by Irvin Muchnick
Their shared Pennsylvania geography and wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing style make it natural to call Dick Shoulberg the Joe Paterno of swimming.
But Shoulberg — whose legacy is under siege with a new lawsuit against his long-time base, the Germantown Academy near Philadelphia, confirming years of reports all was not as it seemed at the aquatic Happy Valley — is actually worse than Paterno. The Keystone State’s kindly old guru of the gridiron was established as having turned a blind eye while assistant coach Jerry Sandusky raped underprivileged and powerless youth. Shoulberg, however, protected serial abusive practices within his own program. (Again, the current legal complaint is at http://muchnick.net/germantowncomplaint.pdf.)
Indeed, Shoulberg, author of the famous internal USA Swimming memo warning not to become like the Catholic Church, is emerging as the undisputed archbishop of abuse-by-proxy.
The new lawsuit, which alleges that he ordered a teen swimmer to keep rooming with a teammate who was physically beating and terrorizing him, is only the crowning example. Time and again over the years, Shoulberg was alerted of awful, sometimes criminal, behavior by assistants under his supervision. On each and every occasion, Shoulberg allowed the miscreant to continue in the swimming industry as someone else’s problem. He was more Catholic than the Catholics.
For example: Germantown assistant Joe Weber was secretly fired in February 1995 after pleading guilty to sex with a 14-year-old girl he was coaching. Weber served a five-year prison term, then resumed coaching at the YMCA in Somerset, New Jersey, for six years before his past caught up with him. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=5933.
Another example: Former Germantown and Notre Dame swimmer Marie Labosky. She triumphantly returned from college to coach on Shoulberg’s staff, and in that capacity videotaped and distributed on Facebook the recording of her urging on boy swimmers, in their togs, in a twerking and pole-dancing demonstration. Germantown sources say this was just one of many instances of Labosky’s extreme immaturity at best, and clear lack of fitness to be guiding youth athletes. Instead of reporting her to USA Swimming, Shoulberg sent her down the road to a club in Allentown. When parents there got wind of the unwritten entries on her curriculum-very-vitae, they threw her out. Swimming industry insiders arranged for Labosky to get a marketing job with Speedo. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=8793; https://concussioninc.net/?p=8800; https://concussioninc.net/?p=8808.
At the time the “John Doe” civil complaint against Germantown was bubbling up in late 2014 — spurred by the protest resignations of assistant coaches Caroline Boland and Colleen Boland — the school sent an open letter to the community suggesting that the problem was not rampant abuse, but rather academic irregularities, in the swimming program. More on that tomorrow.