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Jul. 9 2010 - 5:59 pm | 279 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

A yanked swimming scholarship, and why it’s not wrong for parents to speak up

The default position whenever parents get heavily involved in an athletic dispute involving their child is, they’re obviously overbearing, overindulgent busybodies who are turning their kids into pussies. (I’m not sure what the default substitute for “pussies” would be if the athlete is a girl.)

However, a lawsuit over a school’s role in a lost swimming scholarship has emerged in the St. Louis area that, if the parents’ allegations are true, makes me think: Yeah, I’d be suing their asses off, too.

And I would hire Al Pacino from “And Justice for All” as my lawyer, for the drama.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Peter and Marzie McCoy of Wildwood, Mo., are suing their local school district after their daughter, a state championship swimmer, briefly lost her scholarship to Colorado State University after it reviewed a recommendation form filled out by a Lafayette High School counselor that was less than flattering. In theory, everybody followed procedure. The problem was, say that parents, that the counselor filling out the form had never met their daughter. From the July 9 Post-Dispatch:

The recommendation form, signed by Lafayette High School counselor Beth Brasel, said that Shannon McCoy was “below average” in five personal traits including initiative, character, integrity and leadership.

The McCoys said that the description of their daughter was “grossly inaccurate” and that Brasel had never met Shannon before the form was filled out.

Rockwood spokeswoman Kim Cranston said it was the district’s understanding that the recommendation form had nothing to do with the rescinding of McCoy’s scholarship, based on their contact with a Colorado State University admissions officer.

A message left Thursday for the admissions officer was not returned. [Brasel was also not available for comment.]

Predictably, many of the comments left by readers paint the parents (and their daughter, with her mere 3.0 grade-point average in an age of grade inflation) as spoiled brats, especially because they’re not dropping the lawsuit even after Colorado State, after the parents’ appealed, gave the scholarship back. At 80 percent of out-of-state tuition, room and board, that scholarship money is no small potatoes. Here is a comment by someone called cardsphan:

Cry me a river Parents. Way to teach your daughter to be a spoiled brat. What parents, teach their kids that if something goes wrong just sue for money to make it better. Did you ever think that maybe your daughter didn’t deserve a scholarship? I had one for athletics out of Marquette HS but i also had a 3.6 GPA. A 3.0 is not hard to get in HS, maybe the girl was to much into swimming and not her grades. IM JUST SAYIN

Given that grammar, I can believe a 3.6 GPA would be related to grade inflation.

As usual when these stories hit the local press, there is a lot we don’t know. We don’t know why that particular counselor filled out the form, and why she filled it out as she did. Did she really know Shannon McCoy? Had she heard stuff from other people? Had the parents and the school clashed in the past? Over what?

Until court papers are filed in response, we won’t know the school’s side of the story. Maybe Peter and Marzie McCoy are big pains in the ass who are doing their daughter a disservice. Or, maybe they do need to advocate for their daughter — and others in a similar situation — against an idiotic and possibly vindictive school bureaucracy.

The point is, we don’t know. And the other point is, until we do, we can’t make snap judgments about the parents — or the school, for that matter. But what I do feel confident saying is that it is NEVER wrong for a parent to speak out and least ask what is going on, or ask why something happened the way it happened.

There is a time and place for parents to advocate for their child, and parents deserve answers to their questions. On the other hand, parents need to approach these issues in as reasonable a manner possible, which admittedly can be difficult when you see your own child getting hurt. I am of a belief that reasonable people can reach reasonable conclusions. And, yes, sometimes that means parents finding out the hard truth that their kid is an asshole.

However, if that’s not the case here, if the school cavalierly and/or maliciously filled out a form in a way that screwed up a huge opportunity for Shannon McCoy — well, I hope the parents get every dime they’re asking for. I would want to, in that situation.


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  1. collapse expand

    The real point is that if you are going to ask for a letter of recommendation, you ask the writer personally. (This would make it hard to say that the counselor had never met you.) Additionally, you should always ask if they could write a great letter of recommendation for you. People will say not at this time before they give you a bad letter.

    This lesson should have been drilled into this girl ad naseum by her high school guidance counselors, whose only job as far as I could tell in high school was to teach people how to get into college. If they have failed this much in educating the student body as to the simplest of procedural strategies, they are not earning their keep.

  2. collapse expand

    Great article Bob. Shannon deserves the scholarship to CSU. She is a vibrant young lady who has worked very hard for many years to achieve her goals. Shame on those who find delight in criticizing parents who advocate on behalf of their children, even if it means challenging a “superior” school district. Those who have questioned and commented on Shannon’s character may need to examine their own values.

  3. collapse expand

    FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The Colorado State swim team confirmed three athletes in its 2010-11 freshman class Thursday, signing Shannon McCoy, Yana Garvey and Madeline Mastrup to National Letters of Intent. Head Coach John Mattos made the announcement.

    “We had a good early signing day with some very good athletes,” said Mattos. “They will provide us with good potential to replace the graduating athletes.”

    McCoy, daughter of Marzie and Peter McCoy, joins the Rams family from St. Louis, Mo., and will bring CSU a strong butterfly and backstroke specialist. Originally from San Diego, Calif., McCoy currently competes for Lafayette Senior High in Wildwood, Mo. Swimming under head coach Todd Gabel, McCoy helped Lafayette to state championships in the Medley Relay (2007) and the 400 Freestyle Relay (2009), as well as multiple top-10 honors in various state events throughout her career. McCoy’s performances also contributed to the Lancers’ triumphant 2007 Missouri state championship team.

    As a Lancer athlete, McCoy has earned four varsity letters and first-team all-metro honors (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). In addition to high school competition, McCoy swims for the Rockwood Swim Club.

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    A youth sports blog written by Bob Cook. He contributes to NBCSports.com, or MSNBC.com, if you prefer. He’s delivered sports commentaries for All Things Considered. For three years he wrote the weekly “Kick Out the Sports!” column for Flak Magazine.

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