One of Texas’ Top Swim Clubs Faces Struggles Amid Allegations of Mismanagement

by Riley Overend 231

August 12th, 2022 Club, Coaching Changes, News

A growing rift between the North Texas Nadadores (NTN) and the Southlake Carroll school district that owns it is threatening the future of a once-dominant swim club that broke three national age group (NAG) records just last year. 

Tensions reached a boiling point two weeks ago at a Futures meet when an incident on the pool deck in College Station accelerated the departure of rising star Maximus Williamson along with several coaches. The club currently has zero coaches on staff, and membership numbers have dropped from more than 300 a few years ago to only about 65 committed for this fall, with no national level swimmers among the group.

Over the past decade-plus, NTN has essentially functioned as a feeder program for Carroll’s high school swimming team. The Dragons have developed into a powerhouse under head coach Kevin Murphy, capturing 10 of the past 12 high school state titles in Class 6A — the division with the biggest schools in Texas. Now there are concerns that the pipeline might be running dry. 

What began with complaints about low pay and mistreatment by Carroll high school coaches escalated this spring when all but one NTN coach tendered their resignations. Most opted to stay through the summer to help with the club’s transition of leadership, but the recent poolside dispute between incoming head coach Travis Kiser and acting head coach Dan Balint has left the club searching for answers in the wake of both their resignations. 

A few days after Kiser returned to Texas from North Carolina, where he spent three years as an assistant at Division I Gardner-Webb University, he showed up at Futures on July 27. Kiser’s official start date was still weeks away on August 15.

Balint had arranged for assistant coach Andrew Warwick to take over for him on Saturday so he could leave to attend another meet, but Kiser and the district disapproved. Warwick, like Balint, had already notified the district of his intentions to leave in August. Worried that Warwick was uninvested in his role and might convince swimmers to follow him to another club, the district relegated Warwick to administrative duties and canceled his hotel room in College Station. Warwick said not only is poaching club members against USA Swimming rules, but also that it would be impossible since he remains undecided on his next coaching destination.

Already frustrated with administrators and the loss of the club’s morning pool time to Carroll’s high school teams, Balint reached his limit when Kiser refused to let Warwick coach. They tried working things out over the phone later, but Balint ultimately quit that night after 13 years with the club. 

The next morning, July 28, the behind-the-scenes drama continued to spill over onto the pool deck. When Kiser arrived at Futures around 7 a.m., he was removed from the Texas A&M Natatorium after a heated exchange with the meet director for lacking proper credentials. 

Williamson and the other six NTN swimmers at the meet made themselves unattached and turned their swim caps inside out following the incident amid concerns that they might be scratched from races without their consent. After it was confirmed that Kiser wouldn’t have credentials to do so, the rest of the group besides Williamson reattached with NTN. Balint coached the rest of the meet unattached while Warwick was the coach of record for NTN. 

After a wave of outrage from parents, Kiser was asked to resign on August 3. He apologized for his expired certifications, but said he was going to update his credentials during his first official day on the job. Kiser, who swam at Bryan High School under Murphy, claimed he was not given a fair shot, instead thrust into a difficult situation that could potentially tarnish his career. 

Balint, for one, doesn’t fault Kiser as much as the administration’s mismanagement, and he’s not alone in believing that the program’s problems start toward the top. 

In March, Carroll hired a new aquatics director, Mike Wyrick, who was coming off a stint as principal of Durham Intermediate School within the district. At his previous job, parents alleged he failed to protect the school’s most vulnerable students. 

An NBC News podcast released in March shined a spotlight on one incident in particular involving a 12-year-old LGBTQ+ student who says his classmates encouraged him to act on suicidal thoughts last year. They allegedly took a piece of volleyball net and tied it around the football goal post to create a noose. 

When the student’s mom, Christina Edmondson, met with Wyrick the following week, the principal said he and his staff hadn’t reviewed footage or opened an investigation yet. Wyrick assured Edmondson that he and his staff would look into it, but six months passed and she didn’t hear an update. The district then denied her request to fire Wyrick, noting that he and other principals had since been retrained in how to investigate student allegations. Soon after, he was hired as Carroll’s aquatics director on a six-figure salary despite having no prior experience in the aquatics industry. 

