Rutgers Terminates Head Swimming Coach Petra Martin

Rutgers has fired head swimming coach Petra Martin. Several people close to the team reached out to SwimSwam with the news on Thursday, and while Rutgers hasn’t responded to a request for confirmation, they did remove her bio from the website shortly after 8PM Eastern Time on Thursday.

Diving coach Fredrick Woodruff has been named the interim head coach for the swimming & diving programs. Assistant swim coach Jon Maccol, announced in October, and Coordinator of Swimming Operations Steve Dewar remain listed on the team roster. The team also recently announced the hiring of Carmen Young as Volunteer Director of Player Development.

“Earlier today, we both agreed that it was in the best interests of the program for Petra to step away,” athletics director Patrick Hobbs told NJ.com. While Hobbs declined to discuss the reasons for her leaving, there have been several reports of verbal and psychological abuse of members of the team.

Rutgers has had a difficult history with coaches abusing athletes – Rutgers head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice was terminated in 2013 after video emerged of him physically and verbally abusing his athletes, which resulted in the university making new rules to prevent this kind of abuse.

“They were supposed to have a foolproof way to protect athletes after Mike Rice,” Michael Perrotti, father of former Rutgers swimmer Morgan Perrotti, said in an interview. “This is supposed to be a happy time of my daughter’s life and Rutgers has taken that away from her. I hope justice will prevail and the right thing is done because I don’t want another young woman hurt, but where does that leave my daughter?”

“I have been advised not to comment, other than to say I am terribly troubled by the accusations … because they are not true. I have always had the best interests of my athletes at heart, and I wish all of them well moving forward,” Martin said in an email to NJ.com.

Martin, who was born in Czech Republic, was an All-American swimmer at Maryland. Public record shows that Martin was paid $98,495 in 2016 by the university. She was hired as the program’s head coach in 2015 to replace Phil Spiniello. Prior to that, she spent 5 seasons as the head coach at Bowling Green State. During her 2+ year tenure at Rutgers, the team has produced 8 NCAA qualifiers and improved from 11th place at the Big Ten Championships the year before she arrived (2015) up to 10th in 2016 and 9th in 2017.

The team will begin competition at the home-hosted Frank Elm Invitational on Friday, where they welcome in women’s teams from Columbia, Central Connecticut State, James Madison, Liberty, LIU Brooklyn, LIU Post, Navy, Northeastern and Wagner, in addition to men’s and women’s diving teams from UConn, Massachusetts, Virginia and West Virginia.

Update: Rutgers provided a statement after the article was posted:

Earlier this week, concerns were raised with respect to the women’s swimming program.

Over the last 48 hours, the Director of Athletics reviewed these concerns with both the team and the coach.  Today, the coach and the Director of Athletics mutually agreed that it was in the best interest of the program for the coach to resign.

Previous allegations related to the coach’s conduct were raised by two members of the swim team, were referred to appropriate university personnel including President Barchi, and were investigated by the university. These investigations included interviews, independent observations of practices and analyses of the student athlete environment.  These investigations did not reveal any violation of university policy.

A separate review of the dismissal of a swim team member for repeated violations of the team rules was found to be appropriate.  That investigation was related entirely to the swimmer’s behavior in and out of the pool and was completely unrelated to any other investigation.

Fred Woodruff has been named interim coach.

134
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of

134 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
dave
4 years ago

Helicopter parenting. Daddy needs to let his little girl take responsibility for her actions.

Yes, that guy
Reply to  dave
4 years ago

Spot on, Dave. Spot on.

Cheryl Lewis
4 years ago

Remember there ARE two sides to every story.

Protect Our Athletes
4 years ago

What are the roles and responsibilities of assistant coaches in a case like this? They must have seen what is going on. Shouldn’t they have a responsibility to report this to campus authority? According to the Jeanine Clary act college employees, including coaches have a responsibility to report “Substantial Emotional Distress – Significant mental suffering or anguish that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.”

Swimmershaverights
Reply to  Protect Our Athletes
4 years ago

I’m pretty sure Rutgers Swim and Dive previous assistant coach, Tracy Menzel knew the issues. She was a part of the problem. She now works as an assistant coach at Kenyon College.

Protect Our Athletes
Reply to  Swimmershaverights
4 years ago

I hope Kenyon is aware of this. If she did not come forward to higher ups while at Rutgers she was likely a participant. No excuse for this behavior.

Erik Collins
4 years ago

Petra Martin worked for me back in Potomac Valley when I was running my own club; she was firm but fair, caring & genuine with my athletes & families, and brought instant credibility to the new club I had started. I find it hard to believe that she would engage in any abuse of athletes, psychological or otherwise. Best of luck to Petra, Andrew & her family moving forward. My guess is she won’t be out of work for long.

Swimmershaverights
Reply to  Erik Collins
4 years ago

Mr. Collins how long ago did she work for you? People change over the years, esp when you get to the top and have the power. Kids could easily transfer to any swim club if they’re not happy with their coaches, college swimming is a different ball game you know that. Kids don’t know if they are being subjected to verbal abuse, they just don’t know.

RUSWIMMING2017
Reply to  Erik Collins
4 years ago

The problem with D1 swimming is you have to be released by your coach to transfer. They can hold you hostage for a year. Most of the swimmers aren’t happy but they are so afraid to talk to her they just grin and bare it. They can’t afford to go to Rutgers without the scholarship and they are afraid to get on her bad side and lose a scholarship.

