Stony Brook University Coaches Dismissed After Athletes Allege Abuse

Following allegations of emotional abuse by members of the women’s swimming and diving team, Stony Brook University has dismissed its coaches. Stony Brook recently reinstated their women’s swim team for the 2017-18 season, naming Olympic swimmer Janelle Atkinson as the women’s head coach. The team had been on competitive hiatus since 2012-13 due to maintenance renovations of the university’s pool. Both Atkinson and assistant Jordan Bowen are no longer listed on Stony Brook’s website.

One of the team’s former swimmers, Arianna Rodriguez, reached out to SwimSwam before the coaches’ dismissal detailing the alleged abuse that led her to leave the teaml. Rodriguez is one of 6 swimmers to have left the Stony Brook program since they started up this fall, with one additional swimmer taking a “hiatus.” Since the beginning of the season, the roster size has dropped from 13 to 6. The alleged emotional abuse of the swimmers included what they described as intense screaming, degradation, and regular use of profanity that became unbearable.

The following is a list of some of the allegations detailed to SwimSwam by Rodriguez, and corroborated by at least one other member of the Stony Brook team:

  • On one occasion, Rodriguez alleges she was told by Atkinson that she was “Pissing her the [explative] off and that she was going to lose her [explative] and it would be scary.”
  • Rodriguez was allegedly told by Atkinson that Rodriguez’s anxiety was due to her own mishandling of being sexually assaulted.
  • Swimmers were allegedly forced to practice when they were physically ill. Rodriguez alleges half the team was forced to practice with the stomach virus, exiting through the side door when they needed to vomit and then being forced to get back in the pool immediately afterwards.
  • Rodriguez alleges she and other team members were ignored when they had physical injuries and were not assisted by the coaching staff. One team member was allegedly locked into the pool deck area after stopping in the middle of practice and being unable to move due to physical injury.
  • Team members were allegedly called into the hallway individually to be yelled at while the team practiced.
  • Rodriguez alleges the team was told daily by Coach Atkinson that they were not good enough nor were they “real D1 athletes.”
  • She alleges that team members’ scholarships and spots on the team were threatened to be taken away on a daily basis.
  • Swimmers were allegedly told that mental illnesses and anxiety were being faked or signified weakness. Rodriguez says that she was forced to swim underwater while having a panic attack.
  • Atkinson allegedly refused to acknowledge Rodriguez’s presence on deck, ignoring her answers to group questions.
  • Atkinson allegedly refused to coach the team one day, telling the team she did not come from the Olympics to coach them.
  • Swimmers were allegedly forbidden to take GPNC courses by Atkinson despite the courses being encouraged by the university.

Rodriguez alleges that the abuse allegations were brought to the attention of the athletic director multiple times and they were told that coach Atkinson would be spoken to. She alleges that, despite numerous personal and group meetings, emails, and phone complaints from parents over a period of 3 months, no changes were made.

Rodriguez says that the university was investigating the complaints at the time of the coaches’ dismissal, but that it is her understanding that the athletics director made the decision to part ways with the coaches before the conclusion of that investigation.

SwimSwam has reached out to Stony Brook and Atkinson, but a request for comment has not yet been answered. None of the athletes that we spoke to made any allegations against the assistant coach Bowen.

Update: shortly after posting, multiple members of the Fairfield team reached out to SwimSwam saying that these accusations aligned with their experiences. We are working with getting more specifics from those swimmers.

Atkinson is a Jamaican National Record holding swimmer who competed at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. She won 3 silver medals at the 1999 Pan Am Games (200, 400, 800 free) and 2 bronze medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games (400 free, 800 free). She has served as an assistant coach at UConn and Wright State and besides Stony Brook, was the head coach of Fairfield University.

The team concluded its regular season on Sunday with a 126-49 loss to New Hampshire. The team was scheduled to compete at the American East Conference Championship meet, but that meet is no longer listed on the team’s schedule. This was the team’s first season of varsity women’s swimming competition since the 2011-2012 season.

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73 Comments on "Stony Brook University Coaches Dismissed After Athletes Allege Abuse"

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Caeleb Dressel Will Get 7 golds in Tokyo

What happened to proof? Everyone is getting fired because of alleged claims

Aggie Swim Fan

I think Katherine Young’s statements most definitely qualifies the accusations made in the article. The woman has no business coaching “anybody” in anything!! Hoping she never sees a college pool deck again unless it’s as a paying member of the general public & she’s sitting up in the bleachers far away from the pool. To mention her name as a “former coach” slanders that title!!!

Katherine Young

I swam for her at Fairfield and we had about 17 people quit including myself within the first couple months of last season. This is the least shocking news I’ve ever seen and I can vouch for Rodriguez’s claims because I’ve lived through every single one of them

Wait a minute?! I know what u did that season!!! Check for her results!! There NOT there!!

That’s odd because there’s results from a 2016 Fairfield vs Manhattan college meet where I swam with bronchitis under the name Katia but I quit shortly after that.

As did I. Shocking the coach on deck compared to the coach in the office. Even the best therapy in the world can’t get me back the worst two months of my life

Caeleb Dressel Will Get 7 golds in Tokyo

I’m sorry. I only mean that alleged claims should be closer verified. There are cases of innocent people losing their jobs over fake claims.

samuel huntington

yikes, this sounds really bad

I am sad to say that this is not the first instance of her “poor behavior”. As you can see in the photo, across her shirt says Fairfield as in Fairfield University, the school she was at prior to Stonybrook. She was dismissed at Fairfield in Feb 2017 when her contract of 3 years was not renewed. There were so many identical incidents and more to which this poor swimmer speaks of that it is now with a light of concern over student athlete allegations due to Nasser that maybe, just maybe schools and USA swimming will do something about this. Too many schools do not want to look bad with investigations and hires, they quietly hope behavior will change… Read more »

Plenty of letters, meetings and correspondence from athletes and parents of Fairfield immediately initiated to address the issue. Every instance was deemed not credible…

Aggie Swim Fan

Just feel that she has had more than one chance to “change” & it hasn’t materialized!! Just a shame “the can got kicked down the road” for so long!!

Strongly agree. As former Olympic swimmer, now civil rights attorney Nancy Hogshead-Makar, pointed out today in an NPR interview the idea is to get all sports, NCAA, high schools, age group programs, and USOC to introduce consistent standards for coach training, licensing, and protocols for identifying abuse among coaches, volunteers, employees, etc. I’d add sharing data would also be good. Now obvious, based on your knowledge, this is a problem that could have been avoided. Again, I hope the swimmers are ok.

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona and the University of Florida. She got her M.S. in Criminology from Florida State and seems exceptionally confused about which team she should cheer for during the college football season. Lauren is currently working on her M.A. in …

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