A Question of Sport

September 16th, 2019

In just a few days the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) Annual General Meeting (AGM) is to be held in Auckland. The most loyal of delegates would be hard-pushed not to admit that these events are hardly a thorough investigation of the performance of SNZ. Two sausage rolls, a sad looking sandwich and a cup of Earl Grey and the delegates will agree to any atrocity. “In depth” is purely an aquatic term when it comes to SNZ AGMs.

I won’t be at the meeting. I’m no longer a member of SNZ. But here are one or two issues that are in the SNZ accounts and should be investigated. Someone needs to ask Cotterill why these events have occurred on his watch.

Legal Fees

I have no idea why a liability provision for $100,000 of legal fees should be called “Accumulated Depreciation”. It is not depreciation of course as the note to the accounts, shown in the table below, goes on to explain.

All significant legal disputes involving probable loss that can be reliably estimated have been provided for in the financial statements. In the current year there has been a claim made relating to damages in respect of an alleged breach of the Privacy Act. SNZ on the advice of their lawyers have booked a provision of $100,000 to recognise the estimated legal costs of defending the claim. The amount has been fully provided for in the financial statements.

It is beyond belief that Cotterill can look members in the eye and say he charged NZ’s best swimmers $80,000 to go to a World Championship. He sent SNZ’s most talented members out on to the streets begging for money to pay for themselves to get to Japan and at the same time he was making decisions that were about to cost the organisation $100,000 in legal bills – and possibly a lot more. The priorities of Cotterill, Johns and the Board are a disgraceful shambles. Members at the AGM would do well to demand to see the Marris Report – after all they are about to pay $100,000 for it. They should at least be able to read it. It’s in Steve Johns’ office somewhere. And if Bruce asks why you want to read the Report tell him that in accordance with Principle 11(d) of the Privacy Act, and as long as I get to read it too, you have my permission.


When Cotterill charged NZ’s best swimmers $80,000 to go to Japan it was only part of a larger user-pays immoral rip-off. The overall user-pays bill went up from $130,000 last year to $389,000. That’s $259,000 additional dollars taken out of member’s pockets so that Cotterill and Johns could spend $100,000 or more on a legal battle that the Privacy Commission told them should never have happened.

Event Entry Fees

Here again there has been a massive increase of $100,000, up from $457,000 to $557,000. Some of this will be additional swimmers – a good thing. But a lot of it is higher charges and swimmers being entered in additional events – both extremely bad.

The bottom line is that Cotterill and his Board have exploited every trick in the book to extract more money out of a reduced number of members. Membership fees haven’t gone up because membership numbers are down again.

The accounts tell me there are 256 competitive swimmers and 5,215 coaches in NZ. That’s 20 coaches for each swimmer. That’s intense. Well done SNZ. They mean the other way around of course. It begs the question as to whether anyone proof reads anything they send out.

Overall membership, probably the most critical measure of performance, has continued to slide. The table below shows SNZ total membership numbers for the past three years.

2017 2018 2019
No. Members 19,118 18,730 17,255
% Change - Down 2% Down 8%

That’s called downhill and picking up speed. Never mind I’m sure this Board can figure out a way of getting more money out of the user-pays fees to pay unnecessary legal bills and higher wages. And on the subject of wages ——-


The wages of SNZ’s two highest paid employees went up by $34,000 from $285,000 to $319,000. Let’s assume Steve Johns only got half of that increase – he probably got more. But even at half, that’s an additional $17,000 for what? To watch the membership numbers collapse by 8%. To turn down a recommendation of the Privacy Commissioner. How come that’s not mentioned in his report? It can’t be every day he gets to tell the government agency responsible for privacy that they are wrong. It can’t be every day the same agency tells him to go take a training course in privacy. Come on Steve – these are highlights of your 2019 year. We need to know what’s gone on for your extra $17,000.

Business Planning

The Annual Report is not without its lighter moments. In fact any world class comedian would be delighted with some of the jokes they tell. The best is the spending that went up from $0 to $34,000 on BUSINESS PLANNING. Come on, you have to see the joke of that. Are they really trying to tell the world they planned to spend $100,000 on a needless war?

Anyway the idea of SNZ planning the chaos of their flight from one bad decision to another is hilarious. Don’t tell me they actually planned to lose $43,000 on the sale of fixed assets. That’s probably the poolside gym gear they have had to give away. Well done North Shore Swim Club. You did well

What planning went into losing 1500 members? What planning went into the equal worst Commonwealth Games result in NZ swimming history? What planning went into the screw up over the pre-Games training camp?

