View Full Version : Splash!

Philip Arcuni
February 8th, 2002, 07:54 PM
I'll say one thing for this magazine, interspersed between all of the hero-worship articles are some that cover subjects with real meat. In the last few issues are articles about foreign swimmers with American college scholarships, the conflict between USS and high-school swimming, eating disorders among swimmers, and (the lack of) racial diversity in the sport.

These are real issues to the sport.

Wouldn't it be nice if this group discussed some of these?

February 9th, 2002, 12:17 AM
Well if someone wants to get me going on the conflict between USA-S and high school, just let me know. For those who read the article, the unnamed high school swimmer who sued the state high school federation is my eldest daughter. We have our date with the Eastern District of the Missouri Appellate Court on February 20. We are keeping our fingers crossed but it won’t be easy. At least this time we get to argue before the panel. The last appeal in a case against the state high school association was dismissed before oral arguments. If you care to know the outcome (which could take 6 months), I would be glad to keep you informed.

February 9th, 2002, 11:23 AM
ljlete -

I somehow missed the article and don't know anything about it, but am very interested to know about it, and how it turns out. I've got a daughter in USA and next year will be in high school (hopefully one with a swim team). Thanks.

Matt S
February 11th, 2002, 02:51 PM
I am also curious as to the issues of the case (since I don't read the magazine). Is it possible to summarize these issues without reciting the entire case history?

Tom Ellison
February 11th, 2002, 02:58 PM
Me to...please fill me in as well....

February 11th, 2002, 10:58 PM
For those that would like a brief (if it is possible) history here is my attempt.

Last year my daughter, in preparation for swimming at the USA-Swimming Sectional meet, was granted permission by her high school coach to not attend practice for about a week as the high school team was unwieldy large prior to cuts and my daughter wanted to continue to train with the USA-Swimming club. Unbeknownst to us (even after direct questioning by us), this was contrary to the Missouri State High School Activities Association rule that prohibits participation in a club sport while competing for a high school in the same sport. This prohibition is complete and even prevents students from practicing with their club team even when the school is out of session or on the weekend. At the same time, the US Supreme Court ruled, in Brentwood v. Tennessee State High School Athletic Association, that the Association, as a state actor, was subject to the 14th amendment to the US Constitution. We then sued the MSHAA claiming violation of my daughter’s rights of association and under 42 USC 1982 which prohibits arbitrary and capricious laws and regulations by the state. The specifics about MSHAA are most curious in that they allow a student to compete in two different sports at the same time either for the school or one in-school and one out-of-school. They also regulate activities such as drama, speech and band. They do not limit participation in these activities based upon out-of-school activities. We went to trial and the only argument presented by MSHAA was that they were doing this to protect the student from the conflicting wishes of the two coaches. They did not bring up the potential time issues likely due to the fact that my daughter is a very good student. In spite of what I considered a persuasive argument, we lost. The trial judge gave what can be characterized as a curious ruling since she started out by saying that she was not sure she had jurisdiction. We have appealed the ruling and while I would love to go into our strategy, the element of surprise requires that I not do so. I will let you know what happens when I can.


Philip Arcuni
February 12th, 2002, 01:17 PM
Missouri is not the only one with such regulations. California has a similar one, and my own daughter has come against it. Any other states?

February 12th, 2002, 09:05 PM
There are many states who have rules of this sort with varying degrees of prohibition. There are also many states who have set up a system in which the clubs and the high schools are very cooperative and the kids benefit. There are benefits to be had from both club swimming and high school swimming. One of my issues is that when there is no reason for the state to act in loco parentis they come in and cause numerous athletes to make a difficult choice when they really don't have to make one.

February 12th, 2002, 09:45 PM
Missouri has had that rule since we lived there. We're now in Tennessee and swimming is not a sanctioned sport under the direction of TSSAA. Therefore, my daughters have all swum both USA and High School at the same time. They still represent the High School, and have a State Championship and still get Varsity letters, but it's basically a "club" thing. It looks and acts like a sanctioned sport, but it isn't. There have been some discussions about sanctioning in recent years, but those of us with kids in USA programs are naturally against it. This discussion may be interesting, but it's not exactly Masters related. My apologies to you Masters folks who may wonder why this thread is here, but it's about swimming and it's about our kids, two things that are easy to talk about.

