go coach for a rec team, brother

| 1 Comment

What happens when you don't get along with your coach? Sometimes you get singled out for harder work at practice. Sometimes you lose playing time. Sometimes you aren't allowed to wash Coach Sean's car. And sometimes, if you're a Stanford swimmer, your records are expunged from the books.

Coach Skip Kenney was mad that Michael McLean took a summer internship in 2005, instead of making voluntary offseason workouts his main priority. NCAA rules forbid coaches from forcing athletes to practice out of season, nor can coaches punish athletes for not practicing in the off-season. So, in addition to making McLean practice at 4:30 AM, apart from his teammates, and banning him from some away meets, he pulled any mention of McLean's accomplishments out of the 2006-07 team media guide. Four other swimmers received similar treatment, presumably because they crossed Kenney in some way.

According to his biography on Stanford's official site, "Skip Kenney stands alone among his peers for his accomplishments in the pool and his character away from the pool."

(Note: Swimming has an unusually high concentration of parents and coaches named Skip. I worked for a Skip and coached against at least two others. Perhaps that's an unavoidable side effect of a sport that requires club memberships and allows parents to stroll the decks holding cocktails during competitions. Actual captain's hats are still thankfully scarce.)

From my experience as a swim coach, this whole thing seems unthinkable. Not just because it's a huge ethical lapse by the coach, but because swimmers are absolutely obsessed with personal records and meticulous accounting of their best times. Parents of five-year-old swimmers will carry around cards listing every time they got all year. I've had a parent call me at home to tell me about how relay splits more accurately reflect his daughter's freestyle speed than her individual event times. Teams give out stickers, towels, gold stars, and, on one case, iron-on penguin patches to commemorate best times. How did Kenney ever think that messing with the record books would go unnoticed on a swim team?

There's no way Kenney is going to get fired over this, petty as it is, because he's simply too successful. I think an appropriate remedy, besides a fine and suspension for Kenney, would be for the athletic department to cancel these "voluntary" summer workouts for at least 2007, if not beyond. Even though IT'S DIVISION ONE SWIMMING, you still have to follow the rules. Or you might as well go coach for a rec team, brother.

Nice work by Tom FitzGerald, a fine Chronicle sportswriter and Sean Keane supporter from way back. The moral of this story is that, as usual, Stanford sucks.

1 Comment

Is there any way to get some of those iron-on penguins now? Because if you're ever looking to buy the love of Michele and/or me, I think you've hit on the price.

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