Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

YMCA Swim Program Fires Coaches


March 31, 2014

Tara Pomposini, the CEO of the YMCA, fired all the coaches Monday, without prior warning to parents. She cited unspecified misconduct, which she said did not harm or endanger children.

"Your kids can come to swim but without any supervision aside from the lifeguards," parents were told. But formal classes were suspended due to the lack of coaches.

The swim team and a swim program cost only $55 a month, making it the lowest cost program around. Most swim programs are $200 a month. So the loss was widely felt across the YMCA swimming community.

We present the various reactions to the firing, starting with YMCA CEO Pomposini said at a public meeting on Monday, March 31, 2014:

"1.SMYMCA leadership fired the three coaches on Monday. This was not planned and neither the coaches nor the YMCA leadership had prepared for it.

2. The coaches did nothing to put our kids (or anyone) at risk of harm or injury in any way.

3. SMYMCA leadership believes that the action was fully justified - legally and ethically. The coaches were fired for violating YMCA policies and procedures.

4. The coaches received the required warnings and were given an opportunity to correct their behavior. Although the SMYMCA leadership was not able to comment on the specific violations involved, one can infer that it had something to do with the fundraising activities and purchases of pool and swim team equipment without proper internal approval [this is my inference based on the discussion, not what the Y said -- they wouldn't say exactly what the violations were beyond confirming point 2 above].

4. The SMYMCA believes that removing the coaches was in the best interests of our children. By violating the rules they were failing to exhibit the core Y value of character.

5. An additional factor motivating SMYMCA leadership to act immediately on these violations was a concern that the swim team culture was not aligned with core YMCA values and mission. In particular, there were complaint(s) [note - this was mentioned but it is hard to tell whether there was more than one complaint] that the team had gotten too focused on competition and competitive swimmers.

This was not the consistent with the SMYMCA view of what a swim team should be. Additionally, there was evidence that one or more parents were encouraging or supporting the violations that were the justification for the coaches' dismissal.

6. Rather than work collaboratively with the swim team members, parents and coaches to resolve any concerns or misunderstandings about the team culture and activities and remedy the violations, the SMYMCA leadership made a decision that the best course of action was to fire the coaches with no notice to anyone and to suspend the team.

7. The SMYMCA will be looking for a new aquatics director and will consider reconstituting the swim team with new coaches. Since they had not prepared for this change, it could take up to three months for there to be a new swim team.

8. Any new swim team will be more aligned with the SMYMCA vision of what a swim team should be. Leadership was not able to describe that vision at this time.

9. In the meantime, the kids can have access to the pool time that had been reserved for the swim team. They can come and swim laps on their own but there will be no supervision of coaches aside from lifeguards.

10. Families can request a refund from the YMCA


Letter from fired Aquatic Director, Mohammad Khadembashi

Dear Parents,

I know that you have heard a lot about this already, however, I thought you might want to hear our side of the story as well.

Tara and Pam had told me multiple times that if the swim team wants to have another diving block or the other equipment, I should raise the money from the parents and purchase the necessary equipment. During a budget meeting, I was told to grow the swim team because she, Tara, felt that the team was working well with the Y and she wanted me to grow it to 100 swimmers. We did not, even once, receive a written warning that the swim team is going against the YMCA code of conduct, or that the coaches are violating company rules. The Y, Tara and Pam, knew that parents collected money for b-day parties and end of season gatherings. We, the coaches, were notified of our dismissal on Monday without any warning or a written reprimand that we were not doing our jobs correctly.

Being "too competitive" is also a non-issue as we were periodically asked to provide the schedule of our meets and the Y knew that we compete in both Y and USA leagues. There is also a YMCA website dedicated to "competitive swimming" so the YMCA of USA recognizes this sport as a competitive sport and supports it. (Hint the Y Nationals Championship meet, and the Y league which is the second most competitive league in this country).

Even if the coaches were in violation of the association rules, the swim team and its 110+ members were part of a healthy program that taught their kids about the values of honesty, respect, responsibility, and caring which are the core values of the YMCA.

This is another lesson in life for us and our swimmers,and all is left to do is learn and move towards a better tomorrow.


Mohammad Khadembashi

From a Parent

Dear Pam,

We have been members of the YMCA coming on 4 years and while I've seen good teachers come and go and be treated poorly, this is truly the worst. You cannot possibly know the level of integrity, kindness and talent that Mohammad, Iman and Jay have brought to this team, or you would never have considered such a senseless and thoughtless act. Regardless of the reason for letting them go, I am sure every decision they have made has been for the sake of the team and never for personal gain. These coaches have given their heart and soul to this team and touched the lives of many children by caring not just for their swimming ability, but for their whole beings.

Probably the saddest and most important result of your actions is that the incredible swim team community that has been built and supported by them (and not by the YMCA) is now gone. Our children will be the ones to suffer the consequences, and we will not stay affiliated with such a hypocritical and uncaring institution.

We therefore gladly cancel our membership to the YMCA and can't wait to get out.

Rachel Kennison


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