Is Australia As Bad As Us?

October 21st, 2014

By David

It is with some caution that I cross the Tasman Sea to discuss swimming in Australia. However recent news seems to carry a message for New Zealand.

About a year ago Swimming Australia announced a plan for the preparation and training of elite swimmers. The national federation, they said, would select and approve successful clubs as High Performance Centres. I think about nine clubs were awarded the new classification.

My immediate reaction was very positive. Australia had replaced a state run swim school in Canberra with several good quality clubs. It had traded state socialism for private enterprise. Why couldn’t New Zealand see the sense in what the Australians were doing? Surely everyone could appreciate that a team of ten or eleven elite coaches was always going to have more success than a government swim school on its own. As every Swimwatch reader knows, in New Zealand, that argument has fallen on deaf ears. Miskimmin’s obsession with the centralized delivery of elite sport means 99% of swimming in New Zealand is barred from participation in the elite sport plan.

At least that’s what I thought Australia had done until this week when I read a SwimVortex story about the trials of James Magnussen. You may know that Magnussen is the current 100 metre freestyle world champion, and holds the 4th fastest swim in history in the 100 metre freestyle with a time of 47.10, which also stands as the fastest swim in textile swimwear material. Here is a summary of what the James Magnussen, SwimVortex story has to say.

James Magnussen is at loggerheads with Swimming Australia over a plan to make a childhood friend his new coach, according to a news report in Australia. The Courier Mail notes that Magnussen’s search for a new coach after his split from Brant Best is now in its fifth week. The delay in finding a solution for the world 100m freestyle champion involves the refusal of Swimming Australia to approve Magnussen’s plan to train at Ravenswood swim club in Sydney’s north under Mitch Falvey.

Magnussen confirmed to SwimVortex that he is in talks with (Swimming Australia) about his next move. One option would be for the sprinter to base himself at a performance centre that forms part of the athlete funding model in Australia. Magnussen has been told that Mitch Falvey is not on the ‘funding’ list. The sprinter could opt out of being funded and do what he likes without that affecting his eligibility for national teams.

So here we have the spectre of a swimming federation cutting off the financial support for a world champion who wants a coach of his choosing. Australian swimming is the same socialist prison as New Zealand. It’s just a bigger one, that’s all.

Who on earth do these Australian’s think they are? Swimming New Zealand has an Australian CEO, Christian Renford. Before Renford came to New Zealand he was the Chief Executive of Rowing New South Wales following three years in a similar role with Rowing Queensland. The CEO of Swimming Australia is a guy called Mark Anderson. Prior to working for Swimming Australia, Anderson was the CEO of Hockey Australia and a former Chief Commercial Officer at the Essendon Football Club.

Wow, that’s impressive – an Australian from Rowing is happy to tell a New Zealand World Short Course and Commonwealth Games champion who she should train with. And, in Australia, some guy from hockey will not fund James Magnussen unless the Australian World Champion is coached by someone approved by the ex-hockey stick. What is it about the sport of hockey? In New Zealand, Peter Miskimmin, was a hockey player and happily wanders around New Zealand telling us how swimming should be structured. No matter how good or successful we are as coaches and swimmers there is no participation unless coach and swimmer are part of the hockey player’s centralized empire. And in Australia another hockey import finds it perfectly okay to instruct a world swimming champion about who is an acceptable personal swimming coach. It’s mind blowingly incredible. It seems that both these products of the sport of hockey will only play when the odds are well and truly stacked in their favor.

But I have a theory – Miskimmin and Anderson think that the only joke told about hockey is actually part of the instruction manual for managing international sport. You may know the one I mean.

A famous hockey coach goes to heaven, where he puts together a team of history’s greatest players. God decides he’d like to play a friendly game against the team from hell. He phones the devil and asks, “Are you interested in a game of hockey?”

“Why not?” replies the devil. “I’m warning you, though. You’ll never win.”

“Well, we have the best players of all time!” says God.

“I know,” says the devil. “But we have all the umpires!”

