Layton Screwed

September 26th, 2015

By David

I’ve only met Lauren Boyle half a dozen times. Five of them have involved letting her into the West Wave pool at 5.30 in the morning and once she had a lovely photograph taken with a couple of our club’s junior swimmers and posting it on her Facebook page.

However my admiration of her swimming, my respect for the decision she took to walk out of the Lyles led Millennium Institute and my approval for the sensible decisions that have guided her academic, personal and sporting career are absolute.

Lauren Boyle career and life certainly deserve better than the behaviour described by Craig Lord. Bad people they say get away with bad things when good people say nothing. Well from this New Zealander thank you Craig for calling out the Chairman of SNZ. And my guess is Lauren Boyle probably agrees.

Has Donna Taken Over?

May 10th, 2015

By David

Well ladies and gentlemen, Villanueva has gone, David Lyles has gone. For one play Land of Hope and Glory by Edward Elgar and for the other the Requiem Mass in D minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I’ll leave you to decide which is applicable.

So who’s filling the vacuum? Who’s making the poolside decisions? My money says Donna Bouzaid has scrambled into the void. Just look at the coaches selected for the 2015 international meets – Gary Hurring, Sue Southgate and Graeme Laing. I have nothing against any of those coaches. In fact I think Gary and Graeme are brilliant choices. I admired Graeme and Gary’s father hugely. They would be very proud of their sons’ appointment. Congratulations to both of you – like your fathers, you are the sort of coaches New Zealand needs.

However where is David Lyles? I thought he coached two of the ten swimmers going to the meet; more than any other domestic coach. What did he do wrong? Apart from asking SNZ’s disappearing Spaniard some difficult questions. Or was it because Lyles asked SNZ whether the way they dismissed him had any moral virtue? It seems to me that David Lyles is not going to Kazan because he tells the truth – silly boy. New Zealand has a world class coach in their midst and they leave him at home. It is unbelievable. Actually it is not unbelievable. This is, after all, Christian Renford’s Swimming New Zealand.

I accept Sue Southgate coaches New Zealand’s best female open water swimmer. But all of a sudden she seems to have become a permanent international coaching fixture. She is on her way to Kazan in Russia and Gwangju City in Korea. I have been told that Southgate and Bouzaid are close. I do hope SNZ are not going back to the days where Jan appointed her son and all that stuff. I don’t think so, but this is SNZ.

And while we are on the subject of team coaches; what has Noel Hardgrave-Booth done wrong? His best female swimmer, Bobbi Gichard, qualified under the youth criteria, for the Kazan World Championships and the Youth Championships in Singapore. But no Noel on either team. Why? I know that he had some health problems a few years ago. But if Noel’s health is SNZ’s problem tell him to have a medical check-up and if the professionals give him the all clear, put him on the team. He’s a good coach.

But remember when Renford told us all that New Zealand swim coaches were the sport’s big problem? Having picked New Zealand coaches Gary Hurring, Sue Southgate and Graeme Laing, perhaps the thought of New Zealand’s longest serving coach was more than the Australian could handle.

Mind you, from what I’ve been told, Noel might be the lucky one. Don Quixote Villanueva has designed a most tortuous passage to Kazan. His efforts remind me of a quote by Sir John Walker who said about a New Zealand cross country manager that he took longer than anyone he knew to make the wrong decision. Swimming New Zealand had two choices. Book the NZ team to fly to Spain for a training camp and then fly to Kazan. With good connections that’s a total travel time of 44 hours, through 18 time zones to get to Kazan airport.

And the alternative? SNZ was offered first class training facilities, at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, at minimal cost – the coach and Lauren Boyle would be put up for free. With this option the travel time is 26 hours. Hong Kong is cheaper, involves 18 hours less travel and nine less time zones to handle – and can you guess what Don Quixote and Renford, or was it Donna, decided? Barcelona of course.

Before leaving the subject of Noel Hardgrave-Booth and Bobbi Gichard, an Auckland coach who was at the Age Group Championships has just emailed me a fascinating story. Evidentially Bobbi Gichard won the 200 backstroke in what the electronic scoreboard said was a time of 2:15.34. How is it then that the published result is 2:14.83? What went on in the AOD Room to cause that change?

