So What’s The Truth In All This?

March 17th, 2015

By David

It is amazing what you find tolling through the overseas swimming websites. Here is a gem discovered today from the very good Spanish website “Nataccion”. Excuse the joint efforts of google and myself at translating the story.

No wonder Swimming New Zealand have treated David Lyles so badly. No wonder Lyles has felt the need to spend most of last week in the NZ Employment Court defending himself against some pretty vicious mistreatment. One can only hope the Employment Court sees it the same way and punishes Swimming New Zealand accordingly. Anyway here is what “Nataccion” has to say.


Natacción.  March 15, 2015

The New Zealand Federation is keen to hire Fred Vergnoux, the current coach of Mireia Belmonte.  The French coach, currently a member of the coaching staff of the Spanish federation, is the main option that New Zealand swimming leaders, including the Spanish Luis Villanueva, want to use to right the ship after a hectic stage.

The signing of Vergnoux would be critical to convince the principal figure in the local swimming, Lauren Boyle, to return to their federation.  Boyle, 27, pulled out of last year’s World Short Course Swimming Championships (Doha) in the midst of a profound crisis of the New Zealand swimming that swept away the coaches of the two main training centers, David Lyles and David Hurring.  The New Zealand swimmer, bronze in the 800 and 1,500 free World Championships in Barcelona 2013, has already trained on occasion with Vergnoux, who, according to information gathered by Natacción would not look badly at a New Zealand change of scenery.  The interest of the New Zealand Federation in the Frenchman is the most talked rumour these days in the Auckland Open Championships.

Vergnoux reached the Spanish federation from the CN Sabadell.  The French coach signed a Euro 77,000 per year salary; higher than the High Performance Director, José Antonio del Castillo salary, and the President, Fernando Carpena.”



Swimming New Zealand’s Explanation to Swimwatch

February 15th, 2015

By David

“Following the conclusion of the 2014 campaign a review was undertaken by the High Performance Director of the National High Performance Centre in Auckland and the Wellington Regional High Performance Centre (WRHPC) to ascertain each programmes success, sustainability and alignment to the HP Strategy.

The analysis of the situation set out in the review is that, in relation to Swimming NZ’s programme for its elite swimmers, implementation of the strategy needs to be greatly improved.  Specifically:

  1. We have not achieved “strong team leadership and direction” (High Performance Strategy Priority 3)

  2. As a result we have not achieved “strong team culture” (high Performance Strategy Priority 2)

  3. The outcome has been too many swimmers have not achieved the “podium results” to the level required (high Performance Strategy – Priority 5) and

  4. Leading swimmers have not become, in general, “role models” for the next generation and for attracting public support and funding to the sport (High Performance Strategy Priority 6)

In addition, the Review found that the number of top swimmers being attracted to train at the High Performance Centres in Wellington and Auckland are not sufficient to justify the resourcing of two High Performance Centres at present.

The purpose of this proposal is therefore to restructure the High Performance Programme and align our coaching resources with our swimmers.


We have formed the preliminary view that the WRHPC is not sustainable given the number of swimmers in the programme. We are therefore proposing to close down the WRHPC and disestablish those roles currently associated with it.

However, we do propose to create a new role of High Performance Coaching Coordinator reporting to the High Performance Development Coach.  The purpose of the role will be to play an active role in the implementation of the High Performance Strategy 2013-2020, and the High Performance Development Programme.  Specifically the role will contribute to the implementation of a system to identify swimmers with the qualities to become high performance athletes, as well as monitor and provide them and their coaches with opportunities to maximise their potential.  A copy of the draft job description for this role is attached.

In Auckland, we have formed the preliminary view the role of Head Coach – National High Performance Centre will be disestablished and create a new role of National Head Coach reporting to the High Performance Director.  The purpose of the role will be to play an active role in the implementation of the High Performance Strategy 2013-2020, specifically strategic priorities 2, 3, 5 and 6.  Central to the role will be the requirement to implement an attractive training environment based on high expectations and uncompromising training standards whilst leading the National High Performance Centre (NHPC) in Auckland, as well as demonstrating strong leadership by gaining trust from other coaches with the NHPC programme.

These overarching responsibilities make it a very different role to the current role of Head Coach – National Performance Centre.  Obviously from a responsibility perspective it is a national role and so travel around the country attending workshops and meeting other coaches will be required.  However, from a skills and experience perspective the emphasis is taken off day to day coaching of swimmers (although that will still be required) with great emphasis being placed on mentoring of other coaches, implementation of strategic thinking in line with the overall high performance strategy, working with other stakeholders to ensure the high performance programme is positioned for success.

The successful candidate will need to be able to demonstrate leadership capability goes beyond working with athlete and which demonstrates an ability to work with other key stakeholders as part of a national sports programme.  A copy of the revised job description for this role is attached.