And so the admiration I had for Swimming Australia has gone. The move towards numerous (nine) High Performance Centers, that I interpreted as the start of the decentralized delivery of high performance sport in Australia, was nothing of the sort. It was just another hockey import extending the size of his centralized empire. All the tell-tale symbols of socialist control remained firmly in place. No appointments are made without politburo approval. No one gets any money without politburo approval. The recipients of politburo support represent a minute portion of the population. It’s still all about the state, in the form of Swimming Australia, controlling the means of production, distribution and exchange. And swimming in New Zealand will sadly follow the Aussie example. Miskimmin, the hockey player, wants it that way and Renford – well he’s an Okker struggling to understand anything more sophisticated.

It fair beats the hell out of me why we continue to copy and employ bloody Australians. Consider this fact. In 2008, the joke voted by Australia as the funniest Australian joke of the year was this gem

Q – What’s brown and sticky?

A – A stick.

Only Australians and hockey players would think “a stick” was remotely funny. Unfortunately, though, the joke is on us. In swimming we have hockey players and Australians. The guys who voted for a stick as the funniest joke of the year now either run swimming in New Zealand or, in Australia, provide us with an example of state control that we slavishly follow.

FINA Ratify Swimming New Zealand World Record Application

October 18th, 2014

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TWIN DEATH NOTICE

Take note of today’s date, the 16th October 2014. On this day a Swimming New Zealand lie was accepted as the truth. Honesty and integrity in the sport of swimming in New Zealand died. On this day FINA assured the world they accepted the lie of Swimming New Zealand; had, they said, received all the assurances FINA required and good governance and sound judgement passed away.

Boyle’s 1500 Metre Swim

October 14th, 2014

By David

It must be said before this post goes up that nobody–I am willing to bet anywhere, including here at Swimwatch–holds Lauren Boyle in anything but the highest regard. She deserves admiration, recognition and continued success, and in no way is this meant to be a criticism or attack on Lauren’s swimming or character. What follows is a criticism solely of Swimming New Zealand and FINA. Lauren’s achievement in Wellington deserves nothing but respect; it is the national and international governing bodies that potentially let her down, and are continuing to let themselves and all involved in the sport of swimming down.

I see Craig Lord has written an interesting post on the SwimVortex.com website. In it he discusses the likelihood that FINA are going to approve Lauren Boyle’s 1500 swim as a world record. The decision is a disgrace. FINA, it seems are going to make a decision no better than the lie Swimming New Zealand told in completing the Record Application form. Lord’s post is well worth a read. Here is the link.

http://www.swimvortex.com/minimum-pool-rules-can-be-bypassed-for-world-record-swims-say-fina-experts/

There is no doubt that many in the swimming world are interested in the FINA decision. FINA’s integrity is well and truly under the spotlight. Is FINA capable of acting with integrity when it comes to the hard decisions? We are about to find out. Some idea of the extent of world interest in the decision can be found in the number of comments on the original SwimVortex story on the illegality of the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre. That story had 97 comments. In comparison the recent story about Michael Phelps late night driving misdemeanors had 42 comments.

It seems swimming people do care about how well their sport is governed. They do want to see a level playing field enforced. They do want FINA to stand for something more important than disqualifying a ten year old from Pahiatua for a non-continuous backstroke turn. And if Craig Lord is right it looks like they are going to be disappointed in the honesty of the world governing body.

One of the comments made on this second SwimVortex story was posted by me. I think it is an interesting opinion. Here is what I said.

It may be of interest to note the following huge anomaly. The meet Lauren swam the 1500 meter time was a provincial Championships – the Wellington Winter Short Course Championships. Three of four weeks later the same pool was converted to the “deep” end for the National Winter Championships. That is not a simple or cheap process.

It involves bringing in a heavy duty crane during the night and lifting a three ton boom over a second boom and relocating it at the deep end of the pool and of course returning the boom to its original position at the end of the National Meet – a process that with the altered electronics and the like must cost in the order of $30,000 – $50,000 dollars.

