The Performance Of Value

March 18th, 2018

The home of Comet Values, the old Macrae Baths

Swimwatch published a story recently called “Comet Club Values”. ( The post was popular with the crew that once swam for the club. Rosemary even suggested a reunion. I’d be a starter for that event. While reminiscing about the good old days is nostalgic and wonderful fun I wanted to consider the wider implications of the Comet Club approach to sport.

While Comet Club demonstrated the importance of honest principles, it was not alone. Many good and successful people have similar values. For example Duncan Laing, Gary Hurring, Lincoln Hurring, Judith Wright, Gwen Ryan, Arthur Lydiard, Arch Jelley, John Walker, Mark Schubert, Trevor Nichols, Noel Hardgrave-Booth and Jeannie and Geoff Sibun have or had Comet values.

Swimming New Zealand does not have Comet values; not in any way shape or form. In Antares Place it’s all about corporate plans and strategic policy initiatives going forward. You might not believe me. Here then is a quote from Bruce Cotterill.

We continue to search for new commercial income as a high priority going forward. We need to shore-up and secure new funding streams as a matter of priority if we are to increase investment in priority areas such as high performance, coach development and club and regional capability.   

I love those guys who add “going forward” to the end of every sentence. Where else can you go? And what “club and regional capability” means I have no idea. I doubt that anyone else does either; including Bruce Cotterill. However Cotterill and Johns do make one good point. They tell me that two measures of federation success are performance and participation. I would argue that Comet values produce better results in both performance and participation than anything Cotterill’s high priorities going forward will ever achieve. Let me explain.

First let’s consider participation. For several years in the 1960s, every Friday afternoon during the school holidays, I sat at my coach’s kitchen table and did the entries for the Comet club night. As a result I was very aware that our club had 527 members. That’s one club in 1960s Gisborne, when the population of the entire town was only 28,500. Two people in every 100 Gisborne residents were members of our club.

New Zealand today has a population of 4,749,598. To match Comet’s participation Cotterill and Johns should be leading a federation of 85,493 swimmers. In 2018 Swimming New Zealand’s actually competitive and non-competitive membership is 11,812; a mere 73,000 members short. The table below shows a breakdown of the competitive and non-competitive numbers by region together with the number of clubs and the average club size. At the bottom of the table Comet’s 1960’s data is also included.

Region Swimmers Clubs Av. Swimmers per Club
Northland 233 12 19
Auckland 1,563 15 104
Counties Manukau 875 8 109
Waikato 693 22 32
Bay of Plenty 1229 10 123
Taranaki 358 7 51
Hawkes Bay Poverty Bay 766 6 129
Manawatu 661 11 60
Wellington 2,211 20 111
Nelson Marlborough 444 8 56
Canterbury West Coast 1,157 21 55
Otago 1,047 14 75
Southland 652 11 59
Total New Zealand 11,812 165 71
1960’s Comet Club 527 1 527

How is it that Comet Club on its own could attract more members than the current Northland, Taranaki and Nelson Marlborough regions? Why is it that, with all Swimming New Zealand’s corporate strategies and Whole of Sport Plans, Beth Meade’s club could outperform Cotterill and Johns’ average club membership size by 740%?

Because Beth Meade ran a club with values – that’s why. In my previous post I described values as “a love of sport, a respect for the rules, of fun, of strong independence, of dignity and good manners.” Beth’s values infected all those she touched.

In my opinion Cotterill and Johns don’t do that. They don’t love swimming. When was the last time you saw either of them at a Level Three competition or a Junior League? Never is the answer. They are too busy sending Peter Miskimmin their latest horizontal analysis of the income from operations statement. And their respect for the rules is suspect. Look at the way Swimming New Zealand manipulated the rules in order to sign Lauren Boyles’ record certificate or the frantic deals done when they realized only two swimmers had qualified for the Commonwealth Games. And there is not much in the way of strong independence. Swimming New Zealand can’t go to the loo without asking Peter Miskimmin for permission. And finally good manners demands more of leaders than to impose medley qualifying times and withdraw them at the last minute or to promise the membership a full explanation of the reason for the loss of Sport New Zealand funding and then never reporting the result. Broken promises are not good manners.

