Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Coach Swimming? You're abusive behavior isn't tolerated either...

In the spirit of the olympics, I remember back to my days on a swim team. My mom used to get me and my brother up at around 5am to go to early morning practice. Then after afternoon practice, we sometimes got pizza from an actual pizza place! (My mom didn't believe in fast food much) She would have blankets in the car for us as we ate our pizza with the heat blaring, since during the winter it was so jarring leaving a cold pool and then going outside. I even won a ribbon for 3rd place in a race! I was told by my mom that the coaches said I had really beautiful strokes -- very precise and lovely to watch -- I just needed to do them faster.

Eventually, I stopped swimming. I had soured on it for reasons other than the swimming itself. My coach was, to put it mildly, a prick (unfortunately this seems to be one of my favorite words now).  I had a lot of trouble getting into the pool quickly and instead of helping me through this fear (which I actually still have now insanely enough), he just pushed me into the water after yelling at me to get into the pool. I was not happy. One dayI had a Shel Silverstein book I dearly loved which I had borrowed from the library. My coach asked to borrow it. I let him. When the due date came, he did not return it to me and basically lost the book and never paid me back for it. He said something like he had never borrowed it and I needed to get over it...I hated that coach. I liked swimming, but I didn't like him.

His name was Rick Curl. He's one of the most  well known coaches in Olympic swimming. I didn't know at the time just how 'important' he was. And frankly didn't care much. I don't have to deal with him anymore and I've gone on and grown up; he has no power over me, and never really did in the first place. He was just a coach that was not very nice to me. Game over.

Then recently both my mom and my brother sent me this article from the Washington Post:
Curl-Burke founder Rick Curl faces hearing on former swimmer’s account of underage sexual relationship in 1980s
Prominent Washington area swimming coach Rick Curl took a leave of absence from the club he founded Wednesday in the wake of accusations that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a teen swimmer and then paid her and her parents to keep quiet as part of a settlement…. 
…Curl, who coached Tom Dolan to three medals in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, attended last month’s U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha on a coaching credential. His Curl-Burke Swim Club, founded in 1978, is one of the largest in the country, with 950 swimmers among its 10 sites in the Washington area.
Dang! Well, he was a prick to me but…wow!  The scary part is that it could have been me or any other girl in his care. After the Penn State sexual scandal, all sorts of stuff is coming out about prominent coaches that had been covered up for years.  Apparently, in this case, once again people in high places in the swimming world knew about this scandal WHILE IT WAS HAPPENING! They decided not to say anything because…you guessed it…he was prominent and creating champions in the sport.

This kind of stuff makes all those coaches who do their best, spend time and effort with our kids, suspect in ways they should not be. We trust coaches with out most prized possessions: our children. It's time to clean house so I can feel comfortable when my children say to me, "I want to be an olympian!" and then I say, "well let's find a coach that can help you…"


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