I also must preface this post with the reminder that the opinions in this post are purely my opinions as a supportive, somewhat frustrated and sad swim wife and not those of USA Swimming, swimmers (maybe not even Mark's) or swimming media outlets.
Here we go...
The last 24 hours have been interesting in The Gangloff Household and in that of USA Swimming. Mark Schubert takes a leave of absence and the Athlete Partnership Agreement (APA) ultimately ceases to exist. Though the news about Schubert is a bit of a surprise, it is that of the APA that really has rocked this house (and not for the better).
If you don't know about the APA, I recommend visiting your favorite swimming media website and catch up... I hardly have the energy to think about it, much less recount every detail. The short version is this:
- USA Swimming acknowledged that a $1,750 a month (before taxes) stipend was no longer enough to support their elite (some of which are already multiple Olympic medalists... uh, hem...) athletes' Olympic dreams
- USA Swimming put together a task force to develop a new 'plan' which became known at the APA and included an increase in stipend (almost double) and other stipulations
- As part of an early plan, the plan included the athletes signing a contract which, among other things, including granting USA Swimming the right to name and likeness (pictures)
- Some athletes were not willing to do this in fear that it would disrupt other partnerships/sponsorships or would just plain interfere with their rights
- The plan was revised to exclude the contract and rights to name and likeness
- It was suggested to some athletes that the new plan was a done deal (therefore, some athletes really started get excited about the potential of a college fund for their baby, potentially a newer, much needed, car, and a little bit of extra cash to relieve some of the pressure come championship racing season)
- The new plan was, evidently, not a done deal as it was changed, yet again, yesterday much to the surprise of some the athletes that it would affect
- Emails, phone calls, texts and other communication have been swirling between athletes, coaches, agents, Board of Director members, committee members and other representatives at USA Swimming in the last 24 hours to figure out what the heck is going on with a plan that some assumed was good to go
- Some athletes don't care, some athletes didn't like the plan to begin with, and some athletes (I know one whose name begins with an M) that are terribly upset by the surprising turn of events.
No, it's not just the money (though that would really relieve some of the pressure of this average, everyday, Olympic family) it is the confusion that is most disappointing. The original intent of the APA was seemingly to deepen the pool (no pun intended-okay, fine, I'll take what I can get) of elite athletes by supporting more athletes better, thereby fostering the development of more and better potential medal winners. Great. Perfect. And, quite honorable. However the plan has now become "watered down" into a plan that resembles the old stipend more so than a new plan. This watered down version is no longer going to accomplish what the new plan was intended to do.
Yes, as reported by swiminfo.com, it seems as though the stipend will increase by $250, and though grateful, this increase will not bring about the changes in they system that so many hoped it would. There are some positive changes regarding the number of athletes to receive stipend (increase from 42 to 55), however, this version of the plan, in this swim wife's opinion, will not accomplish the same thing it originally set out to accomplish.
Some of my biggest concerns, however, are how the athletes' opinions are being represented...
Are the decision makers hearing all sides of the story? Are they hearing from athletes like Mark who are not harboring other 'big' sponsorships at this time and could really benefit from a little extra dough? Those athletes that would love to be able to better afford flights home to see family? Those who are giving up valuable training in order to travel the country to pick up other 'jobs' to supplement their current stipend? Those who are driving around in an old Dodge with no air conditioning because they just can't swallow the $1,000 expense at this time (now we're really getting personal!)? Those who don't necessarily want to give the rights to their image and likeness, but at this point may be willing for additional financial support?
Yes, I have nagged Mark (it didn't take much nagging, he was on the phone faster than I could even nag), to share his opinion.
Last night after reading about the new state of the proposed plan, that we once thought was the final plan, on swiminfo.com, Mark emailed the National Athlete Representative who is responsible for sharing the voice of the athletes. He was extremely responsive and it turns out that Mark wasn't the only one taken aback and speaking up. But, is it too late? We've got three pairs of hands in this house with all fingers crossed that USA Swimmign can find some middle ground and provide these athletes with a little more support.
I would tell Mark to get on a plane right now and fly to the USA Swimming convention to stand up and let his voice be heard, but he is in New Mexico for a clinic and cannot pass up the opportunity to work (especially now with the news).
Today, there has been a lot of sulking (over the loss of a potential $20,000+), frustration over swirling rumors, and pumping one another up (to remind each other that we will be fine, that we will not be given something that we cannot handle and that together we will make it work).
Emotionally? I need a couple of cookies. Mark? He went to bed at about 8:30 from exhaustion (mental, emotional, physical).
Only time will tell what will become of the APA, but for the time being the Gangloffs are exhausted.