Ed Hernandez, an NTN swim parent, said that Wyrick is also being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.  

“Mr. Wyrick is the subject of an active Office of Civil Rights investigation related to allegations that he reported my family to Child Protective Services,” Hernandez said. “He also threatened my family with truancy as retaliation for grievances that we filed against him in the fall of 2021. These grievances were related to his failure to keep our special needs son safe on his campus. In a recent deposition, a district staff member reported that he celebrated after he denied our son legally-required services.”

Wyrick and most other athletic department officials from Carroll did not respond to requests for comment. Assistant swim and water polo coach Paul Wallace was the only current district employee who spoke to SwimSwam about the situation. He placed the blame on a handful of departing coaches and parents for burning the place down on their way out. 

“It’s just toxic, man,” Wallace said. “It’s almost a reflection of the culture we live in. You get a group of parents who get up on their soapbox. There’s a portion of the community that, no questions asked, no discussions, what a certain group of people said is the truth.”

In the aftermath of the latest debacle, a local swimming rivalry has been reinvigorated. At the high school level, Williamson will transfer down the road to nearby Keller for his sophomore year. A super team appears to be taking shape at Keller between Williamson, USA Swimming Junior National Team member Cooper Lucas, and Lubbock transfer River Paulk.

Lucas, a soon-to-be junior, is SwimSwam’s No. 2 high school recruit for the class of 2024. Paulk, also a rising junior, is the reigning 5A state champ in the 100 free. Last year, Williamson twice broke the boys 13-14 NAG record in the 200-meter freestyle. In December, he also became the fastest 15-year-old American ever in the 200 IM (1:44.75). Together, the trio could very well be a threat to take down state and national high school relay records alike. 

At the club level, Williamson plans to join Lakeside Aquatic Club for Winter Junior Nationals, where he’ll be eligible to compete for a different club following the 120-day waiting period. Balint will coach Williamson through Junior Pan Pacs. 

NTN’s relay team that broke the girls 13-14 200 free relay NAG record last summer is staying at Carroll — for now — but they are slated to switch clubs. Vivian Anderson, Emma Bibza, and Olivia Colombo are moving to the Lakeside Aquatic Club while Marin Clem is training with the Dallas Mustangs. 

NTN is aiming to resume activities later this month as planned, but the club needs to find new coaches in the next 10 days. 

NTN most recently was recognized as a bronze medal club by USA Swimming last year, but they earned silver medal club status from 2010-18. 

The club has an impressive history of producing star collegiate swimmers, especially in the boys’ freestyle events. Among NTN’s notable alumni are Jonathan Roberts, Jack LeVant, and Brett Ringgold. Roberts was a 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials finalist in the 200 free, just missing the Olympic team. LeVant swam at the 2019 World Championships as a member of the U.S. 800 free relay team and Ringgold was a four-time NCAA champion as a member of the University of Texas relays. 

“NTN has a long history of constantly producing and developing some of the world’s fastest swimmers,” said Shannon Pritchett, a former NTN coach who left last summer to focus on her family and new job at a tech startup. “In a town of 30,000, this is almost unheard of. NTN had restrictions of often not being able to accept other swimmers that didn’t live within the CISD school district, which is one of the wealthiest school districts in Texas. With restrictions on the talent pool, it was absolutely incredible to see what NTN was able to build. It is beyond unfortunate to see an elite program collapse at the hands of a high school program that never respected it. At the end of the day, it was the swimmers that suffered, and that is what is most painful.

“To this day, I still feel guilt for resigning,” Pritchett added. “Although I was still present for my swimmers in the stand, I have never felt more hopeless watching this program collapse. I was hoping to return one day to coach my son. It’s disheartening to know it won’t be with NTN.”

