Bolles Nation

The three greatest swimmers in the NCAA – Ryan Murphy, Joseph Schooling, and Caeleb Dressel – all hail from the same place: Bolles. The single finest place on earth to develop champions in the pool…

It was impossible to choose. Any other year, any one among the three would have been the slam dunk unanimous pick, but this year all three gentlemen were flawless, and so it was only proper to bestow the honor on the trio. It wasn’t the first time they’ve shared center stage.

Ryan Murphy, Joseph Schooling, and Caeleb Dressel have known each other a long time, since they were young teens at Uible Pool on the Bolles School campus in Jacksonville, Florida. They’ve always been record breaking chosen-one studs, since they were kids. Murphy has been a backstroke prodigy since he was a boy. Schooling, a butterfly genius since he arrived from Singapore. And Dressel, well, he’s the sort of speed freak phenom that you could see turning pro in any number of sports.

Together, they’re now in the midst of compiling a collective collegiate resumé that has never been witnessed in the history of swimming.

Read more…

The Brand of a Club

Three years ago, the Curl-Burke swim club was rebranded in the wake of Rick Curl’s sexual abuse disgrace… Today, the renamed Nations Capital Swim Club is the number one ranked club team in America, led by Katie Ledecky. While the old name has been erased from record, the legacy of excellence never skipped a stroke. Thanks, in large part, to the club’s owner and CEO, Tom Ugast…

He stood up there at the height of his profession. On a fine recent Sunday evening in Los Angeles, Bruce Gemmell received his third straight Golden Goggles award, as the Doc Counsilman Coach of the Year. He’s Katie Ledecky’s coach, after all, and whoever’s coaching that girl is doing something right. But behind the podium, delivering remarks filled with his usual humility and selflessness, Gemmell stood for a lot more than Ledecky’s leader.

Here was the guy who represented the Nations Capital Swim Club – the one that not so long ago was called Curl-Burke – and it was hard to envision a figure you’d rather have leading your organization. Gemmell oozes integrity. Some people have that way about them, you can smell it a mile away. Some pretend to, some puff out the chest and say all the right things, deliver all the right results, but you can sense something off underneath.

The parents and swimmers of Nations Capital should know. The guy who used to run the place was like that. Rick Curl could coach, no one ever begrudged him that, but as a man there was a fatal secret. This was a man who sexually abused a 13-year-old girl, when he was 33. A guy who got away with it too, for years, despite widespread whispers, until the culture finally caught up to the outrage his crimes deserved. Now Curl is serving seven years in prison, his name verboten on pool decks. Yet somehow the club he founded 37 years ago never missed a beat.

Read more…

FINA is Doomed

The sport’s international governing body faces a reckoning and a rebellion… It may soon cease to exist at all.

The instinct with institutions is that they’ll always be there. The inevitable monolith that will always lumber on in control, behind the scenes, no matter the level of failure or incompetency. Too big to fail, to implacable to replace. Except that’s never been true. Nations are born, corporations crumble, bureaucracies are buried.

That’s where FINA now finds itself. Like its more famous, dastardly cousin FIFA, the organization that reputes to represent swimming has long been about as competent and transparent as soccer’s filthy world governing body. Finally, leaders on pool decks across the world are declaring that they’ve had it. It’s time FINA went the way of Sepp Blatter.

Last week at the American Swimming Coaches Association conference, bold moves were made. Enough is enough, said the collection of coaches. Whether it’s about drugs or negligence in competitions or just plain good governance, no one can trust the folks who claim to lead this sport from its summit in Lausanne, Switzerland. So, at the ASCA conference in Cleveland, the decision was made, to quote Swimming World’s Brent Ruttemiller, that “they were not going to try to reform FINA, they were going to replace FINA. That was made very clear here.”

Read more…

Playing Favorites

The high-wire genius in coaching talent-loaded teams…

If only I had athletes like that, man, what I could do with them. With talent like that, how can they not win? He’s a great recruiter, a brilliant salesman, but as a coach? Anyone could do that, with his stable of horses… You just need to get out of the way.

The bitter musings of a jealous coach… It’s March, and from poolside to courtside, madness like that is in full bloom.

Over the last two weekends, the clear favorites have run away with the women’s and men’s NCAA Swimming Championships – Teri McKeever’s Cal Bears and Eddie Reese’s Texas Longhorns. Neither team title came as a surprise. In fact, if either of these teams had failed to win it all, it would have been seen as a choke, as teams failing to live up to their potential.

Read more……

The Process of Courage

Jeff Julian – Friend, Coach, Cancer Survivor To-Be…

You’re sitting in a doctor’s office. Something’s been bothering you, a pain in your back and neck that just isn’t getting better. You’re fit, not yet 40, a former champion butterflyer who knows his body the way only swimmers do. Your days are spent active, on your feet on a pool deck, under a warm Southern California sun. The pain has been progressing for a few months now, but Advil usually takes care of it. Whatever it is, there must be an easy explanation. It’s probably just one of those nagging signs of aging, the aches and pains of creeping middle age.

But then one night you’re out to dinner with your wife and the pain becomes too much to ignore. You contact a doctor. The next day you head to the hospital.

Read more……

Chasing the Ambulance

Outside magazine publishes a deep dive into swimming’s sexual abuse scandal… Lawyers rejoice.

Somewhere, the devil is smiling. Or to quote Al Pacino playing the personified Dark One in the Devil’s Advocate: “Lawyers are the devil’s ministry.”

Oh yes, the lawyers are tossing back shots of whiskey and beaming with the news. Outside magazine just gave them the bully’s pulpit. Then, Slate Magazine picked up the story, and quoted yours truly. Imagine my surprise. I haven’t been posting much lately, but suddenly traffic to this site was spiking. Curious, says I, let’s take a look at the old Word Press Dashboard, figure out where all these hits are coming from. Ah, but of course, the story that wouldn’t die: “The Worst Kept Secret in Washington”, published the day the Rick Curl scandal broke, back in the summer of 2012.

Read more……