And so if signing Lauren’s application was so correct; so compliant with “all FINA rules” why did the SNZ National Association spend thousands of dollars converting the pool for their championships a month later. What a waste of time and money if all FINA rules had actually been met – as the record application claimed. Of course they spent the money for the Nationals because they knew their pool as it was configured for the provincial meet did not comply with FINA rules.

Why then did they allow their referee and CEO to sign a form saying it did? I’ve never drawn attention to that contradiction but $30,000 – $50,000 for a week’s meet seems like a lot to spend if they really thought the pool was fine.

Remember what the Record Application requires? It asked Swimming New Zealand to confirm that “ALL” FINA rules had been met when the record was set. Swimming New Zealand signed the application form swearing on a stack of bibles that was true – all FINA rules had been met.

It seems very simple. The events are mutually exclusive.

Either the existing pool met all FINA rules and there was no need to change the pool and all that money was wasted

or

The pool did not comply with FINA rules and the alterations were necessary and the people who signed Boyle’s record application lied.

Come on Swimming New Zealand you make great play of integrity, accountability and all that other stuff, which one was it. Was changing the pool an unnecessary waste of thousands of dollars or did you guys lie when you signed the record application?

 

What Is The Alternative?

October 8th, 2014

By David

This is an edited version of a story that appeared on Swimwatch yesterday

It will be no surprise to learn that this blog does not approve of the centralist, socialist policy Peter Miskimmin recently imposed on Swimming New Zealand. For ten years, under Jan Cameron it failed. And Jan was better at it than the current lot. In all probability, another generation of swimmers; another $20,000,000 will be lost before we have the opportunity to change. A couple of years ago, Brian Palmer and Bronwen Radford almost pulled off something better, before they mistakenly did a deal with the Peter Miskimmin and lost us the opportunity of real reform.

Bronwen Radford is still the Chair of Swimming Bay of Plenty and was re-elected at their AGM in July 2014.  Brian Palmer however has gone from his position in New Zealand regional administration. He is now the CEO of Saudi Arabia Swimming. And New Zealand sport is a poorer place. Why Radford continues only she would know but I am guessing it has something to do with her passion for the sport in the Bay of Plenty. Swimming New Zealand probably wish she was in Saudi Arabia with Brian Palmer. She continues to make life difficult for Swimming New Zealand.  At the AGM, I am told, she was the only person that challenged their performance.

The Palmer and Radford mistake was expensive. It will cost a generation of New Zealand swimmers their swimming careers. The chances of Miskimmin’s socialist program working in international swimming is close to zero. However the Palmer and Radford decision to trust Sport New Zealand was not bad or malicious. It was a decision of decent and worthy people who wanted to see something good; something better. They were shafted. That’s all.

And if you don’t believe me remember how Miskimmin invited Palmer and Radford down to Wellington and told them how important they were to the successful running of swimming in New Zealand. Less than six months later, Miskimmin’s hired gun, Chris Moller, was calling for Brian Palmer to be sacked as CEO of the Auckland Region. If anyone wants to know what we are dealing with in Sport New Zealand and the new Swimming New Zealand, remember that story. With the exception of Jan Cameron, the old swimming New Zealand was incompetent. In my view, this lot are bad and good at it; a much more dangerous beast altogether.

Sadly, when I look around, I see very few Palmers or Radfords involved in the current administration of New Zealand swimming; very few courageous souls prepared to speak truth to power. The new President of Auckland Swimming, Willem Coetzee has a talented son who swims and I suspect would agree to just about anything to avoid upsetting those who currently have some say on the future of his son’s swimming career.

The President of Hawkes Bay / Poverty Bay stood around while two of my swimmers were badly treated in his region. He even apologized to me about one of them. The swimmer did not accept the apology; too little, way too late. I can’t imagine Bone standing up to those in power. Way too cautious for that I would think.

And then there is Wellington’s Mark Berge. The fact his name gets mentioned in Swimwatch will, I suspect be cause enough to send the next Wellington Region Board Meeting into Committee for thirty minutes and possibly will even see Berge dashing off to his solicitors. All that to stop Swimwatch, but questioning why the new Swimming New Zealand spend as much (almost) on Mazda cars as they do on swimmer’s scholarships? No I don’t think so.