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Klyn
1 month ago

What a mess. A situation with lots of adults behaving badly and not putting the needs of ALL the swimmers first. The corny old saying is true, there is no “i” in team.

for finding the truth
Reply to  Klyn
1 month ago

The mess started when an athlete died, and a swim coach was targeted and held criminally responsible. The swim coach did not leave the pool deck. Hey Coach, do you want to be next if your athlete has an unknown heart condition and suddenly dies?

curious
1 month ago

These are some facts that I didn’t see posted:

  1. Coach Dan was able to send ALL of his kids to CISD as part of his employment’s benefits.
  2. The issue of pay did not come up until AFTER his youngest graduated.
  3. ALL of coach Dan’s kids swam in HS (under coach Murphy) for FOUR years. If he didn’t have any issue of his kids swimming with HS, why is it an issue now?
  4. The parent of this superstar who led the emergency parent meeting claimed that coach Dan was this superstar’s personal coach.
  5. It seems like this superstar (or his parent) started to throw tantrum since he didn’t get the individual attention that he (or his parent) wanted since HS
… Read more »

Greg
Reply to  curious
1 month ago

Spot on

Swimfan
Reply to  curious
1 month ago

100% Correct. AND, Coach Dan also has a FULL TIME personal lawn mowing business and was only coaching part time at Carroll Aquatic Center, yet getting paid for full time work.

In addition, Coach Dan’s kids swam on NTN for free for over 12 years. Coach Murphy even gave all three of the Balint kids jobs in his summer Timarron team. He’s employed several of our swimmers during the summers and we appreciate everything he has done for the community.

Without Murphy’s idea and help due to his summer connections at Timarron, NTN and the NTN staff would’ve never had any place to swim in September of 2019 during the renovation of the Carroll Aquatic Center. The kids would’ve been… Read more »

Swimfast
1 month ago

So it looks like Murphy is taking complete control of NTN. They are supposed to be hiring someone that he, Wallace and Kiser knows, Kimberly Philips. She is a high school coach from Prosper and Murphy and Wallace will get USA swimming credentialed and they will coach the younger kids. Be prepared to have practices and groups nerfed into a rec level type team. NTN won’t come anywhere close to being competitive but I guess that is what some of you want. Anyone wanting their kids to be competitive for futures, nationals, and college swim and scholarship opportunities will need to go elsewhere.

https://www.facebook.com/2059214247538374/posts/we-are-excited-to-announce-our-head-swim-coach-ms-kimberly-phillips-and-assistan/2665160530277073/

400IM MAXX
Reply to  Swimfast
1 month ago

Bye Dan’s puppet

Swimfast
Reply to  400IM MAXX
1 month ago

Hmmm, Team Travis or Team Dan? Team Travis or Team Dan? Team Travis or Team Dan?

I’ll take team Dan every time and so will the majority of NTN families which is why Travis was fired and the majority of swimmers have left NTN. Enjoy.

Greg
Reply to  Swimfast
1 month ago

That’s not why- but you can keep telling yourself that- there are several really talented swimmers that left NTN before all this crap. Not one NTN Coach looked into why this was happening. Maybe if they paid more attention to the team environment and the behaviors of some of the “top swimmers/leaders” of the team and actually coached ALL the kids, it wouldn’t have gotten to this point.

High School Swimmer Parent
Reply to  Swimfast
1 month ago

Just transfer your fast swimmer to Keller ISD and LAC if you don’t like NTN and Carroll ISD instead of attacking Coach Murphy and the district endlessly!

Swimfast
Reply to  High School Swimmer Parent
1 month ago

If posting facts is “attacking Coach Murphy” while your side hurls mostly insults then perhaps you should reconsider who you support.

High School Swimmer Parent
Reply to  Swimfast
1 month ago

I support all the NTN swimmers including blue and white 3 kids, not just only 7 elite former NTN swimmers who attend future meet in College Station.

Swimfan
Reply to  Swimfast
1 month ago

By the way, I know for a fact that Murphy and Wallace are NOT going to coach at NTN. As High School water polo ends, they will have over 150 Dragon high school swimmers to take care of.