For years SNZ have caused me no end of wonder. Well, for this post, I have one last question. Evidentially SNZ have issued a directive saying that selected swimmers must wear their old uniforms and some will have to buy their own caps. At least that’s what I’ve been told. It’s not the first time they have done that sort of thing. Years ago Nichola Chellingworth was selected for her first New Zealand team and was told to buy her own NZ caps. I bought them for her. How anyone could ask a first time national representative to pay for their cap is beyond me. A year ago another swimmer of mine, Jane Ip, was also selected to swim for New Zealand for the first time. Her parents had to dip into their pockets for the same reason.

It seems Renford has taken to this SNZ tradition like a duck to water. The claim is that SNZ don’t have enough money – they cry poor all the time. There always seems to be enough tax payer money for the Mazdas, the salaries, the consultants and new offices, but Ashby or Gichard’s cap? Seems not.

What makes all that deeply disturbing is that I hear Renford is on his way to the Russian World Championships. Ashby has had to buy his national swim cap so that a pen pushing Australian can enjoy a junket to Kazan. That really is bad. Seriously I don’t know about you but I would gladly donate the cost of my ticket so that the team could have free caps. Clearly this Australian is not wired that way. Perhaps that’s why we don’t need him.

Who The Hell Would Apply

May 4th, 2015

By David

I wonder how many Swimwatch readers have studied the Swimming New Zealand advertisement calling for coaches to apply for the position of National Head Coach. It makes bloody incredible reading. On and on the specification goes calling for some combination of Mother Teresa and Bruce Willis to come to the Millennium Institute’s rescue.

Surely SNZ must understand that no coach anywhere in the world possessing just a few of the qualities SNZ requires is going to apply for their poisoned challis. Every decent coach in the world knows that applying for the SNZ position is certain suicide; as fatal as going over the Huka Falls in a barrel. Come to think of it I’d risk a barrel over the Huka falls any day before applying to be New Zealand’s National Head Coach.

Just look at the stuff they want from the current applicants.

  1. Extensive experience in coaching swimming at World and / or Olympic level.
  2. Leadership with significant exposure to high performance swimming issues and solutions.
  3. A recognised High Performance coaching qualification.
  4. A thorough understanding of coaching swimmers at an elite level.
  5. A thorough understanding of swimming training including periodisation, skill acquisition, dry-land training, workout design, hypoxic training, test design and interpretation and anything related to preparing swimmers at the high level.
  6. An understanding of sports science in all aspects related with swimming performance.
  7. Broad knowledge of national and international swimming sporting organisations.
  8. An ability to motivate elite athletes and skilled professional staff, in a performance focused environment. Good communication skills and strong time management skills.

And all of it is so much blaaa. Time after time good coaches have answered that sort of advertisement and time after time they have been shafted by New Zealand sport. Just look at three of the names that have answered the call and have lost – Thomas Ansorg, Mark Regan and David Lyles. Good God there is enough coaching experience there to coach the United States, French, German and Chinese national teams combined. But in New Zealand all three survived five minutes before Sport New Zealand had seen enough and wielded their fatal blow. It is unbelievable. David Lyles survived seven years of communist rule in the world’s most ruthless political environment – China. In New Zealand he was in-and-out in two years.

Please don’t tell me that was David Lyles’ fault; that he was a coaching fake. No one can be so in love with SNZ that they would make that claim. If there is, I guess they believe Ansorg and Regan were coaching phoneys as well. No, I’m afraid SNZ, the swimming world has rumbled to the fact that it is your organization that stinks; is rotten to the core. I do so hope no one is stupid enough to apply for your ridiculous job.

But I think there will be some wonderfully naïve souls around the world who will take the risk. Their thought process will say

  1. The money is good.
  2. New Zealand is a terrific place to live; to bring up children.
  3. I can change the organization. I will be the catalyst for reform.

And that last thought will be fatal. I do not know but I’m pretty sure Lyles, Regan and Ansorg all had the “I will bring about change” thought. And it never worked. And it never will work. Miskimmin and Baumann (Renford doesn’t count) are wedded to the invincibility of their divine right to rule. They are not going to change because some jumped-up swim coach comes along and tells them there is a better way. We know their immediate response is to sack the coach and try again.

