Subsequent to the posting of yesterday’s item, the parent of a 10-year-old swimmer who is coached by Michael Pliuskaitis called me, at the behest of Pliuskaitis, to confirm that there was indeed a meeting at which the coach informed families of his dispute with USA Swimming over his lifetime ban for having a relationship with a former swimmer. The parent, whose name is Larry Russ, likes the coach, who he believes is being railroaded. Duly noted.
There’s also a substantial community of former swimmers and families at Pliuskaitis’ old club, Snow Swimming, who speak differently and damningly of him. In weighing the information of these sources, it’s fair to acknowledge that they do not want me to use their names. It’s also fair to point out that the sex crimes of coaches in youth swimming over the last generation are so widespread and systematic, and the damage to victims so profound, that we need to assess our national program through lenses that are more than legalistic.
In the wash, there may turn out to examples of a particular coach or two, like a particular Catholic priest or two, who were falsely accused. But it is an understatement to say that I’m not ready to rest with Pluitsaikis’ rebuttal here.
One of my root sources on his misdeeds is a former female swimmer at Snow who told me, “I will never give out my real name. He scared me then. He scares me now. If you had ever been on the tail end of an outburst of his, you would understand. He’s been to my house. He knows where I live.”
When the Pliuskaitis ban was reported at reachforthewall.com, a swimming news site owned by The Washington Post, the following comments were posted by various swimmers and family members:
“Everyone knew what was going on between his swimmer and himself. Even his wife. He should have been banned years ago.”
“This was one of the worst kept secrets in Loudoun County. This situation was going on well before 2011, and as an ex swimmer of Mike’s who swam at the same time as the swimmer involved, all I can say is BS… All the SNOW coaches new [sic] of the situation and so did his wife. They all looked the other way until they couldn’t anymore.
Not only was he a sexual predator, he was also mental and verbally abusive to all his female swimmers. I contacted USA swimming about his behavior back in 2009 and again in 2010.”
“Fact 1. I swam for Mike and was verbally and mentally abused. Fact 2. Why do you think that a majority of his older girl swimmers a few years ago left SNOW […]”
[from a coach] “[…] I think we all just agree that he should have been banned quite some time ago. Just because there was never any charges brought against him doesn’t mean that he didn’t do anything wrong. The young girl in which is had/has a relationship with never brought charges against him because they are a couple and it seems that they are planning to get married.
“Mike may not have been mentally and verbally abusive to every one of his female athletes, but I can say that he was to a large percentage of them. I’ve heard him use derogatory language towards his female swimmers on the deck during practices that he used to cover and I’ve also heard the way he treats his ex-wife. He used to send girls by the half dozen into the locker room to weigh themselves and consistently called them fat if they did not meet his standards of what a young woman should weigh. That is completely uncalled for. @loudounswimmer is right; he treated the majority of his girls pretty bad and a lot of other swimmers and coaches heard it and saw it all the time….
“[…] He IS in a relationship with a young girl that he’s been involved with for a few years now and they ARE planning on getting married. This relationship DID start before she was 18. He DID treat a lot of his female athletes really bad and he doesn’t deserve to be on deck anymore. I know a lot f people are glad he’s finally gone.”
“I too was a former swimmer of Mike and I experienced the exact same treatment. I was publicly hit in the head by Mike at a championship meet final due to a simple misunderstanding. He embarrassed me in front of my teammates and other coaches.
Along with his physical abuse, he was extremely mentally and verbally abused [sic]. I will never forget him telling me that I am fat and that no man will ever want to date nor marry me because of how fat I am. That is something that I will never forget and have carried with me for the last 6 years of my life.
“Also, I will never forget how nasty I was yelled at for not moving out of the way for his little girlfriend [name has been removed] to do a flip-turn. It was more than obvious that they were having an ongoing relationship. I find it quite disgusting that her parents can sit there and watch this happen. I really hope that both [name has been removed] and her parents can realize the sick and perverse man that Mike is.”