Anon
1 month ago

I’m taking one of the other poster’s advice and bowing out of the discussion for the sake of NTN and everyone involved including new and old coaches. I apologize for adding to the heat of the discussion. The emotions of this got the best of me. My last thought is: if you have already left NTN, just move on and enjoy your next swimming adventure. Sticking around to stir up trouble isn’t doing justice to those who remain, hoping for positive resolution. Good luck, NTN. You deserve and will achieve better times.

TYAWAF
1 month ago

So, I have read most all comments and it sounds like most of you have an opinion, which is fine but I who knows the real truth, none of you do. But here is what I do know, 1. No one person or persons is bigger then the district. 2. The person that was ask to write this article is under the age of 25 (lots to learn) 3. If you just want to bitch about what has happened find another place to go because if you look at the comments it obvious the district will make a decision and 1/2 are going to like it the other 1/2 will spend the next 12days crying on Facebook and this feed.… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by TYAWAF
Swimfast
1 month ago

For those claiming LAC Keller doesn’t get to have their kids in the pool for morning practices, why don’t you look at their website? Every weekday there is a nationals group in the pool from 5-6:30 am along with National Prep on Friday’s as well.

If Keller ISD, which is 4 times larger than Carroll ISD can give LAC, which is much larger than NTN, 90 minute morning practices Monday thru Friday, there is no legitimate reason Carroll ISD can’t find room for NTN.

https://www.teamunify.com/team/ntlac/page/program-info/keller-schedule

Anonymous
Reply to  Swimfast
1 month ago

The schedule on the website is very fluid. It is a best case scenario but many times we do not get the times stated there. It changes very frequently depending on what is happening at the Keller Natatorium as well as all other LAC sites. That is just part of the expectation when renting from an ISD.

Angry NTN parent
1 month ago

I feel so sad about what has happened to NTN, and so angry about what some of the former club coaches (including the former head coach Audrey) and some former NTN parent did to it. Now Swimfast and “Missing the big picture” are arguing everywhere about the morning practice times, but this issue had never been mentioned to the NTN parents until this May, not even after Coach Audrey suddenly sent a public resignation letter without any explanation and without any prior warning (yet it is said that her daughter started training at LAC the next day), and not even after Coach Dan suddenly resigned in a morning warm-up during a senior meet (yes, the Futures resignation is his second… Read more »

Swimfast
Reply to  Angry NTN parent
1 month ago

Why not find out why Audrey, Dan, Andrew, Ashley, Kirk, Walter etc actually left NTN. The real reason before you blame them.
Note also, that Walter, Dan, and Andrew committed to staying until at least TAGS for our kids which they did. In that time it was the Keasler, Wyrick, and the district (not the board) that totally blew it for NTN. The board gave NTN what they wanted for pay. But it was the incompetence in the hiring process that caused the collapse. Since mid-May, they knew they needed a new head coach and multiple assistant coaches and the only hire they came up with was Travis? You can’t pin that on NTN. That was all Keasler, Wyrick,… Read more »

Angry NTN parent
Reply to  Swimfast
1 month ago

Should I feel sorry for not being in your small inner circle and so not knowing the “real reason” for their resignations? Because there is no explanation either in their regisnation letters (with the exception of Coach Kirk), or in any public communications from them either before or after the resignations. Everything I know of came from the parent meetings, always after whatever the drama had happened. Shouldn’t I blame the previous club coaches, especially Audrey, for this lack of communication, and for keeping every ordinary swimmer and parent in the dark until after they suddenly turn over the table?

I appreciate Walter, Dan and Andrew staying over the TAGS and the Futures, even though their resignations in May really… Read more »

Swimfast
Reply to  Angry NTN parent
1 month ago

I agree that they should have been more upfront early on with NTN parents as a whole and the real reason, but it wasn’t issues internally with NTN. It was with the “district”. Between pay, travel reimbursement, and morning lane access. Well the district gave them the first and I think the second was handle via policy change. The third, they were told it would be worked out and then on Travis’ third day he took that away. I think the third was just one symptom of a bigger problem with the district.

