SwimSwam

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

  107 Braden Keith | October 25th, 2012

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.

Leave a Reply

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


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
NDB
3 years 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 months ago

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

3 years 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 months ago

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

Jcoach
3 years 11 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 11 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 11 months ago

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

3 years 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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.

wpDiscuz