by Irvin Muchnick
At no time have Tim Joyce and I ever felt that whatever Marie Labosky did while working for Dick Shoulberg at the Germantown Academy in Port Washington, Pennsylvania, was anything close to the worst example of abuse in USA Swimming’s bulging misconduct files. In a world where mid-teen swimmers routinely get groomed, then in many cases raped, this one is more about how an historic culture of immature and out-of-control behavior subsumes the current hypocritical, money-grubbing culture of safe sport director Susan Woessner and her cover-up-happy boss, USA Swimming chief Chuck Wielgus.
And the story is especially interesting because it involves Shoulberg, who like his protégé David Berkoff gets hyped for his rectitude and for self-serving internal statements such as the one in which he huffed: “… I would hate to see our organization ever in the predicament of the current Roman Catholic Church — protecting child molesters!”
We will pass this article along to Shoulberg and to Germantown Academy head of school Jim Connor, and invite their response. But be forewarned, readers: We haven’t heard from either gentleman yet. Not when we asked about recent events – a severe swimmer-on-swimmer hazing episode, investigated by the police – which led to Shoulberg’s leave of absence and then return as “coach emeritus.” Not when we earlier questioned the wisdom of the meeting of USA Swimming’s Steering Committee, which Shoulberg chaired, smack-dab in the middle of a Las Vegas bacchanalia-convention of the American Swimming Coaches Association, on whose board Shoulberg also served. Not when we asked Shoulberg if he agreed with ASCA boss John Leonard’s characterization of it as an organization that does not “[deal] directly with children, nor is that part of our purpose in any way, shape, or form.”
According to a Germantown parent, whose account and details we find credible, “Marie Labosky was fired by Germantown Academy for inappropriately videotaping members of the boys swim team. The videotaping involved provocative dancing on the pool deck of male members of the team.” The not always one hundred percent accurate rumor mill agrees that the tape was immensely stupid and sexually suggestive by design: male swimmers pole-dancing and simulating sex acts while dancing, with Labosky’s voice in the background egging them on. What’s that newfangled Miley Cyrus word – twerking?
We are further told – again, unconfirmed but utterly plausibly – that Labosky posted the video on Facebook. We note that Labosky currently does not seem to have a Facebook account, and it is not intuitive that someone of her generation and in her line of work would have no presence in that popular and au courant medium.
After Labosky’s unexplained separation from Germantown, she headed up the road to Erik Posegay’s Parkland program in Allentown. Here’s where our narrative gains complete confidence. The rank and file were told none of the background of the hire. Parkland parents later learned of the incident and took up the matter with USA Swimming, and the upshot is that yet another bright light of the coaching profession went dark for good. Either Labosky’s family connections (as noted, her parents own a swimsuit and apparel shop) or USA Swimming fixers saw to it that she got a soft employment landing with major sponsor Speedo.
After I contacted people at Parkland to find out when Labosky worked there, she called me and rattled her proverbial saber while refusing to entertain any of my questions. A club board member asked me to keep names there out of our coverage. “We have no skin in this game and we don’t need to be involved,” is how this director put it. I’m still waiting for the promised communication from Labosky’s lawyer.
In short, chalk up another one for the USA Swimming safe sport program. Consultant Victor Vieth just gave it a glowing review, but won’t give a straight answer to the question of how many tens of thousands of dollars USA Swimming paid him and Gundersen Health System to write it. Let’s hope the United States Congress takes a closer and more critical look at this sleazy operation.