A summary of the changes is below:

  1. Disestablishment of Head Coach – Wellington Regional High Performance Centre.

  2. Disestablishment of Programme Coach – Wellington Regional High Performance Centre.

  3. Disestablishment of Head Coach – National High Performance Centre.

  4. Creation of High Performance Coaching Coordinator.

  5. Creation of National Head Coach.

If the proposal goes ahead we propose to advertise the new roles both internally and externally, following which a recruitment and selection process will take place as for any other new role in the organisation.”




But These Men Really Matter

January 7th, 2015

By David

A week ago we introduced you to the hired hands responsible for the chaos that is Swimming New Zealand. These men are powerful and they have had sufficient influence to wreak aquatic havoc in New Zealand. However these men, yes even Miskimmin and Layton and Renford, do have masters; people they report to, people who in my view they have conned blind. It is these “owners” of Sport New Zealand that are our best hope for reform. If we can convince them that the actions of their staff are profligate, dangerous, expensive and wrong then we may sow the seeds of change. If these men understand that the actions of Miskimmin and Baumann; the disaster that is Swimming New Zealand, will eventually cost them votes then they will order change.

Although that may sound overstated it is not and it is our best hope for reform.

Here then is a list of the owners.



Sir Paul Collins is the Chairman of Sport New Zealand. He is Miskimmin’s immediate boss. He has had more than his fair share of bad luck recently; being rolled as the boss of Brierley Investments and sitting on the Board of Mainzeal when it went belly up. Although I taught his children to swim my contact with Paul Collins was limited. However Collins’ business career was nurtured in the corporate raiding world of Brierley Investments; hardly an environment, one would have thought, that was wedded to the idea of the centralised control of anything. It is strange therefore that the principles that earned Collins many millions should be so far removed from the socialist principles promoted by Sport New Zealand. Why has he backed away from the laissez-faire policies he must have supported in his business life? I would love the opportunity to discuss that question. For it is at the heart of my opposition to the direction Miskimmin has imposed on Swimming New Zealand. It is the core reason Swimming New Zealand fail over and over again. Just as New Zealand provided Collins with the freedom to perform in business, Sport New Zealand needs to provide Swimming New Zealand with the freedom to swim. Of all people, Paul Collins, should understand that idea.


C:\Users\Demo\Pictures\jONATHAN COLEMAN.jpg

Coleman is new to the job of Minister of Sport and Recreation. He is probably going through a self-imposed learning period. Certainly his public announcements have all carried a message of strong support for the centralized policies followed by the bureaucrats at Sport New Zealand. For example when the 2014 funding round was announced Coleman was fulsome in his praise and support for the policy being promoted by Sport New Zealand. However there is a glimmer of hope. Coleman is an intelligent, well-educated man. He is a medical doctor and also has an MBA from Harvard. He must understand that socialism in swimming does not work. He must recognize that two of the world’s most successful swimming nations (the USA and France) have rejected centralization in favour of a private enterprise model. The choice is between a team of one and a team of dozens – and the dozens win. And being a politician Coleman must appreciate the irony of his centre-right National government promoting and supporting a regime of strict socialism in the delivery of elite sport. Elite sport is not health or education or roads or the armed forces. Elite sport is best provided by a private enterprise market. Sadly Miskimmin’s Sport New Zealand has promoted the socialist view so successfully that the private enterprise option is never even discussed. We can only hope that Coleman’s trained mind realises that there is another way.


C:\Users\Demo\Pictures\MURRAY MCCULLY.jpg

McCully is now the Associate Minister of Sport and Recreation. But for years he was the boss – the Minister of Sport and Recreation. In that time he signed off on Miskimmin’s increasingly socialist plans. He agreed to the massive expansion of Sport New Zealand’s power – the visceral power that comes from exploiting financial control. However two events did occur during the McCully years that provide us with reason for hope. Outstanding athletes, Valerie Adams and Ben Fouhy, were unhappy with the centralized, Millennium Institute control of their preparation. However, staying inside the Miskimmin regime meant that was all there was on offer. Somehow they managed to plead their case directly with Murray McCully. To his eternal credit he supported their call for independence. He acknowledged their right to self-determination. And in the case of Valerie Adams the result was a torrent of 50 consecutive victories; victories that would not have happened if Miskimmin had prevailed. Surely Murray McCully can understand all swimming in New Zealand want is the right to plead the same case. Provide us with the independence McCully so sagely gifted to Valerie Adams and swimming will yield rewards in full measure. Swimming is trapped in Miskimmin’s world. Provide us with the freedom to breath and swimming will win for this proud little country.