Those are some questions that probably should be asked. The next Swimwatch article will discuss Cotterill’s plunge into social science philosophy. Yes, he spends a couple of paragraphs in his Annual Report telling us all how the world has changed; how members need protection. I sure know what that feels like. After he has spent the membership’s $100,000 my guess is Cotterill will too.

Death of a Swimming Club

September 15th, 2019

Justice? Perhaps Yes.

In 2015 the West Auckland Aquatics swimming club died. After a series of internal disputes Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) decided to suspend the club’s membership. I have criticised SNZ for plenty of their decisions but never this one. I agreed with SNZ. By the time the end of 2015 came about SNZ had no option but to terminate the club’s membership.

The President of the club through this troubled time was Susan Turner. I disagreed with just about every decision she took. Rightly or wrongly I was convinced she was hell bent on having David Lyles replace me as Head Coach of the club. Certainly within 24 hours of me leaving the club that is what Susan Turner did. It was a shameful shambles that did none of us any credit.

Obviously I think I was right. I have no doubt Susan Turner believes she had the swimming angels on her side. In my opinion a decision of the Supreme Court of Queensland that was largely based on accusations of Susan Turner’s mismanagement support my view. I have written before about the decision. The case was called Mary-Rose Robinson v State of Queensland. In the case Robinson argued that she was “subjected to repeated managerial mistreatment by” Susan Turner. Robinson claimed “this caused psychiatric injury with consequent loss of her career”. The court agreed and awarded Robinson $AU1.4million in damages.

It is interesting to read the Queensland judgement. In my opinion it contains insights into the difficulties I experienced at West Auckland Aquatics. Here is what the judge in the case said.

In the course of the above analysis I have found there were repeated instances of managerial mistreatment of Mrs Robinson by Ms Turner, namely:

(a) Ms Turner’s unjustified blaming and ill-tempered, humiliatingly loud and public dressing down of Mrs Robinson at the June teambuilding workshop.

(b) Ms Turner’s loud and aggressive belittling of Mrs Robinson’s concerns as sinister and all in her head at their meeting of 29 September 2010.

(c) Ms Turner’s isolation of Mrs Robinson by flippantly dismissing and never meeting her request for information about Ms Holford’s concerns, in the wake of excluding Mrs Robinson from the meeting with Ms Holford of 5 October 2010.

(d) Ms Turner’s isolation and undermining of Mrs Robinson at the meeting of 15 November 2010 by her public reversal of Mrs Robinson’s allocation of offices designed to avoid contact between Mrs Robinson and Ms Holmes.

(e) Ms Turner’s humiliation and undermining of Mrs Robinson at the meeting of 15 November 2010 by not according Mrs Robinson the same opportunity for private discussion with her outside, which she accorded Ms Holmes.

(f) Ms Turner’s isolation of Mrs Robinson by not consulting her and circumventing her in communicating on 16 November 2010 with staff Mrs Robinson line managed in respect of the operational assignment of Ms Holmes.

(g) Ms Turner’s false accusation at the meeting of 6 December 2010 that Mrs Robinson had said Ms Turner would have to apply for her own job and the humiliation and undermining inherent in making that accusation publicly and declining Mrs Robinson’s request to speak privately rather than at the meeting about the topic.

(h) Ms Turner’s undermining and isolation of Mrs Robinson by deciding to remove risk management from Mrs Robinson’s area of responsibility and informing staff of that decision on 9 December 2010 without first consulting or advising Mrs Robinson.

(i) Ms Turner’s isolating of Mrs Robinson by the decision of 7 January 2011 to restore Ms Holmes to her substantive position while Ms Holmes’ complaints in her WIFs against Mrs Robinson remained unresolved.

(j) Ms Turner’s humiliation and isolation of Mrs Robinson and showing contemptuous disregard of Mrs Robinson and the responsibilities of her position, in making and announcing the decision of 7 January 2011 to restore Ms Holmes to her substantive position, without first consulting or advising Mrs Robinson about it.

[300] Ms Turner’s unjustified blaming, humiliation, belittling, isolation, undermining and contemptuous disregard of Mrs Robinson constitutes an obvious course of behaviour which I describe in summary in these reasons as a course of managerial mistreatment.

[301] Ms Turner’s failure to take timely and determinative action on Ms Holmes’ complaints persisted throughout that course of managerial mistreatment and could be regarded as coming within the description of managerial mistreatment.  However, for ease of analysis I have in these reasons dealt with it as a separate breach.

