’t “win at all costs”, it is “I want to swim for my high school”.

Huh?
3 years 9 months ago

Deserved…

Gardner is in the middle of nowhere… there probably aren’t more than 2 clubs within 20 miles of it, nor is there another HS within a good range…

The fact that these kids drive all the way to Gardner just to swim for Don is a testament to his coaching… If they school choice to GHS to make that commute more manageable, so be it… that’s their family and the school’s choice to make.

When Sam Arsenault was driving from Peobody to Gardner, she was driving by 6-7 solid programs to do so just to train for Don… and I understand why- he’s damned good at what he does.

Florida
3 years 9 months ago

Bolles in Florida, Peddie in New Jersey, Baylor in Tennessee

Jcoach
3 years 9 months ago

One of my favorite parts of the decision was that they were more a club team and less an “education based high school team.” What does that even mean? Like, if they sucked, would that be more education-based.

Pretty sure Samantha Arsenault was like a 4.0 biology student at UGA, and Erica Meissner was a Rhodes finalist – no? I guess those girls should have found a more education-based team.

3 years 9 months ago

No, just that as I understand it most all of the girls on the team had nothing to do with Gardner High School, aside from being on the swim team. (It’s the way it was reported on a local news report I posted previously, my apologies if I’ve interpreted it incorrectly.)

That appears to have changed from Arsenault’s days on the team, where: “It is about 67 miles from Peabody, on the North Shore, to Gardner, where Samantha Arsenault — now Williamstown resident Samantha Livingstone — did her club swimming and attended Gardner High School as a school choice student.Article,

Huh?
3 years 9 months ago

That education-based comment just reeks of mediocrity. It’s nauseating.

3 years 9 months ago

I mean, I don’t think I find the alternative any less nauseating. High school teams pulling kids from all around the state for the main goal of winning high school meets? Seems to go against the “spirit” of high school sports and stuff. (You know, the idealized notion that all members of a high school team all grew up in the same town together, went to school together for twelve years…I’m basically just describing a Norman Rockwell-ization here and now I’m nauseating myself as much as the super-teams would.)

Huh?
3 years 9 months ago

I went to HS near Boston, and I can assure you, not one of our starting 5 in basketball were ‘from’ my town… the showed up sometime in HS and lived in towns nearby… And I don’t really have a problem with this… it’s school choice- it’s allowed in the rules.

And I can assure you those girls weren’t traveling to Gardner to win the Mass HS State meet- as I said in an earlier post- it’s a joke meet. They did it out of convenience, since they were there to train with Don anyhow. If the other option was going to and swimming for their local HS and not training with the coach they believed could help them achieve their goals… then I am 100% in favor of what they did… so long as there was a rule that allowed school choice and they didn’t do it ‘illegally’…

3 years 9 months ago

I had no idea the school choice rules applied so many places. (I remember Newton North having a couple kids on their track team from all over the place about ten years ago, but I thought it was like, just a program at their school.) I’m all for those opportunities (choice is good yay!) but when used just for athletic purposes, it is kinda depressing.

And yeah, I know the girls weren’t going to Gardner simply to win some high school meets – but it was obviously someone’s goal. Wouldn’t have intermingled the club/HS team that closely if it wasn’t.

Melanie
3 years 9 months ago

We’re extremely lucky in our area. HS coaches encourage year round kids to attend club practices instead. No rules for minimum number of hs practices to attend-lack of practice space. My daughter attended 1 hs practice in 4 years. Downfall is some resentment come meet time, but once teammates realize the club swimmers do swim everyday it’s usually ok. She was able to enjoy the hs team experience without it being detrimental to her club training.

swim coach
3 years 9 months ago

as per usa-s sentiments… what does high school swimming do for the usa-s member athlete?

1. provide peer recognition within the high school system,
2. expose the non-club swimmer to the sport.

that’s it. nothing more.

when someone reads about the rules of miaa, and similar school systems, it is in fact those organizations who force the club swimmers to choose between high school and club.

and the high school-only coach is an agent of the system, also forcing the club swimmer to choose.

if the school associations and their lackey high school coaches would put aside their ridiculous rules and egos, respectively, then club coaches could get behind the high school programs and work to promote them. the club swimmer would be better trained and prepared to do well at the high school state championships, which makes the high school and the high school coach “look good.”

afterall, like mentioned in a previous post, this is supposed to be for the kids.

deserve to be stripped
3 years 9 months ago

Here lies the hostility and division between HS and club. There are many wonderful HS only coaches out there. In fact, my kids and many others liked and respected the high school coach more than their club coaches. The team had FUN which translated into faster times for all.
The arrogance at the club level by some parents, swimmers and coaches is unbelievable. If people kept an open mind, they might learn something from these high school coaches. (I understand that not all HS coaches are good, but not all club coaches are good either).

The district and Interscolastic rules are put in place to even the playing field so no athlete or team gains an unfair advantage.

Corey Coon-Cassily
3 years 9 months ago

As a club coach I have left two places directly and solely because of high school swimming. I finally, after 14 years of coaching, have a great situation with the local high school coaches. They have specific practices they ask (ASK!) that the club swimmers attend so that they can be with high school only teammates. They have communicated with me about meet schedules (for both HS & club) and which meets are more important for that time. I ran the HS district meet gladly and they thanked me for it. Hasn’t always been like this and isn’t in most places. I have never understood why it is considered wrong and bad that the best swimmers to look for the best instruction and training. There would never be any criticism of a student because they went out and got a tutor so that they could perform better on a test. HS AD’s don’t know much about how swim training works. So different than other sports.
This situation does seem strange with HS residency rules. The other thing is parents with tunnel vision (think that is present in both HS & club).
SWIM SWAM, I think you had your poll question wrong. Not if JR or above swimmers should compete for high school team (I think most would agree that they should). It is should they have to, or how much should they have to, train with their high school team.