Swimmers aren’t even aloud to talk to another coach without being released.

dmswim
4 years ago

I think one takeaway from this story and the comments below is that for coaches, fat shaming female athletes is a lose-lose. My coach did it to me and it led to years of eating disorders and (thankfully) a long, hard fought recovery. Let me let you in on a little secret–college age women who aren’t as thin as their teammates know it. You don’t have to bring it to their attention. They are probably already actively dieting and weigh themselves regularly. I was already seeing the sports nutritionist when my coach first made comments about my weight to me because I felt fat compared to my teammates. My coaches comments only made me starve myself more, to the point… Read more »

BGSwammer
4 years ago

I swam under Petra at BG. I do not want to dis her because she made my dream a reality. She gave me the opportunity to continue my swim career at the collegiate level and I will be forever grateful for her on that part. I was one she would say was “fat” when I had 22% body fat…fast swimmers in her eyes were about 18% or less. During a summer season I lost about 15 pounds bc I wanted to please her…I didn’t eat much. I WAS STUPID FOR THAT! I wanted her to like me so much that I did that to myself. Finally I realized it was stupid. I had to keep a food journal at one… Read more »

Are you kidding me?
Reply to  BGSwammer
4 years ago

I know who that faster swimmer you are talking about was and most, if not every other teammate who was around for the things youre talking about will agree that she had it way worse than everyone else. Petra treated that girl as if she hated her, regardless of how fast she was. And I’m sorry but you shouldn’t compare your GPA to someone with language barriers, that’s just sad. Also, yeah she has a family but what about these girls with disorders and their families?

BGSwammer
Reply to  Are you kidding me?
4 years ago

Am I kidding about what?? If the only thing you got from reading my post was about gpa then I am sorry that is not what you should have taken away. But my post was pretty much stating I do not agree with her ways and I even stated how there were girls on the team that got treated people way worse. When i put the gpa thing it was to make a point she is unfair. Not sure how you took away I was supporting her in anyway, I just decided to take a respectful approach to the situation. If you do not have kids i do not expect you to relate to that part of my post. No… Read more »

Disgusted
4 years ago

Dear RU parent, As a mother of a Div 1 “retired” swimmer, it happens!! Misogyny and body shaming is rampant. I blame ALL the staff who were complicit in allowing it to continue. Blame the loosely called “therapist” for not alerting the proper authorities for fear she would lose her job by disrupting the apple cart. I blame, yet, understand, the teammates who silently stood by and watched as my daughter was yelled at and told she was a “disgrace to ‘the Team’ “, “did not have the metabolism of a 10 year old boy as her teammate did” and weighed weekly. After almost 2 years, she was a broken shell of a woman, she spoke up, the sacrificial lamb,… Read more »

SwimDadio
Reply to  Disgusted
4 years ago

Join the discussion
Seems like some parents while they were “molding their children” for life forgot to give them back bones. There is nothing that bothers me more than swim parents that come to the rescue of Students who are in fact ADULTS and should be able to endure harsh criticism as well as relentless pressure. They are being prepared for real grown up life and if they melt over something like this then they are the ones that society will end up supporting because they can’t cut it.

RUSWIMMING2017
Reply to  SwimDadio
4 years ago

Swimdadio….there is a difference between harsh criticism and being told to stop your medicines. Being singled out in front of your teammates is different than criticism. Setting standards and not following them for all the athletes is not acceptable. If you are fast you get 8 hours of study hall but if slow you get 12 hours and you have the same GPA. If you weren’t chosen she didn’t even work with you so you didn’t have a chance at getting faster.

These kids are so much tougher than any of us. They deal with double practices, weight lifting and school work. They don’t need to mentally abused.

Disgusted
Reply to  SwimDadio
4 years ago

You are clearly not a higher caliber athlete. No body should have to “endure harsh criticism” for a ob they are trying to do well. None of these women could sustain the rigors of school, practice and competition without a “backbone”. These athletes are tougher than you or I will ever be. Mental abuse is just a harming as physical or sexual abuse. It all leaves scars. Unfortunately, it does not leave outward scars.

J W S
Reply to  Disgusted
4 years ago

I did not realize you could have woman on woman misogyny (hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls). I had to look it up to see that it is possible.

Onceaswammer
4 years ago

Man o man I can’t even explain how much this article took me back to horrible memories swimming under her at BG. It was a complete flashback because all those “accusations” explained were a reality… which we were on a different team, showing she did not change as a coach when She left for Rutgers. She only fat shamed me once but hearing here fat shame the girls I was with for hours every single day who became my sister’s, absolutely killed me. It went beyond fat shaming though. She brought me down in a time of my life where I needed support the most. The Rutgers girls had more courage than I ever did to report this stuff.

AyZiggy
Reply to  Onceaswammer
4 years ago

If by fat shaming you mean explaining to us the advantage of healthy nutrition during training and racing – like why no to load up on pasta alfredo before a race – then you might be right. That was never part of my experience on the team, and I did not see “fat-shaming” go on in any way during any group discussions.

RUforjustice
Reply to  Onceaswammer
4 years ago

Please speak out BG ladies!!! Do not stay silent and know that those of you who suffered are not alone!!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

Read More »