Rank and file members instantly recognize a callous disregard for common decency. Members know when they don’t count; when corporate affairs rule; when the grass roots are left to grow weeds. In my opinion that culture is where the sport is at and is why Comet had 527 members and Cotterill and Johns’ average 71.

The second measure of health used by Cotterill and Johns is performance; how good are the sport’s best swimmers? You would think that, with $13million spent on high performance swimming in the last decade; this aspect of the sport would be very strong. Sadly no. Here again a lack of values has been the cause of untold damage. New Zealanders don’t do elite sport best the Cotterill and Johns’ way. You cannot buy Olympic success. The New Zealand formula for victory is based on common touch values; the way Tom Walsh has become a world champion, the way Lydiard prepared Snell, Halberg and Magee and the way Jelley coached John Walker.

And it worked back in Comet days as well. Here is a report from a 1967 Gisborne Photo News. Greg has gone on to coach the Comet Club for many years. Remember in those days the Gisborne pool was closed in the winter. But Beth and Comet’s values more than compensated


A prominent, swimmer, but of modest disposition, is Greg Meade who was announced last season as Swimmer of the Year for the Hawkes Bay-Poverty Bay Centre.

The trophy is awarded for good conduct and sportsmanship over the year as well as for consistent performances.

Last season Greg took the New Zealand junior butterfly and medley titles at the national championships at Napier.

Also a member of the Comet team which went to Australia last season, Greg reached the finals in the breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and medley in his section of the New South Wales state championships.

The son of Ray and Beth Meade, 11 Totara Street, Greg has a swimming background, and plenty of hard practice has kept him well to the fore in this competitive sport.


Lightweight & Useless

March 16th, 2018

I am very conscious that Swimwatch has been accused of too much negative criticism. That opinion is not without merit. Criticism, on these pages, has been strident and frequent. My defence is only that there is much to be strident about. The sport is badly managed. The sport is struggling. No one enjoys being negative. However I am acutely aware that bad things happen when good people say nothing. If criticism is justified then it must be aired. To stay silent would only encourage the steady decline that has characterised recent New Zealand swimming history.

But today I am really annoyed. I am insulted beyond belief. You see, in my email today I received a copy of the Swimming New Zealand Freestyler newsletter. To call it lightweight and useless would be high praise. When it arrives I see it announced in my inbox as, “SNZ Newsletter March 2018 Best viewed in your browser”. I am filled with anticipation. Perhaps this time Cotterill, or the Board or Johns or some office bureaucrat will include some news in the newsletter. Perhaps someone will discuss real swimming issues. Just maybe Swimming New Zealand will use the Newsletter to involve the membership in the management of the sport.

But, no, it never happens. All we get is meaningless froth and bubble. And the sad fact is there is a lot of important news to report just now.

Probably most important is the following story published today on the SwimVortex website.

SwimVortex reveals that they recently asked the FINA Athletes’ Committee the following question.

Athlete safety and welfare clearly in focus, what is your opinion of the view that FINA Minimum Standard Pool rules that make sure athletes (of all levels, including teaching) do not break teeth and crack skulls on the pool floor can be ignored when a world record is set?

Effectively what the SwimVortex question is asking is, was Swimming New Zealand wrong to sign Lauren Boyle’s 1500m record application and was FINA at fault in approving an improperly submitted application?

The Athletes’ Committee reply was clear. They said;

“Regarding the facility rules and world records – as far as we know the facility rules do apply when a world record is set.”

You would think that Swimming New Zealand would be interested in that reply. After all it does mean that the leaders of the Athletes’ Committee, people of the stature of Penny Heyns, Camelia Potec, Kirsty Coventry and Aaron Peirsol, disagree with Swimming New Zealand and FINA over their declaration that facility rules governing the dimensions of pools and athlete safety do not apply when a world record is set.