Huh?
3 years 9 months ago

I second this… I think we all agree kids should swim FOR their HS teams, just not necessarily WITH their HS teams…

Opinionated
3 years 9 months ago

While I think the generalization of administrators and high-school-only coaches is a little unfair and stereotypical, the fact is that the best-case scenario for the athlete is to train with the better coach and training group. Restrictive high school rules only hurt the athletes who are dedicated to the sport. These young athletes deserve the peer recognition that swimming on thier high school team provides, but college coaches aren’t going to be recruiting at high school meets. They’re all over Sectionals, Juniors, and Seniors. If the choice is between peer recognition and having a college coach notice you, the long-term benefits of high school are non-existant. And by making the athlete choose one or the other, the only one who gets hurt is the kid.

newswim
3 years 9 months ago

Disclosure I am big long term supporter of USA-S (in my case AAU, USS, before that) as swimmer, club executive, parent volunteer, official, etc. I swam high school and my two kids swam high school, while also swimming for their clubs. My kids made their own choices whether they wanted to swim HS. Once the chose I supported them 100% and expected that they would practice with the team and be bona fide team members not just point scorers.

Yes practice schedule diverged from the “plan” that the club coach laid out but they believed it still made them faster swimmers…not because the club coach’s plan wasn’t great one for non-high school swim, but because HS swimming gave them more chances to swim fast than just swimming club. It also gave them peer recognition and I believe that helped too.

GC
3 years 9 months ago

You post make no sense to me. I don’t even know how to respond. No facts, no supported points. I respect people having different opinions but please, respectfully, support your points.

The “plan” that you put in quotes. Are you referring to the hard work and dedication that professional year round makes his lively hood club coach made for your swimmer to achieve their peak performance “plan.” The coach you pay $2000 a year that you signed your child up to to be part of their TEAM but at the first sign of “peer” recognition to stomp on less trained non-year-round you leave. What about the Club TEAM. What about the commitment to THEM? How does their training group suffer with your child’s absence? How are they supposed to take you leaving them like an hired gun for your H.S. team so you can whoop up on lesser peers? Last I checked Dwight Howard doesn’t go to the local YMCA and feel the need to dominate dad’s who play on the weekend.

If you kid needs “peer recognition” like this we have a serious problem with the lessons we are supposed to be teaching.

Why does nobody care what happens to the club?

I don’t even know what to say about your “HS swimming gave them more chances to swim fast than just swimming club” – maybe I am just not smart enough to understand. It sounds like your are saying something but i am just not sure……

observer
3 years 9 months ago

High School swimming has weekly meets which gives the athletes more racing opportunities, where as club swimming had monthly meets (in my area). The more an athlete is able to race, the better they are going to get. The kids like racing against their friends, especially when their friends are on another team. The kids want their school to win so they tend to race better than at a club meet. In a lot of cases, the kids HS championship times are faster than their club times.

GC
3 years 9 months ago

Club swimmers can race all the time and kids race their peers THOUSANDS of time in practice.Lets follow the bouncing ball. How do the vast majority of the best swimmers in the world train? Phelps, Lochte, etc… oh that’s right they dont race 5 days a week at local meets. They put the emphasis on TRAINING.

Your comment about kids swimming faster at h.s. is completely fantasy. Check out the swims data base. USA swimming times vs. H.S. times nationally. USA in a landslide. Not even close. USA is a NATIONAL organization. H.S. is local. This argument is absurd.

observer
3 years 9 months ago

GC – Did you check out the USA Swimming database? I’ll make it easy – check out the 15 year old girls – 100 yd freestyle – (2012 season) – The top three achieved their times at their HS School observed meets. To date these times are their fastest times according to Swims.

Of the 6 groups I checked out (age, event) approx. 10 out of 20 of the times (for each group) were achieved at Observed High School meets.

Some athletes just go through the motions at USA Swimming meets, but are inspired at their HS championship meets.

Opinionated
3 years 9 months ago

“The more an athlete is able to race, the better they are going to get.”

This is one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever heard. Weekly racing requires abandoning long-term, targeted training that develops fitness and leads to better performances. It destroys the fitness level of the athlete, since you can’t swim fast in the hard-training portion of the cycle. Throwing away a better performance at the end of the season to win some minor dual meets is a terrible idea and a terrible way to treat an athlete.

newswim
3 years 9 months ago

Comparing Dwight Howard to the average teenage swimmer makes no sense to me.

No where did I say anyone should “leave club swimming” for high school swimming….doesn’t make any more sense to me then forcing kids to give up high school swimming for club swimming.

Do you mean that anyone who deviates at all from the club practice schedule for high school has deserted the club? Even when that deviation, in our case anyway, was agreed to by both club coach and club swimmer in the beginning of the “season plan.”

Peer recognition does not come from “stomping on less trained competitors” its comes from the recognition of the uninitiated on how much dedication, hard work and skill is required to be an accomplished swimmer. I’ve seen a few football players join the swim team to socialize with the girls and discover, in their own words, that “swimming is harder than football.” I see no harm from getting that kind of recognition.