Which employee represented the district outside of NTN for decisions? Who was keeping the kids from having lane space in the mornings? If you can’t figure… Read more »

Swimfast
Reply to  Angry NTN parent
1 month ago

As far as hiring, who do you think was in charge of hiring? Keasler? Wyrick? Yeah right. They know nothing about swimming so they deferred to Murphy. On Jun 7th, Danna exclaimed “Recruiting will begin immediately”. It wasn’t until 31 days later on July 8th that the head coach position was posted on SwimSwam. The “district” didn’t want to pay the $100. Not only that, but the ad was placed with a starting pay of $56,123. Why was only the starting pay mentioned? LAC, TFA, etc don’t even list numbers in their ads. Why didn’t they list at least the pay range?

Then only six days later, the only four candidates interviewed. Of which, Murphy’s boy got the job.… Read more »

Swim Coach
Reply to  Swimfast
1 month ago

Just saying: I had applied to the position via the CISD website and never received notice that the job had been filled. I also reached out to Mr. Wyrick, as he was listed as the primary contact, and never received a response from him. Now NTN is without a coach. Under the RIGHT conditions, I could still be interested.

Swimfast
Reply to  Swim Coach
1 month ago

I would reach out to [email protected] and Andrew.Ye[email protected] at a minimum, and explain your situation. If there were deliberate unfair hiring practices, they need to know. Between Travis Kiser and now Kimberly Philips hiring, cronyism is rampant under Murphy.

400IM MAXX
Reply to  Swimfast
1 month ago

Your precious Dan was interviewed….. after the group interview Travis was still the top candidate with significantly more points than Dan, and that’s with three parents sitting in on the interview.

Swimfast
Reply to  400IM MAXX
1 month ago

Exactly. And look how that turned out. Limit the candidates by not posting it on the most popular swim website for 31 days and 6 days before interviews along with other questionable methods and the absolute worst candidate who was Murphy’s boy gets the job. Who was in charge of the process? Who picked the parents? Who screened the applications? People doing the interviews didn’t even know candidate names until 30 minutes before and could only ask two screened questions each. You do the math.

Swimfast
1 month ago

NTN would not have collapsed on it’s own. While it wasn’t the same as it’s glory days when it won TAGS in 2010, the coaches were doing a good job. They have actually placed as good or better the last three years than the previous seven years, which three of those years were before the drowning in 2016. NTN recovered through the resilience of the Southlake community, swimmers, parents, and coaches.

Could they do better? Sure! There is always room for improvement for every coach, every swimmer, every parent. But the reason NTN collapsed wasn’t from itself or lack of leadership or success in the pool. Audrey had been with NTN since 2011.

When you look at points scored, they… Read more »

High School Swimmer Parent
Reply to  Swimfast
1 month ago

The purpose of swim is not only for make the TAGS or States. Most of NTN and Highs school swimmers will never make the TAGS and UIL States, but that is fine for the parents like me. You can just leave us alone, and find a new club and high school. You are not welcomed to be a Dragon!!!

Swimfast
Reply to  High School Swimmer Parent
1 month ago

It is a measure just like the just released TEA accountability ratings. Should we take a ‘happiness rating’? Would that make you feel better?

Angry NTN parent
Reply to  Swimfast
1 month ago

TEA measures the performance of every student in the school district, while the TAGS or States only cover the very best swimmers. We cheer for these fast swimmers, and wish that our kids will one day also be part of them, but the ideas are totally different. If you do not want your kid’s school teacher to show strong bias for some kids and against some others, then please do not justify such favoritism in clubs.

Ps. Everyone has his/her opinion about how things “should” be done, but, as adults, we know that in reality things are done through communications, negotiations and comprises. It is NOT self-evident that NTN deserves the morning practices for its (maybe less than five)… Read more »

Swimfast
Reply to  Angry NTN parent
1 month ago

What does it matter if it’s 5 or 10 swimmers? Fewer means it should be easy to accommodate them. FYI, because Murphy reprimands kids expressing a preference for ntn practices, I’m sure many are afraid to say which practice they’d rather swim.
As far as lac in keller, keller isd has an lac group swimming every weekday from 5-6:30 am. If they can do it with far more high school and club swimmers, no reason why Carroll can’t do the same.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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