It may have taken three years but world opinion is beginning to agree that both FINA and Swimming New Zealand were wrong to overlook the safety rule. In my opinion the callous disregard Bret Layton showed for the truth, for the rules and for member’s safety is being exposed. Swimming New Zealand should get onto the right side of history and use their newsletter to correct a very bad mistake. Or as an athlete, I know well, said to me today, “Don’t the grey old bastards recognise their day is done.”

The newsletter should also be telling us about progress with the Gary Francis’ Targeted Athlete and Coach position. Remember how Steve Johns teased us about the new position and then a month later the appointment of Gary Francis was announced and then, on the 9 February 2018, Francis sent out an email that said;

My role is already evolving(!), but the action plan for how it will work will be finalised over the next few weeks. Steve Johns (CEO), and myself will then set up a series of presentations across the country to explain the revised HP strategy that includes the ‘Targeted Athlete and Coach’ programme. How this integral programme operates will be clearly laid out during those presentations.

That was five weeks ago and we’ve heard nothing since. Darwin’s theory of evolution took less time than the Francis and Johns’ version. When are these meetings going to be held? Are they going to be held? What has Francis been doing for five weeks?

While I’m on the subject of Gary Francis let me send a message directly to him. If he wants to discuss my swimmer’s training and competition plans then he asks me first. I hope he would not wander off to Raumati and start discussing training with their swimmers without clearing it with Jon Winter first. Well I’m no different. You clear it with me before you discuss training or competition with any swimmer of mine.

And finally the newsletter should be used to clarify two classic Swimming New Zealand failures. First is the “on-again-off-again” medley qualifying rule. I’m betting that ridiculous condition probably cost the sport 50 odd members; swimmers who qualified in an individual event but couldn’t do the medley time and have decided to give the whole thing away as a waste of time. I agree that medley training is an important part of swimming but to make it a condition of entering a championship is a quick and certain way to destroy the sport. Can you imagine Tom Walsh being required to run a mile in under 4.30 before entering the shot put?

The Swimming New Zealand rule has now been withdrawn. However it is too late. The damage has been done. We need to know who had the idea in the first place. Who was responsible and have they been called to account for the damage they caused? My guess is it will be a typical Swimming New Zealand cover-up. Sweep it under the carpet and it never happened.

And second how did the Oceania team fiasco ever happen. The team got selected then half of them refused to go and the team got unselected and finally a new team was announced. What a circus. Getting into a New Zealand team these days is more bureaucratically complex than getting out of the old Soviet Union. There are long lists and short lists, “A” times and “B” times. The qualifying conditions for the Commonwealth Games occupied eleven pages. And then only two swimmers made the cut so Swimming New Zealand picked whoever they wanted anyway. In the first Oceania Championships I by-passed Swimming New Zealand and entered directly with the meet organizers. That was probably a bit too casual but at least we all turned up to swim.

There is a lot that the Swimming New Zealand newsletter could be used to explain. There is even more that the newsletter should be used to explain.

The Fun Of It All

March 15th, 2018

 Alison wins the 1962 Canterbury primary school sports on Lancaster Park

 Some fun and strange events can occur when people fail to recognize talented people. Here are a few examples.

Lizzie Simmonds

Simmonds represented Great Britain at backstroke in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. In 2012 she was fourth in the 200 metres. She also represented Great Britain in the FINA World Championships, the European championships, and England in the Commonwealth Games. She was European champion in the 200-metre backstroke. Certainly she can swim a bit.

Here is a delightful tweet she recently posted of a conversation she had recently with a lady aqua-jogger.

Lady in public lane: you’re very good at swimming you know.

Me: erm, thanks

Lady: no seriously, you should try and do a trial with the county club!

Me: erm, well I actually went to a couple of Olympics.

Lady: me too! Which sports did you get manage to get tickets for?