GC
3 years 9 months ago

NESWIM-

I am laughing at your response to mine. It is funny. It picks small points or sentences while leaving out any real argument. You are obviously a H.S. coach that has nothing to do with club. If you did have something to do with club then I suspect club swimming is better off now that you don’t.
I would rehash my argument but I would just be writing the majority of what I wrote again….

Observer
I am laughing because the point I was making was H.S. swimming times CAN’T make Olympic Trials. H.S. swims best times can not get you on the team. I would hope you know why. There are no short course qualifying times for Trials. The national level kids you are making reference to have their best swims when it actually counts – long course.
If you want to make the point about other swimmers and their times then have at it but for the top long course is the only way to make trials. Sorry you are not involved enough in USA swimming to know that.

Observer
3 years 9 months ago

GC – you stated “Check out the SWIMS database. USA swimming times vs. H.S. times nationally”. The FACTS speak for themselves.

What’s ABSURD is that now you’re throwing in Olympic Trials, the Olympic team and long course. HS school meets are not swum long course, and if they were, statistics would probably be similiar.

I’m laughing at the fact that you just proved my point. The mentality of some people within USA Swimming is that every program should be geared for the 1%. Unless an athlete is part of that 1%, they’re somewhat inferior. If a person deviates from this line of thinking then they “are not involved enough in USA Swimming to know it”. Quite the contrary.

GC
3 years 9 months ago

“Peer recognition does not come from “stomping on less trained competitors” its comes from the recognition of the uninitiated on how much dedication, hard work and skill is required to be an accomplished swimmer. I’ve seen a few football players join the swim team to socialize with the girls and discover, in their own words, that “swimming is harder than football.” I see no harm from getting that kind of recognition.”

I award you no points and may god have mercy on your soul….

GC
3 years 8 months ago

If they are not from the 1% they ARE inferior- hence being faster than 99%. I feel fine with that.

In USA swimming EVERYONE is included – unlike H.S. swimming where most non club swimmers struggle to get into meets (never mind placing). USA swimming includes all. H.S. swimming has the problem.

RK
3 years 8 months ago

If they want to get into HS meets they should just learn to swim faster= to do that join a Club Team.

The sport has changed in the last 30 years, the rules need to be update to represent that change.

Club swimming understands the sport as it is today, but HS Sports will always have an appeal that most clubs just can’t match.

We need to fix the HS System, not cast people out for doing things that allow for success in the sport.

3 years 9 months ago

HS swim coaches for the most part are pretend coaches who coach 2-3 months out of the year. Club coaches are usually professionals who pursue coaching year around. There IS a big difference in general knowledge of swimming and implementation of a seasonal plan between the avg club coach and avg HS coach.

HS swimming meets are a joke in comparison to high level club swimming(in all but a few states).

USA Soccer has it right on and USA Swimming should follow suit.

GC
3 years 9 months ago

No more to say than this. This is the only point to make. End of argument.

BobbyZ you have nailed it.

observer
3 years 9 months ago

The club coach versus the high school coach is not the issue in this article. Lemieux was the coach of both programs. The problem seems to be that there was not a separate practice for the club program and the high school program.

So was he double dipping (2 paychecks – club only practices). Only USA Swimming members are suppose to practice with a USA Swimming Club and I believe the same is true for the HS practices. Articles stated that non club swimmers were highly discouraged from joining the team which seems likely, given that all swimmers were club swimmers.

At the financial level, how would one separate the two. If a dozen non club swimmers wanted to join the HS team, they wouldn’t have to pay the club dues; therefore, should the club swimmers not have to pay the club dues during the HS season (since practices were the same)?

There’s obviously more going on here. Is it really about the kids? With 15 titles, the coach can probably get a job anywhere.

Opinionated
3 years 9 months ago

About 10 years ago I coached an athlete that was ranked in the top 2 in his core events. We had a training program that would allow him to perform at his best at Nationals in front of every serious coach in the country, most with scholarships to offer. He was primed to get one of those scholarships. Then his high school coach convinced him that setting the state record (set by another athlete I had coached on two days rest) was the most important thing he could do. He let his high school coach taper him, missed the record, swam like garbage at Nationals, and college coaches lost interest. He didn’t get the scholarship that was a slam-dunk two months earlier. I would estimate that high school swimming cost him/his family somewhere around $100,000. All to set a meaningless record and be a high school hero. But at least a bunch of people who probably don’t even remember him now got a chance to talk about him for a week. That was totally worth it.

observer
3 years 9 months ago

Not everyone can be Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, National age Group Record holder or even #1 in their club. Where would USA Swimming be if all of the inferior swimmers quit the sport? Yes, many club swimmers who aren’t at the top are treated poorly by coaches, parents and other swimmers. Most athletes will never come close to being offered a scholarship. Most families cannot afford club teams. The only team experience some kids will ever have is being on their high school teams. It’s ironic how people bash the park programs, high school programs, etc. and then hijack the same programs to give their club kids more playing time. (I’ve seen the same thing in soccer, basketball and baseball).

Great – the club swimmer has a choice. The average American kid does not have a choice. I do not know of one club swimmer who regretted swimming for their high school. In fact, some club swimmers will work with their non-swimming friends to help them get on the HS team. Once on the team, the club swimmers will help with the starts, turns and stroke technique. These inferior club swimmers know where they stack up in USA Swimming so it’s kind of nice spending a few months on a team where they are appreciated and valued.