I see SNZ has spent $12,000 on legal expenses in the past 12 months. That’s a 600% increase from the $2,000 spent the year before. In addition SNZ has set aside $100,000 for legal expenses in 2020. And do you know what? SNZ have told me that legal expense, your money, is being spent on DEFENDING THE CONFIDENTIALITY OF SUSAN TURNER and Nikki Johns. I do hope the membership is pleased with the decisions the SNZ Board are making; almost 3% of the organisation’s total income and 400% of its 2019 profit being spent on defending the confidentiality of Susan Turner.

Cotterill charges New Zealand’s best swimmers $80,000 to travel to a World Championship and spends $112,000 defending Susan Turner. Good priorities – you guys.

Sadly I doubt the delegates at the Annual General Meeting, about to be held, will ask any questions about why. The delegates should. In fact they should be furious. I am. But will they? We will see.

Save The Worst Till Last

September 15th, 2019

Previous Swimwatch posts have discussed aspects of aerobic training and speed training. There is a third category of fitness that has to be included in a balanced program – anaerobic fitness. This refers to training the athlete to tolerate the discomfort that builds up when he or she swims or runs faster than the point where air taken in can supply all the athlete’s energy needs – the athlete goes anaerobic. It means getting puffed.

This period of training is particularly sensitive to me. It is the training I screwed up when preparing Toni Jeffs for the Barcelona Olympic Games. It is a mistake common to many coaches and I made it – big time. Nothing was ever good enough. If 10×100 done really fast was good 20 was better and 50 was best of all. If a minutes rest was good, then 30 seconds was fantastic. One session Toni did in Wellington’s Freyberg Pool before the Olympic Games was 20x66m on 1.45. I said they had to be done under 40sec. That’s one minute 100 pace. And, do you know what? Toni did it. In fact most of them were 38s. It’s a pity only the Freyberg lifeguards and I saw it. It was fantastic but it was also a big step closer to the disaster of her swims in Barcelona.

Too much anaerobic training is as dangerous as all can be. I know. After Barcelona I’ve been there, done that, can wear the t-shirt. Both the guys (Jelley and Lydiard) I’ve relied on for my coaching education warned me about the dangers of anaerobic training. “Back off, take it easy, don’t leave it all at training” they would say. After Barcelona I began to listen. That wasn’t going to happen again.

So what are the rules of anaerobic training? Here is what I think they are.

A balanced program means allocating the time swimmers spend on training to 40% aerobic, 40% speed and 20% anaerobic training. In a Lydiard program that means doing 10 weeks aerobic training, 4 weeks anaerobic training and 10 weeks speed training. However there are 100 other ways of dividing up the time. What cannot change is the 40/40/20 ratio.

Both Jelley and Lydiard stressed the importance of anaerobic sets being not too long and not too short. What does that mean? Well, for a whole anaerobic period one season I set Toni Jeffs very short anaerobic sessions. Things like 5×100 or 8×50. There is of course a place for that type of training. But Toni was not getting anaerobically fit. The training was not far enough to ensure complete anaerobic fatigue. That is not possible in the five minutes of swimming time it takes to swim 5×100. Swimming 30×100 was similarly ineffective. The distance was too far to swim fast enough to build up the maximum amount of anaerobic fatigue throughout the muscles, through the venous and through the arterial blood system. In swimming between 10 and 15 100s seems to be the right length of session. That is a distance that can be swum at a fast speed for an extended period of time sufficient for the body to experience full anaerobic fatigue.

Recovery is important in all phases of training. In the anaerobic period it is life and death. Any coach who keeps piling anaerobic fatigue on top of anaerobic fatigue is asking for trouble. Just look at the way I managed to coach a swimmer from 3rd in the world to 23rd at Barcelona. Never underestimate the importance of recovery. In practical terms this means two things. Anaerobic training should be restricted to three sessions per week. In other words there should be a minimum of 48 hours recovery between anaerobic sets. If in doubt dropping the weekly load to two sessions is also wise. Swimmers can, of course, swim between anaerobic sessions. Active recovery is the very best.

What distances should be swum in anaerobic sessions? The answer is it depends on the swimmers main event. The rule says anaerobic sets in the four week should be over distances longer and shorter than the swimmers main event. In other words the swimmer should experience a wide range of anaerobic stress. For a 100 swimmer this means setting over distance 400m, 200m and 150m sets and 100m, 75m and 50m under distance sets. In the four weeks I plan three of these options in week one and the other three in week two. I then repeat week one sets in week three and week two’s sets in week four. In other words in the four weeks every interval distance gets repeated twice. The times swum can be compared but are not particularly important. We need to remember Lydiard’s recipe for good anaerobic training.