David Wilkie

Wilkie could also swim a bit. He remains the only swimmer to hold British, American, Commonwealth, European, World and Olympic swimming titles at the same time. Here is a lovely story posted on twitter by the SwimVortex website. – There was a doctor who swam each morning outside the training lane he wanted it gone at an Aberdeen pool we used to train in; he had complained to council for decades dating back to when he single out “a boy … with no talent or chance of making it”. The boy: David Wilkie

Mary Stewart

Stewart was a British runner who competed in the 1976 Olympic Games and won gold medals in the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games. Here is a story she told just before leaving to compete in the Montreal Olympic Games.

Mary was walking to a bus stop preparing to catch a bus to work. As she approached the stop she noticed her bus pulling away from the stop. She took off chasing the bus along the Birmingham street, caught it and jumped onto the platform at the back of those old UK busses. The conductor was impressed.

“Say girl. Keep running like that and they’ll pick you for the Olympics,” he said.

Mary smiled and said, “They already have.”

Alison Wright

Wright was the 1500 meters national champion of New Zealand, Scotland and the United Kingdom (indoors). She represented New Zealand at the 1978 Commonwealth Games and the Great Britain at several international events. After she finished international track competition she kept fit by running around the steep hills in Dunedin. Here is a story she tells about one of those runs

Alison rounded a corner and noticed ahead of her a chap, on his bike, nearing the top of a very steep hill. Working hard she closed the gap until she came alongside and passed.

“Oh no. That’s all I need.” she heard the cyclist exclaim as she ran past.  She hopes his day did get better.

Arthur Lydiard

Lydiard was one of the outstanding athletics’ coaches of all time. He is credited with popularizing the sport of running. Lydiard coached a New Zealand’s golden era in world track. Murray Halberg, Peter Snell and Barry Magee won medals at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and Snell won two medals in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Here is a story that happened on the Monday after Snell set two world records on Lancaster Park.

Arthur went for a run in Christchurch on the Sunday after Snell’s incredible 800 meters and 880 yards world record run. He was very fit for his age. Even so he was surprised to see a picture of himself, running around Christchurch, on the front page of Monday’s Christchurch Press. He was even more surprised to read the caption under the photograph that read, “Peter Snell demonstrates the style that earned him two world records.”

Arthur Lydiard

After coaching successfully in New Zealand, Lydiard was recruited to be the Head Track coach in, running mad, Finland. He met and began dating Eira Lehtonen, She would later become his wife. Here is a story Lydiard told to illustrate how popular track athletics is in Finland.

Arthur and Eira had been dating for some months and decided to have a weekend holiday in the far north of Finland. It was the middle of winter with snow was piled deep outside. Arthur was aware of his popularity and to avoid unwanted attention he signed the register – Mr and Mrs Smith. The Hotel Manager glanced at the entry, quietly closed the register, smiled and said, “It’s lovely to have you stay in our hotel, Mr Lydiard.

Sir Peter Snell

Snell is the only male track athlete since 1920 to win the 800 and 1500 meters at the same Olympics. Snell is best known for his three Olympic and two Commonwealth Games gold medals and the several world records. When my daughter, Jane, went to Washington State University on a swimming scholarship Jane and her mother, Alison, were invited to dinner by the widow of Snell’s professor. During dinner they were told this lovely story.

The professor and several other staff members were training for a local half marathon. They kindly invited their new doctorate student to join their lunch time group. They had no idea who Snell was but assured him that they had been preparing for several months and if Snell found keeping up difficult not to worry. Snell said he’d love to join in. Being the quiet sort of chap he is, he did not mention his Olympic and world record past. The professor realized something was unusual when they came to a section of fast running and Snell bounded away, well ahead, down the road. The professor soon found out the history of the New Zealander who might not keep up.

Gary Hurring

Hurring  won a gold medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in the men’s 200 backstroke. He won a silver in the same event at the 1978 World Championships. At the 1984 Olympics he just missed medals in both backstroke events finishing fourth in the 100m and fifth in the 200m. I recruited Gary to coach our team in Wellington. Of course everyone was hugely excited about the arrival of such a famous New Zealand name.