Opinionated
3 years 9 months ago

That is a whole bunch of unsubstantiated assertions. I will address them in order:

Assertion: “Not everyone can be Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, National age Group Record holder or even #1 in their club.”
Response: You don’t have to be the best athlete to get a scholarship. There are plenty of DII and second-tier DI colleges that have scholarships and provide an excellent education.

Assertion: “Where would USA Swimming be if all of the inferior swimmers quit the sport?”
Response: There are no inferior athletes. One of the great things about year-round swimming is that hard work done right can make anyone better. It requires good coaching, but only the athlete can make themselves “inferior”.

Assertion: “Yes, many club swimmers who aren’t at the top are treated poorly by coaches, parents and other swimmers.”
Response: That is a completely unfair and inaccurate generalization. I was successful at every level of swimming, but had friends that were not “at the top”. One of them was the guy that I often asked for technique advice, since he was really good at analyzing and breaking down strokes. Don’t pait everyone with your biased brush.

Assertion: “Most athletes will never come close to being offered a scholarship.”
Response: Nonsense. See point #1.

Assertion: “Most families cannot afford club teams. The only team experience some kids will ever have is being on their high school teams.”
Response: Not only is this ridiculous on its face, many large/successful clubs have scholarship programs for those who can’t afford the fees. Swimming is not a prohibitively expensive sport.

Assertion: “It’s ironic how people bash the park programs, high school programs, etc. and then hijack the same programs to give their club kids more playing time. ”
Response: this is a two-fer response. First, I have never bashed rec or high school programs, I have just said that making the athlete suffer inferior coaching to preserve some unrealistic ideal of what a high school team should be is unfair to the athlete. Second, it’s USA Swimming. There is no restriction on playing time; if you pay the event fee, you can compete in the meet.

Assertion: “I do not know of one club swimmer who regretted swimming for their high school.”
Response: My swimmer who blew a free education to be a high school hero would disagree. He threw away a free education for a meaningless record. Unfortunately that realization came after he lost his scholarship opportunities. He has nothing but regrets (and, until recently, a messload of student debt).

Assertion: “In fact, some club swimmers will work with their non-swimming friends to help them get on the HS team. Once on the team, the club swimmers will help with the starts, turns and stroke technique. These inferior club swimmers know where they stack up in USA Swimming so it’s kind of nice spending a few months on a team where they are appreciated and valued.”
Response: What a bizarre theory of what it takes to get on a high school team. Why would non-swimmers have any influence over who makes the team? Why would the athlete have to teach basic skills to teammates since that is the coach’s job? Why do you keep calling them “inferior”? Why assume they aren’t be “valued and appreciated” on thier club team?

You are clearly bitter and biased concerning year-round swimming. There are many good and decent coaches in year-round swimming who are dedicated to young athletes. They are invariably better educated and better equipped than their high-school-only counterparts. The only ones who suffer if athletes are prevented from working with their club teams are the athletes.

3 years 9 months ago

Just wanna say two things and then I’m running away from this before the whole place goes up in flames: Assertion/Response 5? – Swimming is pretty expensive, it’s definitely not a sport everyone can afford. Those scholarships’ll only help a kid that’s been on a team for a while and who’s probably pretty good, a “poor” kid who’s just starting up won’t get one. It’s not as expensive as, I don’t know, equestrian or something, but it’s not exactly basketball.

Assertion/Response 7? – The kid lost all his scholarship offers because he swam poorly at two meets? How much worse did this kid do that he erased his whole prior body of work? That’s rough, if atypical.

Opinionated
3 years 9 months ago

Granted that swimming is not the cheapest sport around, but it costs money to participate in any sport at any level. It isn’t prohibitive, but I agree it isn’t cheap.

For the scholarship, he was a high-level DI athlete. When he performed poorly and told the coaches why, they made a determination about his dedication and moved on to other athletes. One coach told him directly that he couldn’t count on a swimmer that would make such a decision like that. He could have gotten a DII scholarship, but he wanted DI, so he payed for college when he didn’t have to and it was directly related to his participation in high school swimming.

Observer
3 years 9 months ago

Actually I’m not bitter and biased towards year-round swimming. Year round swimming is essential to achieve many goals. The problem I have is with the superior attitudes. The problem I have is with the people who are always reminding an athlete that they shouldn’t be proud of an accomplishment beause their school is lame, their league is lame, their division is lame. This attitude seems to climb right up to the elite level. Who wouldn’t love to just make the Olympic Team, but unless you win a gold medal you’re some kind of failure – it’s just really sad.

I agree that there are many good and decent coaches in year-round swimming – I never said there weren’t. There are also many good and decent high school only coaches who choose to have a different full-time job.

I never said non-swimmers had influence on who makes the team. What I was trying to get across is the fact that (probably all) club swimmers have friends who have never had the opportunity to belong to a club team. These non-club swimmers want to swim HS so they ask the club swimmer for help, before tryouts, because they can’t afford private lessons or club dues. I agree, once you’ve attended a USA Swimming meet, HS meets are minimal – but FUN – and it’s all most kids will ever experience. Coaches at all levels use athletes to demonstrate skills – so why shouldn’t the HS coach?

