Pressure is building to reinstate in some fashion Dick Shoulberg, the nationally renowned, much-loved swim coach at Germantown Academy, whose dismissal this fall became public in the last few days. It had to come out. Too many people are upset. On Nov. 26, just before Thanksgiving, GA held a very private, closed- door, meeting with parents of swimmers who were outraged by Shoulberg's leaving.
"They had a meeting because the kids were so upset. They love this guy," one parent of a high school swimmer coached by Shoulberg told me today. The school has been "absolutely unfair to him." Shoulberg is "one of the "biggest influences in my daughter's life. My daughter is getting heavily recruited because of him."
According to this parent, those at the meeting "ripped" the current head of this prestigious private school. And some of them are very influential people in the Philadelphia community.
What triggered this fiasco? According to this parent, it was a verbal student-on-student hazing incident that Shoulberg reported "up the line." And while there was a "gentleman's agreement" for Shoulberg to come back, that's been mired in lawyer-speak, apparently.
Is this version of events true? I have no idea.
Meanwhile, a letter writing campaign in support of Shoulberg has launched, some of which appears on the website www.swimswam.com. Chuck Connor, former president of the American Swimming Coaches Association writes with passion of his long connection to Shoulberg.
"What I find so unique about how Dick Shoulberg does his work, and lives his life, is that he is an open book. He can be abrupt and perhaps you are feeling challenged by this. His emotions are worn on his sleeve. I’ve seen him tremble and cry in embarrassment over receiving yet another national award, and generate a similar emotion calling his wife to tell her of the achievements of your students. I’ve watched him greet your students for swim classes with a booming voice that shakes them. And they love it."
It's had nearly 1,000 "likes."
Clearly, age plays a role in the outrage. I'm not sure how to parse it exactly. Shoulberg -- at "74 1/2," as he puts it -- is clearly an "elder" in the way that Indian societies used the word: revered, deserving of respect, wise. Many still want to sit at his feet (or in the pool) to learn from his lifetime of experience and success.
Perhaps GA will find a way through this public relations disaster to figure that out.