After surviving Hurricane Sandy, a brutal Nor’easter and 13 days without power, cable, phones and rationed gasoline, our Long Island family thought we’d get a pass on bad news for a little while.
Our hopes were dashed when I visited the Whidbey News-Times website and saw the lead story on Coach Neil Romney’s firing.
To say we were shocked is simply an understatement. Neil Romney, in our estimation, is not only one of the finest coaches and mentors in youth sports, but he runs the best youth program on Whidbey Island.
What he is able to do with the small group of swimmers he works with is absolutely remarkable.
Neil coached three of my sons for three seasons at North Whidbey Aquatic Club and the experience our family had with his program was second to none.
When we moved to Long Island, N.Y. last year, this paper printed my sentiments on the difficulty of leaving Whidbey.
I mentioned then how hard it was to pull the boys from the NWAC swim program. I didn’t go into great detail at the time, but the reason leaving that team was so difficult is that I knew we’d never find a coach as dedicated and competent as Neil.
He has the ability to condition and train athletes to a level I’ve never seen before, or since, and he can do it at all age levels.
Neil is a true coaching professional. He strives for excellence in all that he does and demands as much from himself as he does from his swimmers.
But what separates Neil from the countless other coaches I’ve seen through the years is his determined focus to make his swimmers successful in the pool and in life.
I don’t know Bill Walker and I certainly don’t have all the closed door “executive session” details of what is happening within the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District, but in my opinion they fired the best asset they had for reasons far more personal than professional.
Three of those five commissioners are also aquatic club parents.
They may think the grass will be greener for their kids with someone perhaps a little less competitive, someone who focuses more on “fun” and less on performance, but that just simply won’t be the case.
Athlete’s ultimately have the most fun when they’re having success and in swimming success is born from grueling workouts pushed by a coach not from smiling encouragement from a fun “pool monitor.”
Some of the parents, including several of the current commissioners, have suggested that Neil focuses too much on the fast swimmers and not enough on the rest of the team — nonsense.
Swim coaches across the country deal with this very common and selfish complaint from parents who wrongly think that if the coach just gave their child a little more attention they’d be the next Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin.
The truth is that fast swimmers beget fast swimmers. It’s like a ride in the left lane during rush hour.
That’s why so many international swimmers train in the United States rather than at home.
Aquajets is a competitive swim team, this paper has printed those words hundreds of times at the end of nearly every swim article, yet some team parents still seem to miss that point.
This is a great program and a tremendous asset to the Whidbey community and Neil Romney is the reason it is so good. Mr. Walker and the commissioners made a big mistake in firing Neil and Vicki Robinson. Hopefully they’re big enough to correct it.
Dix Hills, N.Y.