No club coach would let anyone interfere with their program so why do they feel that they should be able to involve themselves in the HS program? That’s just arrogance.

Lastly, I agree with Steve – how could swimming lousy at Nationals (one meet) cost an athlete a scholarship? Obviously the scholarship wasn’t a slam dunk, unfortunately people lead athletes on with no intention of delivering.

Opinionated
3 years 9 months ago

My fault. I misunderstood some of your post (specifically the part about making the high school team).

I think telling an athlete that a great performance isn’t worthy because of where it was done is awful. Swimming is an national sport, with “good” being a nationwide standard, but a personal best is something that should always be congratulated and never be denigrated.

I actually think that high school coaches are often doing it for the very best reasons with the best intentions. But they aren’t as skilled as the professionals who coach for a living and setting up rules to limit club involvement during the high school season is detrimental to the athlete.

A high-school-only coach who is more competent than a year-round coach is like Bigfoot; there are people who believe they exists, but no one has ever seen one. I wouldn’t trust myself to coach an athlete for 10 weeks without messing up their larger training cycle and I’ve coached athletes to Olympic Trials.

The bottom line is there is no upside for the athlete if there are restrictive rules concerning high-school participation. It just decreases the chances that dedicated swimmers will participate in their high school program. Since that is the place where they get peer recognition for their hard work, it’s a shame that high schools do that to the swimmers.

Buffalo
3 years 3 months ago

I might be your Bigfoot. I’m a year-round club coach that prefers my HS coaching job. I coach year-round swim because it affords me to coach at the HS level as well as offer opportunities to continually grow as a coach. I think it would help the sport and athletes if more year-round coaches filled HS positions. There is an air of superiority/arrogance amongst a lot of the club coaches I know and it’s frustrating to know a lot of bad club coaches thinking they’re better then the few great HS coaches. It’s true that most HS coaches are water polo coaches or hobbyist, but why not do something to change the ratio? Instead of staying on your high horse, hop down, basically volunteer 12-weeks, and grow a program that will bridge the two worlds.

I had a few lengthy meetings with my HS administration after anonymous letters reached the desk of the District Superintendent and a few other high on the totem pole personnel, they were blown away with the situation I faced regarding the HS/Club conflict. We found out the letters originated from a local club trying to have me removed, implant one of their coaches, and add our sad excuse for a pool to their program. Our district does not recognize club activity as a substitute, it is considered extra. If the athletes wish to participate, they have to attend 5 hours a week (CA state min. req. time for PE participation grade). I meet with all of my club swimmers before season begins and organize a training schedule for the season, with an emphasis on avoiding training conflict. The usual settlement is morning dryland workouts with me, which have a weight room or cardio/cross-fit option and afternoons with club.

I’d like to see a shift in both cultures. I’d like more support from HS administration as far as understanding swim is it’s own unique animal and those willing to do it are few and far between. There have been several football coaches hired and given teaching positions over the aquatics coaches patiently waiting for an opening. I wish USA swimming would initiate a pro-HS coaching program. If more year-round coaches held HS positions we’d be able to make the changes we want in HS swimming.

Opinionated
3 years 9 months ago

For the scholarship, he was a high-level DI prospect. When he performed poorly and told the coaches why, they made a determination about his dedication and moved on to other athletes. One coach told him directly that he couldn’t count on a swimmer that would make a decision like that. He could have gotten a DII scholarship, but he wanted DI, so he payed for college when he didn’t have to and it was directly related to his participation in high school swimming.

Williecicci
3 years 9 months ago

Swimming is absolutely NOT an expensive sport compared to club soccer, gymnastics, club baseball, volleyball, tennis, golf, hockey…you’ should compare monthly dues for these sports to swimming- you would be very surprised at how low swimming is comparatively (not to mention the travel expenses for the aforementioned sports compared to the 2-3 travel (ie hotel, flights etc) meets the avg club swimmer might attend per year.
HS swimming

Swim4fun
3 years 9 months ago

Wow, what a great discussion and so many varying opinions. I am a HS swim coach in CA. and I also coach club swimming so it’s difficult for me to relate to comments about HS coaches that are not as good as club coaches. I try my hardest to provide a workout to fit all levels of swimmers for our HS team. I do not make my year round swimmers come to HS practice, I do suggest that they come to practice one day a week to swim with their HS team mates. We do not have a USS program at our HS pool and we have swimmers that represent 3 local USS teams.The majority of our team are non year round kids who play water polo and participate in summer recreational leagues. We have a fairly large team of over 100 swimmers.

I think it is important the year round swimmers have a chance to participate on their high school team some times its the only connection they have to the school’s extracuricular activities. It gives them a sense of belonging and school pride. I also think that it’s important for them to train with their club teams and stay on their year round training plans. Our HS swim season runs from Feb.-May, a year round swimmer’s training needs is going to be much different than a swimmer starting in the pool after a 3-6month lay off in Feb.

We have a close knit group of kids and they accept the time and effort that goes into swimming year round, many of our seasonal swimmers place at our league meet and make it to our section meet. Our seasonal swimmers play a huge part in our team’s success.

I think it’s interesting that the coach in this article was brought down by one of his own swimmers and her family. It sounds like they were unhappy with his comment to the newspaper and they went after him. It’s to bad, from what I gather from other comments the competing teams didn’t have a problem with how he was running his program. I sounds like someone got their feelings hurt and now a high school is with out a swim team.

