I swim on frequent occasion with the Husky Masters. This is the best masters group I’ve found in the Seattle area, because the coaches are attentive, work on stroke technique, and the regular members work hard and have talent. Every masters team, however, has a certain amount of apathy toward the really hard training that it takes to break into the high level of fitness where your body starts looking like a swimmer’s, and where you finish a workout with an indescribable hunger (for food), and the pride that comes from having just kicked everyone’s butt for 90 excruciatingly painful minutes.
A few weeks ago something happened that took away that apathy from the Husky Masters. I’ve noticed that the old regulars are starting look younger. Their abs are becoming more defined, they’re using pull buoys less, and their skin is red after workout, even before the hot showers. The intensity of the workouts has increased, and everyone is getting way faster. Even more surprising: nobody is complaining. Not about the increased intensity of the workouts, anyway.
What initiated this change was the addition of six new athletes to our workouts. These athletes are technically on the varsity team, though have been barred from team swim practices, barred from team weight lifting, and ostracized by their own coaches. Their loss has been our gain on Husky Masters. They work hard, they make tough sets, and their positive attitude and work ethic is contagious. The rest of us do our best to follow their lead, and it’s making us better swimmers.
Unfortunately I’m not selfish enough to ignore the fact that these six swimmers, three men and three women, are college students, at University of Washington on athletic scholarships, governed by NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) rules, and they have been kicked off their team by a coach that could find absolutely no legit grounds for expulsion. He has said that he doesn’t want more than three people in a lane, so these swimmers would have to practice at a different time. Why then are they kicked out of the weight room? Why are they forced to only swim six hours a week, while their 36 teammates swim 20? How does the coach expect these swimmers to keep up when they aren’t given the same opportunity?
The obvious answer is that Head Coach Whitney Hite, who in his second year at Washington is already over budget, wants the scholarship money back from six athletes that he did not recruit himself. In fact, all six of these athletes were recruited by the previous coach, Mickey Wender. Unfortunately for Whitney, the NCAA doesn’t allow a coach to cut anyone without grounds, and if he does cut someone with scholarship then they keep the money. Now, if an athlete quits or violates NCAA rules, then Whitney can get their scholarship money back. Is my post title becoming clear? Whitney Hite is stretching NCAA rules to their limit, and some might say even say he’s breaking them. He’s punishing 20 year old athletes who’s only offense is that they aren’t the new coaches favorites. I can tell you from being on an division 1 swim team for four years, these swimmers are not bad apples. They have been pushed away from their team, made to feel as though they are worthless, and yet their attitudes are still great. They push the pace, they never complain about sets. If the 40 men on the Columbia swim team all had such good attitudes, we would have been Ivy Champs.
I don’t often use my site for political statement, but this really hits me the wrong way. Whitney Hite is clearly trying to force a higher attrition rate on his team. I stood back hoping that the team would be able to find a solution on their own, but that has not happened. It’s time for the community to become involved.
Here’s a letter I sent to Whitney today, with a CC to the Washington Athletic Director
I am writing because I am concerned over the situation on your team regarding six varsity swimmers. It appears that you have segregated these team members, and forced them to train at separate times from their teammates. It further appears that these swimmers are not being given equal facilities, time, or coaching to their teammates. As a former Division 1 swimmer, I am appalled. What these swimmers are going through is the incarnation of my worst nightmare. I swam for Columbia University with a men’s team of 40 swimmers. We often had six or more swimmers in the lane, and it made us stronger. As much as I enjoy swimming in vacant lanes, I would never have wished this type of punishment upon any of my teammates. Furthermore, if it is lane space that is the issue, then why are these swimmers kept from team weight lifting?
I sincerely hope that this treatment is not an attempt to force the athletes to quit. I realize your budget is tight, but destroying a persons collegiate athletic career in order to gain back scholarship money is immoral. For those of us lucky enough to swim for our Alma Mater, the experience is unforgettable, and something we will be proud of for years to come. Please don’t ruin this experience for six good people. If there is a problem, then find a way to address it that is fair to the entire team. If using the master’s practice for varsity swimmers is the solution, then may I suggest a daily rotation, so no athlete has to swim with the masters more than once a week. It would be easy to coordinate this with a rest day, and you would end up with a stronger team. There are probably a dozen more solutions that don’t ostracize team members, and I urge you to choose one.
Below are the email addresses for Whitney and Todd Turner, the AD. I encourage you to add your voice.
Coach Whitney Hite:
wlhite @ u.washington.edu
Todd Turner (Athletic Director)
huskyad @ u.washington.edu
Here is a shorter letter that you can use, just to let Whitney know you care.
Recently I heard of a situation with the Washington Swim Team. It appears that a small portion of the team is now required to train separately from the team. This does not seem fair to anyone involved, and as a friend and member of the athletic community I urge you to find another solution. These athletes were recruited to swim for the University of Washington, and they should be allowed to swim with the University of Washington. Please reconsider your solution.
Let’s give these kids a chance. In a few weeks it will be too late for them to catch up.