Thursday, December 5, 2013

Is Acclaimed Swim Coach Dick Shoulberg at the Finish Line?

Richard Shoulberg
Dick Shoulberg has had a long and storied career as a swim coach. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported today, over four decades at Germantown Academy, he “sent 16 swimmers to the Olympics, coached U.S. teams, centered two halls of fame, and won five national coaching awards.”
And now he’s suddenly out.  
For no other reason, he says, than age and speaking his mind.

“I haven’t done anything wrong, other than being 74 ½ and looking people in the eye and telling them, ‘You’re wrong,’” Shoulberg is quoted as saying.
Claire Crippen stepping in for former coach Shoulberg
We don’t know Germantown Academy’s side of the story. School officials emailed parents recently saying others would be coaching this year.  The head of the Fort Washington, Pa. school told the Inquirer, it was a "personnel issue," that Shoulberg was placed on administrative leave. Maybe the school wants to give Claire Crippen, named one of two acting coaches to replace Shoulberg, a chance for the limelight. She’s a champion University of Virginia swimmer in her own right, former captain of their team. Her sister Maddy was a 2000 Olympian. Another sister, Teresa, nearly made the 2012 Olympic swim team. And her famed brother, Fran, tragically drowned in 2011 during an international race in the too-warm waters of the United Arab Emirates.
All the Crippen siblings grew up coached by Dick Shoulberg, so for Claire to step into his shoes must be a decision rife with conflicting emotions.
Maybe Shoulberg is no longer at the top of his game. It happens. Or maybe he really ticked someone off.
Still, is there no place for the role of “elder” for such a man, one widely regarded by his protégées as a father figure, a “class act,” a man who “changed me as a person in addition to a swimmer.”
Shoulberg says he has asked Germantown Academy if he could come back as “coach emeritus and only help if needed.” Even teaching preschoolers. “My life is not just coaching world-class athletes. It’s teaching all aspects of aquatics,” he says.
The school this morning said it was an issue it hoped to resolve soon.
Whether or not news stories raising questions about Shoulberg’s departure change the course of anything, we know one thing for sure:
It is harder to pick up the pieces of a long career and move forward when the leaving is so bitter.

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