My secretary, Carmel, rushed home to tell her family about Gary’s imminent arrival. Of course much of the discussion was about his stellar backstroke career. Carmel’s four year old daughter was impressed but concerned. “But mummy,” she asked, “can he swim on his tummy?”


Gender Issues In Swimming

March 14th, 2018

 Annie and Fara finish a US Virgin Islands’ open water event

March 8 2018 was International Women’s Day. It was an opportunity to look at the question of gender equality in swimming. The website SwimVortex posted a story that discussed gender issues in the sport. It revealed that there were some serious problems,, especially in the governance of aquatic sport.

SwimVortex included a table that revealed a huge imbalance in favor of men in various FINA commissions and committees. The figures are astounding. For example in the area of sports medicine, anti-doping and ethics FINA has 28 men and one woman. It seems incredible that, at a time when women’s issues are so important, only one woman should sit at the top FINA ethics table. In total the organization allocates an amazing 79% (179) of its appointments to men and 21% (48) to women. And the International Olympic Committee is no better; only 24 of 106 board members (23%) are women.

SwimVortex concluded the post with this lovely and relevant piece of writing.

So, women swimmers – and you blokes young and not quite so with your mothers, aunts, grandmas, sisters, girlfriends and wives about you – embrace this day that is yours, embrace the wag, the nag and the spirit of nevertheless she persisted and own the world you have a right to.

Here then is the SwimVortex table of the FINA gender balance – no that’s wrong. Here then is the SwimVortex table of the FINA gender imbalance.

Committee/Panel Men Women Total
Bureau (the exec) 24 1 25
Hon Members 11 0 11
Technical Swimming 13 4 17
Water Polo 17 0 17
Syncro 1 16 17
Open Water 17 1 18
Diving 11 6 17
Masters 12 4 16
Sport Medicine 9 0 9
Athletes 7 7 14
Coaches 10 2 12
Media 11 3 14
Facilities 5 1 6
Fed Relations 5 1 6
Legal 6 0 6
Swimwear 4 0 4
Doping Panel 6 0 6
Disciplinary 4 2 6
Ethics 6 0 6
Total 179 48 227
Percentage 79% 21% 100%

The FINA data made me wonder about Swimming New Zealand. Were women as badly represented in New Zealand swimming? How did we compare?

One measure was the gender balance on the Board of Swimming New Zealand and on the 13 Regional Boards. The table below shows that data. And New Zealand does very well. Of the 84 elected officials 44 (52%) are men and 40 (48%) are women. That is certainly miles better than FINA and speaks highly for the sport in New Zealand. There are one or two Neanderthal regions. Wellington with 6 men and one woman needs to join the 21st century and Otago with 6 men and no woman – well I’ve heard of southern men down there, but that’s ridiculous. Northland, on the other hand, is run by 5 women and one man.

It is off the point of this post but why does Auckland only have 4 Board members and Manawatu have 7. The constitution of both Regions says there must be 6. Given the amalgamation with Wairarapa I understand Wellington having 7 members but not the other two.

Region Male Female Total
Swimming New Zealand 4 2 6
Northland 1 5 6
Auckland 1 3 4
Counties Manukau 3 3 6
Waikato 3 3 6
Bay of Plenty 3 3 6
Hawkes Bay Poverty Bay 3 3 6
Manawatu 3 4 7
Taranaki 3 3 6
Wellington 6 1 7
Nelson Marlborough 4 2 6
Canterbury 2 4 6
Otago 6 0 6
Southland 2 4 6
Total 44 40 84
Percentage 52% 48% 100%

In the Event Advisory Committee and the Technical Committee Swimming New Zealand does not do as well. Of the 13 members 9 are men and 4 are women. However New Zealand swimming gets a good gender equality pass mark. And that’s important because, the last I heard, about 58% of the participants are female. Clearly, when the majority of members are female, women need to have at least an equal say in the sport’s management.

