Archive for January, 2012

The Rules

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

By David

Regular Swimwatch readers will be aware of the ease with which Swimming New Zealand ignore inconvenient rules.

Remember when they overturned a vote of the Directors and appointed Butler and Wrightson to the Board because Miskimmin and his hired help demanded obedience. It is hard to imagine the rules that were broken on that occasion. Rules of meeting procedure, rules of democracy and the organization’s constitution were put to one side; were treated with contempt.

I did hear that Swimming New Zealand think nothing of taking funds for an approved purpose to pay non-approved expenses. That is unconstitutional and in some circumstances may be illegal.

Changing the minutes of an Annual Meeting is hardly ethical behaviour. Any sporting code would class that as a red card offence. But not Swimming New Zealand. They just waited for the next Annual Meeting to correct the deception and moved on as though nothing unusual had occurred.

The decision to form a High Performance unit in Wellington slap bang in the middle of a full scale review of the sport is a certain breech of the rules of good corporate behaviour. In authorising the new venture, Butler, Byrne and Miskimmin approved corporate cheating. Does that make them cheats?

The regular reappointment of Ross Butler is a breach of Clause 10 of the Swimming New Zealand Constitution. Ross Butler has been reappointed for three, two year periods. Clause 10 only allows for one additional two year period. You would imagine that would disqualify Butler from membership. Not in Swimming New Zealand it doesn’t.

Swimming New Zealand has failed to file its annual accounts in 2005, 2008 and 2010? The law is clear. Here is what it says –   “Every society shall deliver annually to the Registrar, a statement containing the following particulars: (a) The income and expenditure of the society (b) The assets and liabilities of the society (c) All mortgages, charges, and securities. In three of the past five years Mike Byrne’s Swimming New Zealand has failed in its statutory duty to provide the Registrar with a set of accounts.

While it would be possible to list a further dozen examples of Swimming New Zealand’s dismissal of fair play rules, I’m sure you get the idea. Butler, Byrne and Miskimmin lead an organization that has treated the rule of law with contempt. That’s why I always felt it ironic that Mike Byrne used to claim the Swimming New Zealand Constitution prevented him doing his job. When you don’t give a damn about the rules, why should the Constitution hold you back?

With this history it will not surprise you to hear that I was stunned to hear a story today of Swimming New Zealand demanding absolute compliance with the rules of swimming. Was it possible that this organization could be both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when it came to enforcing the organization’s rules? Or perhaps the key to enforcement is convenience.

Here is what happened.

Sometime last year, I’m told it was in July, there was a swim meet at the Greerton Pool in the Bay of Plenty. The meet was well attended and provision was made for disabled swimmers to take part with able bodied participants. That’s called mainstreaming and is a policy that has my 100% support. Australia has encouraged mainstreaming in swimming for years. New Zealand arrived late but now, in Auckland at least, has many disabled competitors competing successfully in predominantly able bodied events. There is no doubt that every sports person should have an inherent right to participate in swimming in the most inclusive setting possible. And this I am told is what the Greerton Meet was trying to do.

Attending to the rules at the meet were two Swimming New Zealand national officials. The meet began with a men’s breaststroke event. Two disabled athletes were competing in the first heat. It was swum and, I am told, much to everyone’s surprise both the disabled competitors were disqualified. Swimming New Zealand’s officials were asked to explain.

The first disabled competitor was disqualified, they said, for breeching Rule SW 7.6. This says, “At each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch shall be made with both hands simultaneously at, above, or below the water level.” The disabled competitor had not touched with “both hands”. He had touched the wall with only one hand; a fact that is hardly surprising. The young man only had one arm.

The second disabled competitor was disqualified for violating Rule SW 7.4. This says, “All movements of the legs shall be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.” The disabled competitor was certainly guilty of violating rule 7.4. He was also an amputee. He only had one leg.

An appeal was made to Swimming New Zealand for leniency. Given the lack of an arm and a leg couldn’t some compassion be shown and the athletes reinstated. But Swimming New Zealand’s officials stood firm. Dispensation could only be considered if the meet organizers had printed on their programme a note that made it clear that disabled athletes were taking part and their performances were subject to modified FINA rules. Because this had not been done Swimming New Zealand expected the one armed swimmer to touch with both hands – and the swimmer with one leg to kick with both feet. The disqualifications could not be changed.

As each day goes by the Mike Byrne, Peter Miskimmin and Ross Butler led organization becomes increasingly irrelevant. They ban me from their National Championships because I dare to suggest that disqualifying amputees is the behaviour of sick minds. They ride rough shod over rule after rule in their own corporate lives while they beat up on members of the disabled community who want to take part in the sport of swimming. On the evidence of this story it is these men who are a danger to competitors in swimming and should be banned from the Olympic Trials.

Them And Us

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Swimming New Zealand is a world of inequality; the haves and the have nots; the privileged and the deprived; the rich and the poor; Robin Hood and the Sherriff of Nottingham. The Wellington office of Swimming New Zealand spends thousands of dollars spreading “One Team” propaganda and millions on promoting avarice and division. There should be no misunderstanding; the New Zealand Olympic Trials are about far more than 34 swimming races. There is more at stake than selection for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Swimming New Zealand has never been “One Team”. Swimming New Zealand is two teams; their team and the rest of us. The gulf between the two is as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon; certainly as stark as anything that will separate national teams at the Olympic Games.