February 13th, 2002, 12:25 PM
Posting topics like these are of great interest I think to most of us. USMS has a huge interest in helping swimming of all ages, especially since we think of it as such a great sport and know it is in need of support. I was shocked reading these stories about such restrictions. Having to make a choice of competing for one's school or for a club like USA Swimming seems wrong. I think if a kid can handle doing both and keep up good grades, they should be allowed to go for it. To me it makes common sense. Leo - Good luck in your fight!!!

Fritz Lehman
February 13th, 2002, 12:37 PM
It's been a long time but there was not such a rule in Oklahoma when I was growing up. There was in Kansas and I think in at least part of Texas. I remember thinking how lucky I was to not have to deal with making the choice.

February 13th, 2002, 12:49 PM
Ditto word for word DCarson's reply.

The one sport my daughter truly loves is swimming, even tolerating a 65 mile drive each way to practice. She would like to swim on a high school team next year, but not if it means quitting her USS team. Fortunately, Arkansas does not have such a restriction and she will not have to make that choice. I believe that the more opportunities swimmers have to compete, the better they become in competition. Membership on a high school team has its own benefits, but it is not a year round sport. USS membership is.



Norm Scott
February 13th, 2002, 05:33 PM
Here's a point to consider. A choice for a swimmer to compete in high school vs. USA may be eased somewhat if there is ample pool access for all high school swimmers within a state.

The city of Louisville has only two high school competition pools in the entire county school system. One of these is closing soon. However, my understanding is that Indiana, our neighbor across the mighty Ohio River, has a competition pool on every public high school campus within the state. Pool training in Indiana takes on the same characteristics as football or b-ball training--it can be done right there on campus. Presumably, each school has its own coach and its own swim program.

Kentucky public school students don't have to face the USA/high school participation choice, but Indiana students do. Kentucky students have to find their way from school to a pool across town or nearby to train. Coaches at these pools are chiefly USA club coaches, and they may have members from several high schools on their teams. Coaches and pools are shared by public high school students in Kentucky during the high school competition season.

This distinction may underlie the establishment (or not) of exclusionary rules from state to state. Or, it may have nothing to do with it. But it seems to me that where exclusionary rules exist, high school programs have to accommodate the needs of competitors 100%, and that appears not to have been the case with Leo's daughter. A new student recently transferred from an Indiana residence to Louisville, and a new member on my son's high school swim team told me this weekend that he liked the rules in Kentucky much better.

One more point about that school which is closing soon here in town. You guessed it, it sits right smack in the middle of an area with the highest concentration of African Americans. During the high school regionals this last weekend, I could count on one hand the number of non-white participants out the several hundred who went off the blocks. Only one appeared the next day in finals. I see this as a failure of leadership rising out of weak perception of what it means to live in a diverse community.

February 13th, 2002, 08:52 PM
As a sidenote, even though we are in Tennessee where my daughter has the opportunity to swim both USA and High School at the same time, this year she chose to not swim High School. She puts in up to 27 hours a week in USA Swimming workouts and did not attend enough "mandatory" high school workouts last year to earn her varsity letter, despite being on two third place relays and scoring individual place points at the State meet. The extra time and lack of recognition by the High School coach made her decide to give it a rest this year. So, the lesson is, even if it's not screwed up by beaurocrats, there's still the opportunity for others to do so.

February 13th, 2002, 11:01 PM
Another oddity in the Missouri rules is the prohibition preventing a high school coach from being the swimmer's year round USA-Swimming coach. This is in spite of their statement that they don't want two coaches having a conflict over one swimmer. If some only had one coach there wouldn't be a conflict. So to get around this problem, there are lots of games played about who is really coaching whom.


February 24th, 2002, 06:26 PM
I always thought that these rules were around to largely prevent "ringers" in high school programs. I went to high school in Masschusetts, and the policiy from the MIAA (the Mass. high school sports governing association) was that, basically, you could not miss a high school practice and go to a non-HS practice, and could not miss a high school competition and go to a non-HS competition. However, you could miss a HS practice to go to a non-HS competition.

High school swimming is a team sport, and I think it's important that it be a team sport. You're not part of the team if you're never there for workouts, and only show up for meets. If you do that, then you're just a ringer for the high school team. You're just someone who's showing up to score points. You're not part of the team.

In Mass., there was a standard exception policy -- you had to petition for permission. So every year, I would have my HS principal write a letter to the MIAA board officially asking for an exception for a couple of USS meets that conflicted with HS meets, and every year my petitions were accepted without problem.

IMHO, if you want to be on a high school swim team, then be on the high school swim team. If you don't want to be on the high school swim team, then don't.