While the numbers speak well of the sport in New Zealand, there is no room for complacency. There are still aspects of the sport that need vigilance and reform. I am acutely aware of some of these issues as a result of coaching women. In fact the majority of my most successful swimmers have been female. I have watched closely the journey of national representatives such as Toni Jeffs, Nichola Chellingworth, Jane Copland, Rhi Jeffrey, Penny Jones and Jane Ip. And it is not easy. Without question the path women must walk to get to the top in swimming is more difficult than men. Women have to put up with day to day rubbish that men never see or experience. That must change.

For example, in 1932, the then-chairman of the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association, Harold Austad, said: “A woman should never be sent to the Games if a good man is available.” In 1968 that comment was reprinted in the Dominion newspaper. Pru Chapman and I had just finished morning training in the Freyberg Pool in Wellington. Pru was waiting to hear if she had been selected for the Mexico City Olympic team. She said, “I may as well give up now. They will never select me.” That sort of reaction is understandable. Thankfully she was selected and made it through to the semi-final of the Olympic 200 Medley.

And there are many small things that frustrate talented, hard working women. For example some of the women I have coached lifted very heavy weights. Just try doing 3×7 elbow raises with 45kgs or 3×7 chin-ups with 20kg tied on your waist, or 3×7 leg presses with 200kgs. It used to frustrate the life out of Toni, Jane and Rhi when men came up to them and said, “Be careful. That weight is too heavy for a girl.” It happens a lot, day after day and is terribly humiliating. They would never dream of saying it to another man. Men who fight for lane space to avoid being passed by faster women fall into the same category.

When I helping Alison with her track training I saw myself as being in the vanguard of liberal-thinking. I said things like, “You can train as hard as John Walker.” She did. She regularly completed her 10-week build-up, averaging 160 km or more each week.

And I was wrong. Discussing my enlightened views with Alan Laidler, lecturer in recreation and leisure studies at Victoria University, I was asked, “Why did you make the comparison? Why was it necessary to compare her performance with some man?” He was right. In setting up champion men as role models, I was as guilty of a serious put-down as those who say, “You can’t train as hard as men. Do something less.”

I never make that kind of comparison today. Gender is a non-relevant variable. The average female athlete may be capable of greater work-loads than the average male; everyone knows the stories of women who live longer than men when lost at sea in lifeboats. They have greater physiological reserves which might enable them to train longer and harder. Each athlete has to be taken as an individual. And so on International Women’s Day there is much to be pleased about in New Zealand swimming. There is also cause to be vigilant; there is still much to do.

Can This Possibly Be True?

March 13th, 2018

 We have discussed two officials who appear to have conflicts of interest. Where a conflict of interest exists there is the fear that it could affect the decisions being made. The discovery of these two Board members led me to wonder whether they were alone. And so I Googled the names of the 78 members on the Boards of the 13 Regions. The method is far from scientific. There could be errors in what I found.

What I was looking for was any Board member who gave the appearance of breaching the clause in every Region’s Constitution that says:

The following persons are not eligible to be a Board member: an employee of a Member Club,

As we have discussed in previous Swimwatch posts a breach of this clause can occur directly or indirectly. There are many ways of getting around the restriction. Bronwen Radford and Lin Tozer use the distinction between volunteer and employee. There are clearly huge differences between a volunteer who inspects turns for a few hours, seven or eight times a year, and a coach who instructs a club team four or five times a week. In my view, verbal gymnastics do not change the reality of competing loyalties. And it was competing loyalties that the membership clause of the regional constitutions sought to address. Chris Moller, the author of the constitution used by all 13 Regions, put it this way:

All Board members are obligated to act in the best interests of swimming in general at all times. Put another way Board members do not and must not represent particular interests groups at any time.

And so, using Moller’s comprehensive interpretation of the rule, were there other members of Regional Boards who could be playing fast and loose with the rule? This is what I discovered.

It seems the rule is being ignored surprisingly often. Six of the 13 Regions (46%) and six of the 78 members (9%) have links to clubs that are close to representing a particular interest group. Here are the six with an explanation of how the rule has been by-passed.