And even worse is the coach who believes he or she is good enough to make the Miskimmin and Baumann policy work. A hard working soul who believes that seven days a week toil will turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. The end result will be the same. When the coach fails, Miskimmin and Baumann will personalize the failure and another coach will be gone. Does anybody anywhere in the swimming world really believe Miskimmin and Baumann are about to change their policy because of some swim coach; no matter what his or her qualifications?

Incidentally, on the subject of qualifications, I see SNZ want “a recognized High Performance coaching qualification.” I have that. I am an American Swim Coaches Association International Level Five swim coach. And do you know what? SNZ won’t even let me sign the time sheet of a coach who worked under my supervision. That’s Swimming New Zealand for you. Any coach applying for the National coaching job can expect lots of that sort of nonsense.

So for any coach out there looking to become New Zealand’s next National coach consider this thought. The commitment required of a National Coach is similar to a marriage. A recent USA study interviewed 800 of the oldest Americans – a group that had over 25,000 years of marriage experience. These real “experts” on marriage shared a very powerful warning about the biggest marriage mistake a person can make. Never expect your partner to change after marriage. If you are considering marriage, you have to take to heart this truth: accept your partner as is, or don’t get married. Take Patricia, age 81, whose answers to other questions were positive and pleasant. She was blunt on this issue: “If you think you’re going to marry someone who is just not quite on the same page you are and you’re going to change them, you’re a fool.”

And so you have been warned. A similar Swimwatch story to this one was written prior to the appointment of Regan and Lyles. Both clearly thought I was wrong. I doubt that they do any longer. Any coach who might be about to send their Resume to Swimming New Zealand this time should consider Patricia’s warning. Don’t be a fool. There are a lot of other coaching jobs; many good jobs without the 100% fatality rate of the New Zealand position


Don’t Believe Swimwatch? Try Fortune Magazine

April 23rd, 2015

By David

For ten years Swimwatch have published 100,000 words on the management chaos at Sport New Zealand and Swimming New Zealand. I have argued that the appalling standard of sport’s management in New Zealand has been directly responsible for two generations of lost New Zealand swimmers. I have no doubt that Miskimmin and Renford either discount me completely or can’t stand the mention of my name. But do I care? No. You see they are wrong; fatally wrong. You don’t believe me? Well ignore Swimwatch and read this summary of a report published in the highly respected “Fortune” magazine this week.


The secret is consistent management, according to a new study.

USA Swimming, with its 520 total Olympic medals (220 of them gold), is first among all countries—and it isn’t close. Australia, in second place, has only 171. Swimming has been among the most successful Olympic sports for the U.S. for more than 25 years. So: how is America so good at swimming?

You might be tempted to think the answer is as simple as “Michael Phelps.” But the U.S. has been dominant in the sport since long before Phelps’s first Olympics. And now the organization has produced a study that it believes explains why: management. The “excellence study,” which USA Swimming shared exclusively with Fortune, closely examines the leadership and structure of America’s swim program and concludes that it is the school (so to speak), and not any individual teacher or student, that drives the success.

For a sporting body to basically say “we win the most because we’re the best run” might sound unsurprising, and perhaps silly. But Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming, is dead serious about the study and its findings. “We wanted to know,” he says, “what is USA Swimming doing so right?”

To answer that question, the U.S. Olympic Committee tapped Finbarr Kirwan, its high performance director

The study rests on the premise that consistency in structure has served American Olympic swimmers better than any one part of the program. USA Swimming’s motto is, “Build the base, promote the sport, achieve competitive success.”

You would assume all countries have the same rigid management map for their Olympic teams. But Kirwan says that’s not the case. In Ireland, he says, “people would often say that some of the athletes were succeeding despite the program, not because of it.” And it isn’t that young American amateur swimmers have more raw talent than young swimmers in other countries, either. Their talent is shaped more effectively: “The problem we had in Ireland was we couldn’t properly manage the talent,” says Kirwan. “The structured environment we have here just wasn’t in place.”

Clear definition of roles is another key to the program, and provides something of a corporate management lesson. Wielgus uses his own job as an example. He is executive director, and the coaches and athletes all know him, but he is careful to keep his sights on the business (“We’re a not-for-profit with a bottom-line orientation,” he says) and let the trainers and coaches fulfill their roles unfettered. “Performance by committee is a major mistake,” he says. “So coaches run their show, directors do their part, and it’s a separation of state.” There is also an entrepreneurial spirit among the staff.