Coach
3 years 9 months ago

In Facebook speak ….. Like
Thanks Swim4fun!! A voice of reason

3 years 9 months ago

I have to say, I have been following this discussion for a while and this story since it originally started.

I like what SWIM4FUN had to say and agree with what he is saying.

Lets not forget what this story is all about. Its about a HS program that was ended by a single upset family.

When it comes to HS vs. Club there really can’t really be an argument made here. I am both a HS and Club coach and yes this is my full time profession. Regardless of the athlete’s ability level, the training cycle, their length, timing, and results achieved within are extremely different. The only way that a coach can successfully train both athletes properly is with two completely different training plans.

In most cases, this is just not realistic for even the best HS coach trying to get the most of each athlete that season, given a 6 lane pool, 5 to 6 practices per week, two hours of time, and an average team size 25 to 35 athletes. There just isn’t the space/ time available to do this properly.

On top of that, the philosophy of these plans should be different as well. A swimmer involved in a year round program, should have a focus on the future. All training builds to a single end result. For mos,t this is creating a plan that allows them to swim in college with the potential for continued improvement once there. A swimmer involved only seasonally should be focused on making the most of the short time they have in the season. These athletes often suffer from de-training effects during long layoffs, making it difficult to plan much beyond that season anyway. This makes it important to train in a way that gives the athlete the opportunity to perform well now, there isn’t really preparation for the future involved. Often times, you can have talented athletes in these programs, and training in this fashion can give them an understanding of there potential, but to make the most of it they will still need to make a transition to a year round program.

Given this large disparity it should be the priority of both coaches (if two are necessary/ having one for both is best), to minimize conflicts in the athletes’ training program. Rules that fail to allow this are not holding true to what interscholastic and club sports are all about- Serving the athletes’ best interest, and giving them opportunities to be more successful than we were.

It is because of this that I encourage all of my athletes to do what is in their LONG TERM best interest. I ask year-round swimmers to train with their primary group (not always mine), with minimum compromise to that plan. Often times by doing this, the primary coach will be willing to work with the HS Coach when it comes to Observed swims. I ask that when it doesn’t create a conflict, they choose to spend time with their HS teammates, and vise versa. I ask that seasonal swimmers commit to the Seasonal training program (which is a separate group from year-round program) and then push for these athletes to consider year-round participation so that they can see continued improvement from year to year.

We do our best to rotate athletes into meets in a way that allows for proper training to occur in both programs, this can be difficult at times, and often represents the biggest challenge to keeping the athletes from compromising their plan.

In some cases, there can be less than ideal coaching and planning on either side of the coin. I have seen poorly planned club programs as well as HS, however it is typical that this occurs more at poorly funded programs in either case. Well funded, or programs run by passionate and educated individuals are often much more prepared to help athletes reach their highest potential.

You will never convince a parent, and in most cases an athlete in extension, that HS swimming is not in their best interest. The best advise that I can give is this…seek out programs and schools that put the athlete ahead of the ego. Understand what College Coaches are REALLY looking at, and never compromise your long term best interest as an athlete.

Corey Coon-Cassily
3 years 9 months ago

I very much like what they have just said. Good points on both sides. We will never get to the end of HS vs Club. Let us all just try and do what is best for all swimmers!

Swimmer
3 years 9 months ago

Please go back and look at the purpose of high school sports in MA according to the MIAA philosophy. It is not about winning….sports is another point of attachment to school for kids, particularly those kids who are at risk. As a school teacher I know that sports has kept many students from dropping out. Other points of attachment are music, art…..The point of high school sports is not to win exclusively. In Gardner, non club swimmers were actively discouraged from joining the high school team. “High school practice times” were scheduled specifically early in the morning before school for this purpose. Though, honestly, there were never real high school practices, just club practices with 1 or 2 extra high school only swimmers thrown into the mix. There was not even an effort to put the high school swimmers in 1 or 2 lanes together. (Interesting that the Coach was paid for coaching the club and high school at the same time….double dipping?…. hmmmm.) There was little team cohesion which is very sad because that team building and connection is exactly what keeps some kids in school and what is so important about high school soorts. It is not about winning…not that winning is bad…just it should not be above following the rules.

John Harasimowicz
3 years 9 months ago

Swimmer got it right. The Gardner coach even bragged how he would force anyone off the team who did not swim for his club. A swimmer whose residence was in NY State was recruited to come to Gardner to swim for the club team and lived with the coach. That swimmer attended Gardner High and swam for the school team for two years. Being from out of state, school choice wasn’t involved. So who paid for those two years of schooling? No one in the school system offers an answer. “Interesting that the Coach was paid for coaching the club and high school at the same time….double dipping?…. hmmmm.” How about TRIPLE dipping? He was also superintendent of the pool and drawing a salary from the city while coaching the club that paid him.

Jcoach
3 years 9 months ago

In the interest of full disclosure – this poster is the father of the woman who spent a year putting together the binders of scrapbooks of “evidence” against Coach Lemieux when she felt her daughter had been wronged by Coach Lemiuex. Not saying true or not true – just full disclosure.

See – http://www.telegram.com/article/20120307/NEWS/103079989/0

completelyconquered
3 years 9 months ago

What a sad sad person.

FLOSSY
3 years 9 months ago

Jcoach seems VERY biased in her opinion. RIGHT the WHOLE story NEVER made it to the outside as things were not reported!!!!! And the name calling is VERY infantile!!!!!!!