Aly Fitch – Coach St Peters Swimming Academy and Waikato Board member.

I suspect Fitch has avoided the accusation of breaking the “employee of a member club” rule by claiming she is employed by the St Peters School, not the club. However St Peters is also a club and the distinction between school and club verges on President Clinton “sex-with–that-woman” manipulation. It would be difficult for Fitch to claim that she does not represent the St Peters Club interest group.

Sandra Burrows – Coach Trent Bray Swim School and Auckland Board member

Burrows probably also avoids the accusation of breaking the “employee of a member club” rule by claiming she is employed by the Trent Bray Swim School, not a club. However the Trent Bray Swim School has a club called the Central City Swim Club. The relationship between school and club is close. This is how it is described on the Central City website.

The Directors of Trent Bray Swim School have set up TBSS Central City to be the club for any of our TBSS Swimmers who would like to compete.

The club website list Burrows as the Head Coach. And so, like Fitch, the distinction between school and club verges on a President Clinton type manipulation. It would be difficult for Burrows to claim that she does not represent the Central City Club interest group.

Brigitte Mahan – Coach North Canterbury Swim Club and Canterbury Board member

Google may have led me astray, but this example appears to be a straight forward violation of the rule.

Lin Tozer – Coach Dannevirke Swim Club and Manawatu Board member

Tozer’s position was covered in a previous Swimwatch post. In her case the amazing fact is the multitude of roles she occupies. She is on the Board of the Manawatu Region. She is also the Region’s Race Secretary and a Selector. She is the Dannevirke Club’s President and the Head Coach. The list of positions Tozer doesn’t occupy would use less ink.

Bronwen Radford – Coach Swim Rotorua and Chair of Swimming Bay of Plenty

Radford’s position was also covered in a previous Swimwatch post. The interesting facts in her case are that she is the Chair of the Swimming BOP Region and controls swimming in a town that has consistently turned down a group of swimmer’s application to form a new club. It may not be true but it is hard to escape the impression that a competing club bias may have influenced that decision.

Kurt Crosland – Interim Head Coach at Swim Dunedin and Otago Board member

Crosland probably avoids the accusation of breaking the “employee of a member club” rule by claiming he is only an interim employee of Swim Dunedin and Swim Dunedin is not a swimming club. That is certainly true. This is how Swim Dunedin describes its role.

Swim Dunedin is the body in charge of professional swim coaching in Dunedin. Our goal is to provide high quality professional swimming coaching to members of Dunedin watersport clubs through the appointment of coaches and by maintaining athlete development pathways. Swim Dunedin was established to provide a structured approach to coach and athlete development and relieve the pressure created by competition for water space allocation between professional coaching services.

That sounds mighty like an interest group to me. It seems that Crosland’s position on the Otago Board might also be justified by the letter of the law rather that its spirit.

So there we have six examples where it seems that the intention of the constitutional membership rule is being avoided. My position is that the rule should never have been included in the first place. I can see nothing wrong with Tozer or Crosland or any of the others being on these Boards. Their contribution should be most welcome. But I object to officials manipulating the rules. Swimmers are not allowed to do it, neither should officials. If the rule is a bad one, and it is, then change it. But don’t manipulate the truth by using meaningless distinctions between volunteers and employees and swim schools and clubs. Be up front and honest.

Remember when Swimming New Zealand swore on a stack of Bibles that the Kilbirnie Pool complied with all FINA depth regulations; complied, they said, because “should” did not mean “must”. Eventually their dishonesty was exposed and the starting end of the pool was changed. This Board membership question is a similar issue. It is not something that should be the subject of semantics’ debate. The problem is a ridiculous membership rule. It should be changed so that Fitch and her mates can honestly and openly accept Board membership.

The current fiasco is typical of Swimming New Zealand. They would rather have a rule that half the Regions either ignore or spin reality to get around, than have no rule and a liberated, honest, organisation. It is pathetic.