And in the Bay of Plenty I see that Nathan Capp’s home club are planning a movie evening to raise $8000 for Capp to attend the World Short Course Championships. That news did puzzle me a bit. You see the selection document states quite clearly that SNZ will pay for the full cost of the trip for all of those selected and then based on the results from the Championships (as per Note 5) the athletes will be invoiced for their respective costs. Athletes who finish in the Top 8 will be fully funded, Athletes who finish 9 to 16 will be partially funded.  So does Nathan need $8000 to compete at the World Champs? He has posted one of the fastest times in the 1500m short course this year so is looking pretty good at not needing to pay, he simply has to swim the same time he posted at Nationals.

While I’m on the subject of costs, is it true that Nathan and his mates from the Millennium Institute were again accommodated and feed at no personal cost during SNZ Short Course Nationals. Yet the selection document said attendance at these Championships is user pays as it did for the Commonwealth Trials.  Obviously paying only applies to swimmers outside of the Millennium Institute because in both instances Millennium swimmers have been paid for by the taxpayer – that’s you and me.

One other anomaly that came to mind with the mention of Bay of Plenty and Bronwen Radford was something I read recently. In the SNZ’s Freestyle Newsletter I noticed a link to a staff vacancy advertisement; possibly Rebecca Turner’s job. The job description said how well swimmers have done at the Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacific Games. At Pan Pacs, it said, New Zealand won 4 medals – 2 Silver and 2 Bronze.  But I thought Lauren won 2 Silver and one Bronze, Glen 1 Bronze and Kane 1 Bronze that equals 5.  Kane Radford’s Open Water Bronze has obviously been missed. That’s the second time SNZ has ignored that swimmer; has simply forgotten Open Water Swimming even exists. I hope Bronwen gives them hell. I hope Kane does not read the job position or this Swimwatch post.

So what is the alternative for young talented swimmers who reach the age of eighteen, who want to continue their swimming careers, who need to further their education and are being wooed by the Millennium Institute? Well my advice would be to avoid the Millennium Institute. It does not work. Dozens of New Zealand’s best swimmers have been sucked into its swimming pool and no one has won an Olympic anything. Whatever Lyles or Villanueva or Bouzaid tell you about free pool space, free gyms, medical backup and career advice – ignore the lot of it. Remember the advice New Zealand’s most successful Olympic coach, Arthur Lydiard, gave about selecting a coach or a coaching program, “Just have a look at the athletes he’s trained. If many have become elite you may also. If none have made it, that’s how you’ll end up!” At the Millennium Institute none have made it, that’s how you will end up.

About a year ago I got an email from a parent whose son had committed himself to the Millennium program. This is what it said.

“I bitterly regret that we did not have XXX go there – he was actively recruited by several.  By the time he broke free from the Staasi it was too late for him.  Now he is still studying and has underachieved in all areas in terms of meeting his real potential.  Thank you Jan Cameron.  We (including him) are left now wondering how good he could really have been.”

That is a story that has been repeated dozens of times. Do not add to the tale of hurt. Avoid the Millennium Institute.

However this old email also hints at a better alternative. In the first sentence the swimmer’s mother says, “I bitterly regret that we did not have XXX go there – he was actively recruited by several.” The recruiting she is referring to for her son was of course the possibility of attending a US University on a swimming scholarship.

Consider this option carefully. The success of swimmers who have attended US Universities on swimming scholarships in their swimming careers and in their post swimming lives far exceeds any product of the Millennium Institute.

Lauren Boyle is the most recent and most obvious advertisement for the value of a US swimming scholarship. But the list of those who have been successful swimmers and successful graduates goes back well before Lauren Boyle.

In the 1950s Lincoln Hurring was a student at the University of Iowa on a swimming scholarship. He represented New Zealand at two consecutive Summer Olympics, 1952 and 1956.

Gary Hurring was a student at the University of Hawaii on a swimming scholarship. He won a gold medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in the men’s 200 meters backstroke and a silver in the same event at the 1978 World Aquatics Championships.