How far. To the nearest tree

How fast. At a good speed.

How many. Until you are tired.

And finally, don’t forget about swimmer’s legs. When I first began swim coaching all the anaerobic sets were done swimming. At one NSW Championship Nichola Chellingworth won the 12 year old girls 50 freestyle and Toni Jeffs won the Open Woman’s 50 freestyle. We were very pleased with ourselves. Later I was chatting to Australian national coach Peter Freney. He said that he thought Nichola and Toni were slowing down at the end of the 50m. His impression was that their legs were tiring and that quickly spread to their arms and shoulders. He asked if I was doing enough work on their legs. I didn’t admit that in the anaerobic period we did no anaerobic leg training. From then on I have split the anaerobic sets into 80% swimming, 20% legs. The improvement in Nichola and Toni’s results was huge.

Those are the rules I use to set swimmer’s schedules through the anaerobic period of training. But most of all, remember this is a dangerous period of preparation. Be cautious, don’t push too hard. The last thing any coach wants to do is repeat my Barcelona training mistake.

For Your Information

September 12th, 2019

The following news item appeared on the Stuff website today. Karma has such a lovely sound. Rhymes with schadenfreude. In one word the Indians and Germans can say, “I bloody well told you.”

While the screams of innocence can be heard on both sides of the Tasman I doubt that Courts award $1.4 million for nothing and insurers never decline the chance to appeal when someone has done such “amazing stuff”. At $1.4 million it clearly was super amazing.

The line I enjoyed most was, “Talk to anyone I’ve worked with in the health system.” Now there is an invitation and a half. I worked with Turner – not in the health service – so let’s talk. All emails will get a reply.

However one fact is clear – with this news my court claim against Swimming New Zealand has just increased out of sight. There is no way anything that happened in Australia could be worse than I have been through in New Zealand for four years. Swimming New Zealand and the Swim Coaches Association had a responsibility to protect members like me. Just as the Queensland Health Board appears to have failed, Swimming New Zealand failed in that duty as well. I hope their pockets are as deep as the Queensland Health Board. I am taking legal advice on the amount to take to the Court, but early suggestions are over $1.0 million.

Here is the Stuff article – read and enjoy.

Health board candidate Susan Turner at centre of $1.4m payout, but says ‘I’m not a bully’

A Capital and Coast DHB candidate cost the Queensland government AUD$1.4 million in a 2017 negligence and mismanagement lawsuit.

However, Susan Turner says it was a “manufactured” case.

Turner said she had not mismanaged tensions between the complainant Mary-Rose Robinson and two other Cape York Hospital and Health Service employees and was not a bully, but had achieved “amazing stuff” as Cape York HHS chief executive.

The case, which was decided in August 2017, found Turner had demonstrated “appalling managerial misconduct” and “contemptuous disregard” which contributed to a “psychological injury” to Robinson.

Turner took on the role, working out of Weipa Hospital in Queensland’s far north, in January 2010. She resigned in April 2014.

Previous to Turner’s employment, tensions had arisen between Robinson, the district director of nursing, and two other employees.

Judge James Henry found Turner was aware of the conflict but had mismanaged the situation and exacerbated it by humiliating, isolating and undermining Robinson, including yelling at her in a meeting.

Robinson had asked to be transferred to another location to continue her duties but when this was denied, she left the profession.

Psychiatric opinion in the decision stated the then 59-year-old Robinson was “now rendered totally and permanently incapacitated from undertaking any … employment”.

Previous to the injury, she had been described as the “rock” of her family, “competent” and “well regarded” with no history of psychological or psychiatric problems.

The judge found the State of Queensland vicariously liable for Turner’s negligence as her employer, and awarded Robinson AUD$1,468,991 for damages, economic loss and future expenses.

On Wednesday, Turner said she had not mismanaged Robinson’s conflict with the two other employees.

“I believe I gave her the right kind of support.

“I did some amazing stuff over there. That’s what I find quite sad. Talk to anyone I’ve worked with in the health system … I’ve been a disrupter and innovator.

“You can’t do that kind of level of change if you’re a bully.”

The outcome of the trial had been “devastating”, “unfair” and “unjust”.

“I was supported by director general … he had a lot of confidence in me.”

She had left the role voluntarily due to a number of factors, and the Queensland Government had given her “a really, really good payout” upon resigning.

She said an appeal had been lodged, but insurers were not willing to back it.

A Queensland Government Department of Health spokeswoman said the department “does not provide comment on past employees”.