C:\Users\Demo\Pictures\JOHN KEY.jpg

The overall boss has a lot more to do that worry about the minority sport of swimming. However he is the leader of a centre-right government. His grounding in finance was earned at Merrill Lynch and no one, anywhere would level the accusation of socialist at that bastion of the capitalist world. John Key was immersed in and was financially rewarded by participating in the ultimate capitalist, free trade, private enterprise market. All swimming is asking is for the John Key and his government to provide swimming with the same freedom to prosper that he got from Merrill Lynch. We need the freedom to trade, to do deals, to plot our personal course and be responsible for our own results. I am convinced that a government that had the courage to try the free enterprise model in just one sport would be rewarded tenfold by the New Zealand electorate. As John Key knows full well New Zealanders enjoy seeing a guy from a state house become Prime Minister. De-corporatize our sport; give swimming independence and the Prime Minister will again see gold around the necks of New Zealand swimmers.


Our Leaders

January 4th, 2015

By David

Let Swimwatch introduce you to our leaders. As if the past two years were not enough, here is the team who reserve the right to lead us through the next 365 days. May God have mercy on our souls.



Miskimmin, The Dear Leader, may not be on any swimming Board or Committee but nothing happens without his approval. The current state of swimming is a direct consequence of the Miskimmin plan; a celestial plan (just look at the photograph) conceived on the day Brian Palmer and Bronwyn Radford, a select group known as The Sanctified, were invited to Wellington to meet The Dear Leader. I am told their visit involved a high security journey to a sanitised room where The Dear Leader appeared to cries from Sport New Zealand employees of “Long live our father”. Called to stand in front of Miskimmin’s table The Sanctified were ordered to swear a pact of secrecy. But if one steps back from the idea of concealment to see the Sport New Zealand kingdom for what it really is, it all comes down to the exercise of financial power in a most visceral form.



Alex Baumann is of little consequence. His role is essentially confined to putting Miskimmin’s plans into effect. There is a carpet-bagging aspect to his background – Canada, Australia, back to Canada and now New Zealand. Perhaps this transience suggests an unpredictability that may explain why he is the boss of High Performance Sport in New Zealand and yet sends his children back to swim for Canada or why he employs a National Swimming Coach in May 2013 and in December 2014 advertises for someone to replace his first choice or why when he was swimming he left an international training program in Indiana in order to return to his home town and train with long-time personal coach Jeno Tihanyi. Today he spends millions trying to convince NZ swimmers to do the opposite; to leave their home coach and train in a program not half as good as the one Baumann once left. I suspect he doesn’t believe in the product he’s employed to sell.



Those eyes! Would you buy a used Mazda from that man? The most ardent fan of the new Swimming New Zealand’s CEO would admit 2014 has not been kind to the Australian import. He penned a letter to a New Zealand Court extoling the virtues of a multiple drink driving employee. He had to apologize for forgetting that open water swimmers were part of the national team. He signed a world record application form swearing that the Wellington Pool met all FINA standards when every branch of the world’s swimming press knew that the pool did not comply. Decent swimmers have abandoned his state run Millennium swim school. The set of accounts he produced contained some really bad news for the sport. The sports primary sponsor left the sinking ship. And swimming at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Games was awful. I suspect The Dear Leader will be looking closely at the performance of this one of his subjects.



The fall guy – it seems.



Oh dear he’s gone too – but for old times’ sake – Salud, Cheers, Prost, Skaal, Gezondheid, Kampai



With the elusive skills of a Spanish matador Villanueva seems to be able to glide and step his way out of trouble. The organization’s swim school is in chaos and the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Games performance was a national embarrassment. The team’s pre-Games tour of Mediterranean tourist hotspots was every New Zealander’s holiday dream. You would think some of the fallout from all that would stick to the boss. But no, it appears David Lyles is going to carry the can for the failures of their “elite” swim program. Early last year a prominent Spanish swimming website suggested Villanueva’s past was a story of the good, the bad and the ugly. I remember an old New Zealand farmer telling me that if you ever wanted to decide whether to have someone as a friend imagine yourself lost in the bush on a cold wet night. Is this guy someone you’d want with you? For me Villanueva fails that test.



Layton, the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand, is even more irrelevant than Alex Baumann. A puppet perhaps – hired to put into effect Miskimmin’s 21 point plan? He recently claimed the organization had “turned around” both on and off the water. That may be right; except it’s the wrong turn. The days when Cameron, Byrne and Coulter were in charge are looking positively halcyon compared to the current mess. How is it that someone who makes such great play of their communication skills can stay so bloody silent when his organization appears to be getting rid of its National Coach? My wish for Dr Layton in 2015 is that someone teaches him to tuck his shirt into his trousers. The sight of his ample puku at the National Swimming Championships is more than I can bear.