February 24th, 2002, 08:02 PM

To directly reply to your statement, I agree with in for the most part. The school has the right to require you to do things. They don't have the right to prevent you from doing things when you are not under their supervision. The problem we have with the Missouri and many other state's rules are that they prohibit swimmers from maintaining their training in what is truely a year round conditioning cycle. In Missouri, for example, my daughter can't go to the Benko clinic we are hosting unless her coach comes along. If the high school can't or doesn't want to rent pool time over spring break, she can't practice with her USA-S team. We don't want her to skip HS practice, we are just looking for ways to do what she would like to do outside of school.


February 24th, 2002, 08:23 PM
Well if anyone is interested, we had our appeal before the Missouri Appellate court on Wednesday. The average time before a ruling is handed down is one month. It was interesting and from watching the cases before ours, it was apparent that the appeal process is more or less open season for the judges on the lawyers. They get into their argument about 2 minutes before one of the judges interrupts and starts firing pointed questions. Our lawyer went first and it took a while to get what we are looking for straight. We want our daughter to practice with the school team but to also be able to practice with the USA-S team when she has time, especially when she does not have HS practice on the same day. We finally got around to our legal attack, that is, that the rules have no reasonable basis because they treat seemingly identical situations different. The rules differentiate between students who want to do the same sport both in school and out-of-school and student who want to do different sports in the same situation. Luckily, we had in the trial record the case of an athlete, Kristen Foulk, who is a star volleyball and basketball player and who graduated from the same school my daughter attends. She went on to Stanford, played both sports there and I believe made the Olympic Volleyball team. She is now in the WNBA. We had demonstrated that the rules allowed her to practice one sport with the high school team and then practice with the out-of-school team until the sun came up the next day under the current rules. With that background, this biased observer believes that the court gave the lawyer for the state a pretty hard time when they asked for a rational basis for the rule. The judges tried for about 10 (of the allotted 15) minutes to get it out of the lawyer but he kept on giving really poor answers or giving the court a history lesson. In the first case, he tried to claim that the rule prevented conflicts between the in and out-of-school coaches. The judge simply asked why there would be any different between those situations for which the lawyer had no answer. At one point one of the judges interrupted and said that “you have spent the last two minutes telling us that you have always done it this way, please tell us your rational basis”. Later, a second judge interrupted and asked, with apologies to the first judge, for permission to rephrase the original question and asked for the state’s best rational basis. At this point, the lawyer reiterated the list that had already been belabored and really didn’t offer a good answer. There was some confusion about some technicalities and I hope that they don’t get in the way. At least we were able to get the court to accept our assertion that the rules must be drawn from a rational basis and implemented fairly. We will have to wait to see how strong the basis needs to be.

Tom Ellison
February 25th, 2002, 11:34 AM
I see no gray area here...YOU ARE 100 % RIGHT! It is black and white clear! I respect you standing up against this nonsense.
Good luck...and keep up the good fight.
Kindest regards,
Tom Ellison

February 25th, 2002, 02:01 PM
It's unrealistic to think of swimming as a "team" sport in the same sense as football or basketball. It falls under the same category as track and field, wrestling, golf or any number of other high school sports in that they are largely made up of individual performers (with the exception of relays) who are a team in name only.
The Tennessee State Meet was this past weekend and the finalists were all "ringers", as you call them. No matter how you cut it, no non-USA swimmer is going to swim a 4:22 500 free as the men's winner did. And without all of our USA swimmers in the State Meet, where are they going to find enough qualified officials to run it?
Maybe is't unfortunate that non-USA swimmers have no chance to place, and rarely ever see their USA swimming counterparts, but most schools requirements to earn a varsity letter are based more on participation in practic and achieving State qualifying times which are not very difficult.
My daughter chose not to swim High School this year. The points she could have scored would have been helpful so I wonder if the non-USA swimmers would have welcomed a little help from another "ringer" to boost the team's chances.

February 26th, 2002, 08:45 AM

Good luck!! This is long over due! I have an interest in this case because my son, now only 12, will have to choose unless the law changes. We're watching the results closley and hoping they will come up with a way that is fair for the athlete as well as the HS.
As you know, these athletes already give up so much of their free and social time, to prevent them from being around friends and peers just because they don't want to fall behind on training. Also the quality of most HS coaches is questionable at best. This means that the athlete learns bad habits that can take years to correct.
For the sake of the schools, the swimmers and their parents, I wish you the best in this case.