3 years 9 months ago

Ugh. I mean, I feel like both this family and Coach Lemieux come off as being in the wrong here.

I have no better way to sum up my thoughts than this clip from Burn After Reading. (Careful, the clip uses some foul language.)

FLOSSY
3 years 8 months ago

Jcoach, I hate to inform you but the quote that Steve Nolan had in an article was NOT the CONCERNED Mom, BUT a father of a swimmer who was on YOUR team! Not everyone on your team agrees with you!!!!!! You would be VERY surprised!!!!! They are just afraid to come forward for fear of retaliation!!!! And Most sane adults do NOT resort to name calling!

GC
3 years 8 months ago

Fossy,

I dont think he assume everyone agrees with him. I dont think he would be VERY surprised. Your post sounds very threatening like he has very little support- which i doubt is the case. Just saying your post is unkind.

John Harasimowicz
3 years 9 months ago

Speaking of full disclosure “jcoach”, I at least put my name on my statements, all of which are true and backed by evidence. Coach Lemieux was found guilty of “inappropriate actions” against a member of his high school team by the school superintendent’s investigator. The results of that investigation were never made public because it was a “personnel matter”. Since they seem knowledgeable about swimming in Gardner maybe “jcoach” will be further enlighten this blog as to why the assistant swim coach of the 2011-2012 Gardner High swim team was asked to leave the team.

Opinionated
3 years 8 months ago

I believe the discussion has moved on to the larger issue of how to do what is best for the athletes who wish to make themselves better swimmers and compete for their high school at the same time.

My position, and that shared by many professional coaches, is that restrictive rules like those in MA are detrimental to the more dedicated (year-round) swimmers and force the athlete to decide between compromising their long-term success by being restricted to high school “team membership” rules or giving up on high school swimming. Or, in cases like this, figuring out how to make it work. Our position is that restrictions like this are a bad thing for everyone involved.

There is another position that believes that competing for your high school fits into a larger context. They believe that connecting the athlete to their school is beneficial on more than just an athletic level. The believe that, among other things, it is a way for the athlete to have fun with their friends in a way that allows their fellow students to notice their skill and passion for the sport.

While there are serious differences between the two groups concerning the importance and weight of each facet of an athlete, all sides agree that obsessive parents who pursue a year-long vendetta against a coach because they think he is a jerk are completely wrong in all ways.

The fact that you managed to force a coach to leave high school swimming by nitpicking about details and browbeating state officials is an obscenity. Full disclosure: I don’t know Don personally and don’t live in MA, but since Don has a national reputation as a skilled, well-respected, experienced, knowledgable coach, I am pretty certain that this was a petty family doing petty things that hurt everyone involved and did absolutely no good. Congratulations on your victory.

RK
3 years 8 months ago

Well said.

If HS Swimming is going to be important to all, then we need to establish a groundwork that works for both the Elite (or aspiring) and the seasonal athlete, who are each there for the same reason but with different end goals.

observer
3 years 8 months ago

Actually, I don’t agree that these parents did anything wrong. Sometimes it takes an insider to blow the lid off of corruption. (Whistleblowers within Corporations). The fact that MIAA imposed sanctions speaks volumes. This high school swim team was hijacked for personal gain. How about all of the girls who were not allowed on the team because they weren’t part of the club – THAT’S SAD. Once again, people want to attack the messenger.

According to the article Don resigned and wasn’t forced out. Sounds alot like others within USA Swimming – resign before sanctions can be imposed. Haven’t you realized by now that some of the best respected coaches have a dark history?

Good job to the parents who had the courage to speak up – for whatever reason – obviously, things weren’t how they should be!!!

Opinionated
3 years 8 months ago

Conflating angry parents with whistleblowers is ridiculous. Corruption? Really? It was a technicality. That’s like calling someone who jaywalks a hardened criminal.

If you read the original article, the family took a year to find a technicality to hang the coach with, all because he called their daughter out for bailing on the team. The majority of the athletes on the team lost, the coach lost, and the high school lost. The parents didn’t get the apology that they demanded and they created conflict, chaos, and acrimony throughout the community. Pursuing a scorched-earth path to victory is not a “good job”. It is just destructive.

Swim4fun
3 years 8 months ago

Well said Opinionated. The stories that I have read about this situation are that the family that led the charge on removing the coach; their daughter was on the team so I am not sure what their concern is about swimmers who don’t make the team. As a HS coach I feel it’s important for parent’s realize that HS swimming isn’t for learn to swim individuals and many teams have cuts because of facility issues. We don’t cut at our school but we do require the swimmers to show up for practice and make the swim meets. If they fall below attendance standards they are removed from the team.

The comments about double dipping and triple dipping are flat out ridiculous
since coaching HS is not a money making job. I don’t know how things are in MA but the stipends in CA are approx. $2000 for an entire season. It sounds like the Gardner coach was fulfilling his duties and paid appropriately.
I ended up coaching at our HS because the team was in need of a coach and our club team had swimmers that wanted to compete for their HS, it’s community service and not a money maker. The HS only coach that I replaced yelled and screamed at the swimmers on the team and was more about winning and less about coaching than any club/HS coach that I know. In the end if I was Coach Lemieux I would have stepped down too, it’s certainly not worth the time or headache for such a small amount of money.

California
3 years 8 months ago

The stipends may be $2000, but the teacher/coach still gets paid their regular salary for the coaching job. Sixth period swim team – regular pay for the sixth period plus a stipend for coaching.