Antony Mosse gained a BA (Hons) from Stanford University in 1989 and later completed an MBA at the same university. Mosse won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. He rounded out his career when he won the 200m butterfly at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland.

Paul Kingsman earned a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, where his swimming developed a sharply competitive edge under the tutelage of Coach Nort Thornton. He participated at the 1988 Summer Olympics, winning a bronze medal in 200 meter backstroke.

Simon Percy swam on a scholarship at the University of Arizona. He reached the final 50 back at the 1991 World Championships in Australia. Percy also came in third in the 200 back at the 1991 Pan-Pacific Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

John Steel was men’s swim team captain at the University of Southern California. Steel competed at two consecutive Summer Olympics, starting in 1992. Steel won two silver medals at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada.

Johnny Munro attended the University of Southern California on a swimming scholarship. Today he is a prominent Auckland criminal lawyer.

Anna Wilson attended the University of Arizona.

But perhaps the example that has had the most profound effect on my view of the value of a US swimming scholarship is my daughter Jane. She attended Washington State University on a swimming scholarship and graduated with a BA degree. The benefit of her experience in life, in travel, in knowledge, in growth, in education and in interest was superior to anything offered at home in Hawkes Bay or at Jan Cameron’s Millennium Institute. Her subsequent career in the internet search engine industry in Seattle and London would not have happened without the Washington international experience.

And finally this month Jessica Marston began swimming on scholarship at Jane’s old school, Washington State University. West Auckland Aquatics were delighted to help her win this opportunity. There is more to life than swimming. Jessica is off to see just how much more.

Anyone wanting some contacts I made with US University coaches during my seven years coaching in Florida should send me an email. I’d be only too happy to help. Anything to avoid the SNZ Millennium trap. 

So Who Is Responsible?

October 2nd, 2014

By David

The figures detailed in the previous Swimwatch post are a disgrace. They picture a sport where:

  1. The number participating has declined in the past four years by 18% from 21,141 to 17,329.

  2. In order to keep the sport afloat and in spite of dismal Olympic, Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Games performances, Peter Miskimmin’s welfare support in the past four years has increased by 27% from $1,962,838 to $2,495,292.

  3. The amount invested in New Zealand’s best swimmers has declined in the past four years by 46% from $317,584 to $170,799.

  4. The amount invested in the national swimmer’s rewards program in the past four years has declined by 91% from $132,036 to $11,500.

  5. The amount spent on some, who knows what, “Other” category has increased in the past four years by 68% from $364,982 to $611,432.

  6. The amount spent on marketing (that’s another name for “spin”) and consultants (that’s another name for “can’t do my job”) has increased in the past four years by 125% from $49,753 to $111,840.

  7. The amount spent on “Administration”, that’s another word for “hangers-on”, has increased in the past four years by 61% from $420,674 to $682,099.

  8. The amount of the sport’s commitment to flash Mazda SUVs (it’s a tough drive over that Harbour Bridge) has increased in the past three years by 109% from $73,191 to $152,586.

  9. The new constitution denies the membership of New Zealand swimming the most basic of democratic rights. A central committee nominate who can stand for election and nominate only the number of candidates required to fill the vacancies. Millions are protesting in Hong Kong right now against exactly the same Communist tyranny.

Surely, surely there must be members involved in the sport who are unhappy with those numbers. And yet, what is being done about it? Are we all so scared of Renford, Lyles, Villanueva and Layton that they can say and do anything with impunity? Is there no limit to the reckless management data coming out of 17 Antares Place? At what point does someone say, “Stop, that’s enough”?

Take the position of Chairman of the Regions of Swimming New Zealand. Each one of them stood in an election wanting to take on the position of leading the sport in their part of the country. Each one of them probably worked for years to accumulate the experience and knowledge to run successfully for the position. But with their success comes responsibility. There is no power without a duty. And in this case the Chairman of each Region must carry the burden of protecting the sport from this SNZ rubbish. Is any Regional Chairman going to ask Layton, during the next telephone spin session, to explain what the hell he and his mate, Renford, are up to?

Perhaps I can help. Here is a list of the Chairman of each Region and a question for them to ask.

