CUMMING — A local youth coach has been suspended after apologizing to parents for having had a relationship with a 17-year-old swimmer several years earlier.
According to the Chattahoochee Gold organization, Neil Savage is awaiting the results of an investigation by USA Swimming into whether he violated its guidelines.
Chattahoochee Gold co-owner Beth Murphy said Tuesday that Savage had been a coach for five years and was working at the team’s Cumming Aquatic Center location.
“We’ve known Neil since he was a young boy and he swam on our team forever,” Murphy said. “Then he went to college and worked in the working world for about a year or two and then he came back to work with us.”
Attempts to reach Savage by phone were unsuccessful. But in his letter to Chattahoochee Gold parents, which is posted online, Savage admitted his relationship with a swimmer who at the time was a senior in high school.
While he wouldn’t defend his actions, Savage wrote that “the offense wasn’t planned or fiendishly nefarious.”
“My personal shame and embarrassment about the issue weighs heavy in my heart, and the guilt has corroded me,” he wrote. “But the shame, embarrassment and guilt pale in comparison to the distress I’ve caused for Chattahoochee Gold and the Cumming site.”
Neither the Cumming Police Department nor the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office has been contacted about the matter, according to officials with the agencies.
The exact nature of Savage’s relationship with the teen is unclear. However, Cumming Police Sgt. Bryan Zimbardi said it appears that no state laws were violated since the age of consent in Georgia is 16.
According to Murphy, Chattahoochee Gold has about 800 swimmers between its four locations. The swimmer with whom Savage was reportedly involved is no longer on the team.
After Savage came forward, Murphy said he was suspended and the matter was turned over to U.S. Swimming.
In his letter, Savage noted that the relationship happened several years ago and came during a rough patch in his life. He said he’s unsure how U.S. Swimming would rule on the issue, “but I will accept their punishment.”
According to his letter, Savage’s goal, was “to develop great swimmers who also had the skills to survive and thrive in the real world: attention to detail, work ethic, and knowing the difference between right and wrong … because that’s the difference between success and failure.”
“Unfortunately, I did not uphold those values within my own personal life and, in making that mistake, have caused a calamity within Chattahoochee Gold and your own family’s lives,” the letter continued. “Any vitriol or hate you have regarding the situation should not be aimed at them, at Chattahoochee Gold, or Pat Murphy; it should be aimed at myself.
“However, I do ask that if you had some modicum of love and respect for me, you will encourage your athletes to uphold the spirit of the program I was striving to create, but unable to live up to personally. Our staff, our families and our swimmers are stronger than this; they can move forward without me, but only if we have the support of the parents.”
That support appears to be present, as swimmers coached by Savage, as well as some of their parents, have come to his defense on a youth swimming Website.
Murphy would not offer personal comment on the issue, but said “Chattahoochee Gold is one big, happy family … it’s a sad thing all the way around.”