Sm
3 years 8 months ago

By inappropriate actions, are you referring to the trumped up bullying charges that were tossed out due to the fact that there was absolutely no evidence? You have spent the last year trying to ruin the reputation of a well respected and loved coach..what have you really accomplished? You taking pictures on the pool deck of all the swimmers in their bathing suits when you had no relationship to any of them…that may be considered inappropriate.

John Harasimowicz
3 years 8 months ago

No, “SM”, I referred to what the school department found after interviewing witnesses who testified to the coach’s tirade because his team captain didn’t show up for the state championship meet. She was home in bed with the flu where her doctor had told her to stay. The coach and the school had been notified two days prior to the meet that she might not be able to go.

I can empathize with the coach losing it and making what were not just empty threats against her when she wasn’t there for him, but, to make libelous remarks to the news media hours later? He did tell the reporters that the flu had impacted many on the team during the days leading up to states, including him. I’d surmise that he truly wasn’t well since he didn’t accompany the one boy who had qualified for states to the meet that year.

In spite of the “inappropriate actions”, the coach was again appointed as high school swim team coach seven months later. We were told the school department was faced with a legal technicality, i.e.: they could not prove that the coach had ever received a copy of the high school’s handbook. The same handbook every Gardner High School athlete must sign for as having read, which outlines expected behavior, quotes MIAA rules to be adhered to, and even informs coaches of behavior expected of them.

As to the ludicrous charge of taking pictures at an event open to the public: My granddaughter was a member of that team and I took pictures during the meets, pictures which show professional photographers as well as other parents taking pictures. So I suggest you paint them into this picture of inappropriate behavior you’re trying to portray of me.

JB
3 years 8 months ago

The problem in most HS situations is that the fastest kids are club kids. They get placed into the middle of difficult situations almost immediately. Years ago I worked with a swimmer who really didn’t want to swim in HS. She was a 1:06/2:23 200 yd Breaststroker at age 12. She moved out of my 12/u group and into the Senior Group of our team at age 13. All of the HS girls wanted her to swim. She tried it and tried hard to be a good teammate who bought into the practices. When she realized that the training was not what she needed, she wanted to supplement her training on her own time with her club team. She was criticized for not being a team player even though she was making every practice.

When she did not perform at the end of the season, she was criticized for her poor performance. She was expected to be better than she was before. For whatever reason she couldn’t do it. Everyone always wants the fast kid on their team because in many situations it helps their team – especially with relays at the State and Sectional level. They want to have their cake and eat it too. They don’t (and do not want to) understand that just because you are fast with one coach does not mean you are always fast or better than you have been. Some are, some are not. She went on to be a good Division I swimmer – she did not swim HS after her Freshman year. She was criticized for her decision by the same people who criticized her for her poor performance as a prima donna. She was a 13 year old kid.

I heard Ray Benicki speak about this a few years ago at the ASCA Convention. When Kate Ziegler decided to swim HS, the HS coach said to Ray “You coach her – you know how she ticks. I’m best as a teacher to the JV and Varsity kids. Tell me what I can do to help.” That’s a great example of two adults working together for what is best for a kid, not two ideologues with no regard for everyone else (especially that athletes they coach.)

It never seems like this is an issue for the less talented athletes – most coaches on both sides who get into these conflicts don’t seem to really care about them/are willing to hand them off to each other. Just an observation after 20 years in this business. Maybe I’m just jaded, but that’s how it seems to me.

If you can’t be an adult in dealing with this stuff, you shouldn’t be working with any kid at the club or HS level. Grow up, find consensus, and work it out as adults.

RK
3 years 8 months ago

This is exactly the problem on the coaching side of it. The trouble is that many of us coaches fail to see it, or our ego gets in the way of doing what is right for the kid. These athletes can’t serve two masters.

Additionally, parents and peers often do not understand the BIG PICTURE and pressure the athlete into making decisions that are not in their best interest.

Understand that the high school programs that succeed are attached to a club team! or have strong relationships with several, and the HS Coach allows the better athletes to be trained by their year-round coach.

Look at how the greatest HS teams in the country are constructed and you will see that it is because of the club side that they are so good.

Until the HS system is changed, there will always be a problem here. Its not the Clubs fault that HS makes it impossible to do both effectively in some areas. We need to remove restrictions, develop a JV level in areas to allow for expanded teams (easing the issue of lesser athletes being shut-out of meets), and encourage continued and expanded cooperation between club and HS.

baxter
3 years 8 months ago

I like it, it speaks to the focal point: the kid, the individual. Club is good for so, so many reasons (many of which are well before HS!) and HS is good for so many reasons – no matter the level (except maybe in the rare case of young OT talent).

The thing is, club coaches are lucky if they are able to parellel understanding, experienced, and knowledgeable HS coaches (and this doesn’t necessarily mean great former swimmers!) and HS coaches are lucky if they can parallel club coaches that want the best for their athletes (and this doesn’t mean just physically and is heavily weighted on the individual!).

GC
3 years 8 months ago

Well said.

CG
3 years 8 months ago

Agree!

Buffalo
3 years 3 months ago

I’m bummed I found this thread so late. Even more bummed that I wrote a comment that was better written by so many later down the thread. I have forwarded a link to this post to my HS admin. and hope it shines a light on how we need to make changes to our governing bodies.

wpDiscuz

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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