On her candidate profile on the Wellington City Council website, Turner describes herself as bringing a “fresh approach” with “extensive experience within an international context”.

“I am responsive to communities and staff where I have demonstrated by listening has led to transformative change in health – leading health towards to eradicating institutionalised racism.”


Individual Aerobic Fitness

September 10th, 2019

A very good triathlon coach I knew in Florida sent me an email shortly after the Swimwatch story discussing aerobic fitness was published. I had argued that the build-up training required to develop a good aerobic base could vary between 60 miles a week for David Rudisha and 150 miles a week for Mo Farah. I have coached swimmers like Eyad Masoud who thrive on 70 kilometres a week and Rhi Jeffrey who could handle 100 kilometres. Distances run or swum in an aerobic build-up had to be far enough to achieve the required aerobic goal but varied greatly from athlete to athlete.

Dana, the triathlon coach, said, “Good article, David. Thank you. I’m curious, what metrics are you using to determine the sweet spot of training distance for each athlete?”

That’s a good question. It is asking how does a coach know that Eyad achieves his best aerobic results at 70 kilometers while a swimmers like Rhi and Joe Skuba got better aerobic results swimming 100 kilometers a week. It is a good question because it is difficult to answer. There is certainly no mathematical formula that tells a coach exactly what distance is right. I wish it was possible to put sex, height, weight, age, PB for 1500 meters into a computer and a weekly aerobic distance would flash up on the screen. Sadly we know that would never work – but, to repeat Dana’s email, “What does work?”

In my view several ingredients go into the answer. The first is time. It takes time for a coach to determine what amount of aerobic training best suits a swimmer. For example with Eyad it took 18 months to settle on 70 kilometers. In that time we tried 100 kilometers. It was clearly not working. He was too tired. His swims were too slow. Distance conditioning is not a sprint but it is not a slow plod either. In Eyad’s case 100 was painfully slow. He was not getting aerobically fit. We tried 50 kilometers. That was done at a good speed. In fact he was bouncing off the walls. He was not nearly tired enough. It was too easy. Again he was not getting aerobically fit. 70 kilometers, however, worked. Eyad was tired but could manage the distance day after day at a good firm aerobic threshold speed. He was improving. He was getting aerobically fitter. So I guess the first “metric” of time could also be called “trial and error”.

The second factor is speed. Good aerobic conditioning needs to be run or swum at the fastest speed possible while not going anaerobic. In simple terms how far can the athlete run or swim and maintain a heart rate of around 150 to 160 BPM. Can they repeat that speed and effort day after day? If they can’t the distance is probably too far to be of much benefit. Done well and over several seasons the best aerobic speed will improve. As the athlete gets fitter the speed they achieve while maintaining the same heart rate effort should improve quite dramatically. After all that’s what it means to get aerobically fitter. In Jane Copland’s case an aerobic set of 100×100 on 1.30 at the beginning of her career would average 1.18 per 100. Four years later, at the same heart rate, she could swim the same set averaging 1.08 per 100. In the same period, at the same heart rate, a set of 10×400 went from 5.24 to 4.46 per 400. That is not exactly slow. Jane was getting aerobically fitter. The distance of 90 kilometers a week in her case was working. Do not, though, slavishly time every aerobic set. Of course there will be slower days depending on how the athlete feels. When it comes to speed you are looking for a “general trend”.

The third factor is recovery. The distance should not be so great that the athlete is not recovering between sessions. I was told once that what that meant was the athlete still had an interest in activities apart from running, swimming and sleeping. Mowing the lawns, washing the dishes, attending university and a trip to the movies were all possible in addition to the aerobic training. Failure to recover means the distance is too far. There are other signs such a constant colds and minor illnesses, inability to sleep, unusually bad skin and shortness of temper. A high heart rate when waking up in the morning can also indicate that the distance is too far. Of course the runner or swimmer is going to be tired but not so tired that they do not recover in time to do the next run or swim.

That then is what I look for – trial and error, speed and recovery. The goal is to find the maximum distance possible while still maintaining a good speed and achieving sufficient recovery. As we have said the correct answer will vary from person to person.

So Dana, that is my best answer to your metrics question. I know it does not sound hugely scientific, but then it wasn’t invented by a scientist. I was taught this by two New Zealanders, one who delivered milk and the other a principal of a large New Zealand school. One was called Arthur Lydiard and the other is Arch Jelley. They knew a thing or two about aerobic conditioning. And certainly the runners they coached could run a bit thanks in part to their aerobic conditioning. Four of those runners part way around the Waitakere Ranges are shown in the photograph at the top of this story.