The Conclusion of Another Year

December 30th, 2014

By David

And so we end 2014 in a hell of a mess. Swimming New Zealand is advertising for a National Coach when we all naively thought we still had one; a guy called David Lyles. You must know who I mean. The English coach appointed in May 2013. The one Alex Baumann told us would “complete the turning of a new leaf for embattled Swimming NZ.” Not content, it seems, with “turning a new leaf” Baumann announced that the appointment of Lyles was also the start of putting “the building blocks in place for swimming to be successful.”

Unsure whether the sport had a “new leaf” or a “building block” Baumann went on to excitedly tell the nation that Lyles CV was “impressive and other countries were trying to secure him.” But not even that was enough to explain the magnitude of Baumann’s appointment of David Lyles. The new coach he told us would, “bring an amount of credibility and a person that can drive the programme forward. It’s what we need.”

And all that was in May 2013, only eighteen months ago. And now Lyles’ job is being advertised on an Australian employment website and no one, not Baumann, or Villanueva, or Renford or, especially, Layton will tell us why. Why is the new leaf, or was it a building block, being replaced? Is he being replaced? If Baumann was so sure in May 2013 that Lyles was, “what we need” why, after eighteen months don’t we need him anymore? What happened to the need for “credibility”?

Apart from believe in and support a hopeless Swimming New Zealand program, what did Lyles do wrong? Why is he being singled out for the chop when Villanueva has had far more to do with the program’s failure? Why does Villanueva get a free ride? Isn’t Villanueva principally responsible for this mess? Wasn’t the pre-Games junket through the hot spots of the Mediterranean Villanueva’s idea? Is Lyles just a fall guy for the actions of others?

Of course I’m being a little sarcastic, but really does the behaviour of Miskimmin’s Swimming New Zealand deserve any less. Remember this is the organization that screams, “Excellence, Integrity, Accountability” at every opportunity. Really, if I was responsible for Swimming New Zealand, those three words would be abandoned immediately. They have become symbols of derision. That’s what happens when you claim a status that you have no hope of meeting.

I did notice that Lyles also had quite a bit to say at the time of his appointment. “I think there’s a lot of very positive things happening there and I want to be part of it,” he said. “A lot of positive things happening” – what on God’s good earth were they? Since Miskimmin got his hands on this sport there has not been one “very positive thing” happen anywhere. The sport lurches from one disaster to the next. And don’t mention Lauren Boyle. A very good American University program nurtured her huge talent. Lyle concludes by expressing the wish to be part of Swimming New Zealand’s brave new world. Today, I bet he wishes his aspirations had been less successful. If other countries really were, “trying to secure him” I bet he wishes they’d been successful. Even North Korea would have been better that this mess.

Given the chaos of swimming in New Zealand you can imagine my horror at reading the following “Stuff” report.

“An independent report has slammed Boxing New Zealand, saying it has no clear direction and the sport is at risk if its board does not make changes. After months of infighting within the New Zealand amateur boxing community, Boxing New Zealand’s executive board called on Sport New Zealand to help conduct a review of the sport’s structure, governance and management of its programs.

Sport New Zealand appointed Peter Dale to conduct the review of Boxing New Zealand. The report and its findings were today circulated among the boxing community. The findings suggest important changes are needed if amateur boxing is to survive in New Zealand.

“Without remedial action, these matters represent significant risk to Boxing NZ’s capability to lead the affairs of the sport,” the report said.

“BNZ lacks any formal plans for any of its operations or endeavors. “The organization operates without a strategic plan, annual plan or annual budget agreed in advance. As a result, the organization operates without a sense of direction.

“During the review process it has become clear that there are a substantial number of talented boxers who would benefit from a structured athlete development programme. This will take a new approach to planning.”

Forums would be held throughout the country early next year to gather more thoughts, he said. The forums will be fronted by members of the executive board and Dale to give the boxing community another opportunity to express its views on the report’s findings and what should now happen.”

So there we have it. The Sport New Zealand formula absorbs another New Zealand sport. The state’s tentacles reach out growing Miskimmin’s empire, sport by sport. And the method is so transparent; so bloody obvious. Highlight a couple of organizational shortcomings, make the offer of a Sport New Zealand funded Review, appoint a tame author, stage manage a few regional forums, prepare a new constitution, call a Special General Meeting, order a once and for all vote and hey presto another sport is bought body and soul.

Of course you will recognize it is exactly what happened to New Zealand swimming. And now boxing is heading towards the same abyss. I plan to send this story to Boxing New Zealand, not because I think it will have any effect. Like lemmings they will march confidently over the Miskimmin cliff. I will send them this report so that in eighteen months I can write another Swimwatch story telling Boxing New Zealand that they were warned; suggesting they should have asked David Lyles. He was warned too. He knows what I mean.