Lochte says the program’s management structure is no lip service. “It all starts at the top, with Chuck,” he says. “We have a system. If you go to other countries, they’re going to say the same, but when it comes down to it, Team USA is just the best. And I think it’s because we have something in our system that we don’t break.”

And so back to Swimwatch – it seems the message to Miskimmin, Baumann and Renford is do whatever it is you do – but for the love of God stay out of our business. Wielgus calls it “a separation of state”. New Zealand, on the other hand practices authoritarian rule. Miskimmin has spent years interfering in areas of swimming he knows nothing about. His mismanagement infects those he hires. Just consider the arrogance of Renford, a rowing administrator, who arrived in New Zealand, did a week-long tour of some clubs and told Radio Sport that the problem with swimming was the poor standard of coaching. How would he know? Who the hell is he to decide? With management like that no wonder SNZ never gets anywhere near consistent Olympic success.

I think I might write an article for Fortune magazine. I’ve decided on the first two lines.


The secret is unreliable management, according to a new study.

Please Explain

April 21st, 2015

By David

The Swimwatch blog was never intended to be a vehicle for pushing the author’s personal agenda. Ten years ago the first couple of stories were personal and addressed an issue I was having with the Napier City Council. But all that had a pretty short shelf life and we transformed the blog into a discussion on swimming in general and swimming administration in particular; subjects of much more interest than the life and times of David Wright.

However on this occasion I would like to address a personal event that did occur this week.

One of our swimmers recently attended a Swimming New Zealand coaching course. She passed the class work section of the qualification and was left to complete the practical poolside coaching hours. This she did working under my supervision coaching swimmers attending the 2015 Auckland Junior League. All that was needed was my signature confirming she had done the hours – and, as an aside, had done them very well indeed.

But wait, all was not what it seemed; enter Swimming New Zealand in the form of Donna Bouzaid. “David Wright” she said,” cannot sign off the coaching hours. He only has an American coaching qualification. We need to have the signature of a coach with a New Zealand qualification. Find someone else.”

Now there are several things really stupid about that demand; things that I believe reflect poorly on the integrity of author.

  1. The form is going to end up being signed by some NZ Bronze level coach who has no knowledge of nor took any part of supervising the student’s coaching hours. Well done Donna.
  2. My American Swim Coaches Association International Level 5 qualification is certainly the best known and probably the most respected coaching qualification in the world. This is what the ASCA website says about its five level certification process.

“The 5 Levels of the ASCA Certification Program each have its own required school. The purpose of these schools is to provide State-of-the Art fundamental information on coaching to the appropriate level of coaches. Since 1985, this 5-level progression of courses has been the world standard for coaching education, used in more than 18 nations around the globe.”

Well done Donna

  1. It beats me why signing off this form should all of a sudden become so important. I signed off exactly the same form two years ago for another one of our coaches without Donna’s interference. Well done Donna
  2. While I was writing this story I discussed it with a friend who then sent me the following email.

“That is disgusting. SNZ accept on a regular basis the signature of any Director or Owner of LTS programs across the country as a proof that Swim Instructors have put in their hours of  teaching be it poolside, in the pool or just shadowing other Instructors. This is clearly aimed at you personally.”

Well done Donna.

  1. I may well have missed it but in the “Education” section of the SNZ website I can find no reference to the signing supervisor requiring a specific New Zealand qualification. I’m prepared to be proven wrong but in the meantime – well done Donna.
  2. And finally the list of signing authorities who have no formal SNZ qualifications make Donna’s demands look ridiculous. For example:
  1. David Lyles has been the National Coach and has signed off all sorts of stuff with no NZ qualifications.
  2. Mark Regan has been the National Coach and has signed off all sorts of stuff with no NZ qualifications.
  3. Louis Villanueva has been the National Coach of sorts and has signed off all sorts of stuff with no NZ qualifications.
  4. Bill Sweetenham has been the acting National Coach and has signed off all sorts of stuff with no NZ qualifications.

It may be time for Donna to get onto her superiors about this clear neglect of her rules – well done Donna.


In the meantime the form will be signed. But in the process Swimming New Zealand will have lost just an inch more integrity; an inch more relevance.