Willem Coetzee, Auckland – Why have the numbers participating in the sport gone down every year? How long does Mr. Layton think it will be before the National Championships will only involve straight finals? Is a lack of members the real reason SNZ elections have the same number of candidates as vacancies?

Jeannie Sibun, Counties Manukau – Mr.Layton, you don’t seem like a welfare beneficiary so why is it necessary to take more and more money from the government just to keep the sport afloat? Is it true that the government views their funding of swimming as a special need grant?

Simon Perry, Waikato – Mr. Layton, I am probably in the most powerful position to bring about meaningful change to Swimming New Zealand. Can you give me answers to the very real issues raised as a consequence of SNZ’s poor competitive record and the concerns evident in this set of accounts? For ten years the centralist policies followed by SNZ have not worked. What makes you believe they are going to work now?

Bronwen Radford, Bay of Plenty – Is it true that the commitment to spend $152,000 on leasing Masda SUVs is because Mazdas are the only things likely to go “Zoom-Zoom” in the Miskimmin swimming empire?

Andrew Wood, Taranaki – Was the blue print for the SNZ Constitution taken from Das Capital, Mein Kampf or An ABC Guide to North Korean Politics? Why are the Board Minutes no longer published on the SNZ website? Why are salaries no longer shown as a separate item in the Annual Accounts? Has the SNZ office become “17 Antares Place behind closed doors”?

Keith Bone, Hawkes Bay, Poverty Bay – With the amount now invested in New Zealand’s best swimmers dropping from $317,584 to $170,799 is it SNZ’s goal to bring these payments to swimmers in line with the $152,586 spent on Mazda motor cars.

Braden Noel, Manawatu – Was Mr. Layton aware that one swimmer winning the Mare Nostrum meets in Europe would now win exactly the same amount as the $11,500 offered by SNZ to New Zealand’s 5,498 competitive swimmers as the national “Rewards” program prize money? Had Mr. Layton worked out that the “Rewards” program is now $2.09 per competitive swimmer per year; just one cent short of the price of a hot apple pie from McDonald’s?

Mark Berge, Wellington – Of course management consultants are good people. Would Mr. Layton prefer scones with strawberry jam and cream or cucumber sandwiches after answering all these unnecessary and unimportant questions? Oh, and I will be talking to my solicitor in the morning.

Steve Fryer, Nelson, Marlborough – Since the year 2000 is Mr. Layton aware that the cost of his administration has risen by $272,255 more than the rate of inflation. Administration alone is now costing each competitive swimmer $124 per year; almost twice the registration fee. Does Mr. Layton view that as prudent management, as value for money?

Wayne Rollinson, Canterbury – Is Mr Layton aware that as a percentage of income SNZ has more expenses categorized as “Other” in their accounts than Silver Fern Farms, one of the country’s biggest meat producers? Is the huge use of a vague “Other” category because SNZ don’t know what the money was spent on or just don’t want us to know what the money was spent on?

Peter Deans, Otago – Down here in the deep-south we are only vaguely aware of the term “consultants”. Consultants seem to be more of a Wellington/Auckland thing. Can Mr. Layton tell us what on God’s good earth these people did for $111,840?

Geoff Finnerty, Southland – Would Mr. Layton mind if we had an independence referendum? We think we can do a better job on our own.

My apologies to Northland. Your website appears to be down which means you can listen to this question-and-answer session, nod your head occasionally and appear more intelligent than anyone else in the room.

I may have been a bit flippant here, but there is a serious side to all this. Someone needs to start checking these guys out. Given this set of accounts, leaving Layton and Renford unsupervised seems to me to be pretty serious negligence. Faced with the same information in the corporate world Directors who did nothing may be accused of “reckless trading”. Are the facts contained in this Annual report compatible with always acting in the best interests of the organization? With such a huge portion of SNZ income being provided at the whim of one civil servant does SNZ pass the solvency test of ensuring it can meet its debts as they come due. It may be worthwhile checking that SNZ’s directors’ liability insurance account is one of the payments made under the heading Administration.