The New Zealand Olympic Trial meet is a competition of ideologies. Good will compete against bad. Private enterprise coached athletes will contest each event with the fat cats from the state funded socialist empire at Auckland’s Millennium Institute. Those of us who have done it ourselves, who have paid our own bills, will contest the championships against those who have had government welfare checks pay for their swimming training, their gym membership, their massage, their medical bills and their lives. Swimmers who have bought their own uniforms and paid for their entry fees into the championship will pit their skills with those who have had the New Zealand taxpayer meet those costs.

I was disappointed to learn that Gary Hurring had sold out and joined the empire. The men who taught Gary to swim and employed him in his early coaching career would never have made that decision. They valued character, independence and strength. However, Gary has made his choice. So now there will be three “socialist” state coaches preparing swimmers for the New Zealand Olympic Trials, Hurring, Talbot-Cameron and Regan. Hell bent on beating them should be every other coach in the country.

The only way to bring about change is to beat the socialist swimmers in a swimming pool. Perhaps then Byrne and Butler will wake up to the reality that private enterprise competition does it best. Perhaps then the fortune being spent on the cosseted and secluded Millennium few will be distributed across the country according to ability and performance. Perhaps then a good swimmer can be financially rewarded for elite performance wherever they live. Perhaps then the blatant poaching of good New Zealand swimmers will stop. Perhaps then the system will be fair.

Byrne and Butler will fight reform all the way. The last thing they want is the rewards for effort being distributed to private enterprise coaches. They want to be in control of an empire. They want to “own” New Zealand’s best swimmers and three average swim coaches and call them their Aqua Blacks team. The opium of ownership is their drug of choice. They have no idea what’s involved in winning a swimming race. They know plenty about accumulating power and status. They have spent a life time doing just that.

Beating the state funded elite will not be easy. For ten years the best talent in the country has been pillaged by the national organisation. Using our money Swimming New Zealand has cherry picked the most talented. Very, very few of our country’s most talented were allowed to flourish in their natural environments, but were instead taken under the state’s wing and made to conform. Using our money Swimming New Zealand has laid waste to our sport. Using our money Swimming New Zealand has killed internal competition. Thank God for those determined few, especially those from Invercargill, who have stood firm against Mike Byrne’s socialism. Any economist or good business person will tell you that a strong industry is best founded on a strong, competitive domestic market. Swimming New Zealand has never understood the importance of domestic competition. Instead they sought and they bought a state funded monopoly. And it hasn’t worked. Their monopoly has never won anything in a decent international swim meet.

Swimming New Zealand has however made it difficult for us to beat them in a domestic competition. Swimming New Zealand’s team has so many financial advantages. There they will be at the Trials, dressed in their silver fern uniforms that we paid for, sitting in their privileged seats beside the New Zealand selectors, swimming with entry fees paid for by my parent’s registration fees, training in lanes bought with my taxes. But if money made you fast, no Kenyan would ever have won an Olympic track race. Swimming New Zealand’s swimmers have had access to all the resources of this sport. But the rest of us operate in a private enterprise environment best suited to winning. The way we do it is harder and more difficult. But it is better. Nine times out of ten, in this clash of ideologies, private enterprise independence prevails.

I am not aware of how many Swimwatch readers will be at the New Zealand trials. However, if you are in Auckland in the last week of March and if you do call in to watch the trials the swimmers you support will matter more than normal. If a swimmer from New Plymouth or West Auckland takes down a Millennium swimmer in the women’s 800, that’s a victory for all of us. When the women’s 200 and 400 medleys are won by a swimmer from Invercargill, New Zealand swimming will be that little bit stronger.  And every time a Millennium swimmer wins a race, the fabric of the sport in New Zealand will be damaged.

The management of elite swimming in New Zealand needs to be changed. The best way to do that is to beat the socialists in the swimming pool. Show them that their ideology is wrong. Show them that there is a better way. Every Swimming New Zealand defeat is a victory for swimming in New Zealand.

Introducing Heidi

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

By David


Thus ended Jane’s most recent email to me. During the break, Jane and Edward have found it necessary to shift the website to another server and indulged in a heap of other technical stuff that I am not qualified to discuss. [Editorial note: I broke everything. Sorry everyone. We’re back now.] Anyway, sorry for the break. While we’ve been away there has been a lot going on in the corridors of Swimming New Zealand power. We can’t wait to begin the discussion again.

But before we do that, there was one story about to be posted when we disappeared. Here is that story. I hope you enjoy.

Introducing Heidi

Jane’s reaction was to say, “Wow, worldwide there must be so much waste of people like that.” I think she’s right. Here are the events that prompted the comment. See if you agree with her conclusion. In this story, the names of almost everyone and everything have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.

About ten years ago I had a ten year old swimming in my Bronze Squad. I know this mainly because Heidi has told me. She is now twenty and has joined the WAQ Gold Squad. Vaguely, I do remember her ten years ago. Tall and skinny; a bit gangly in fact and not too keen on the Lydiard diet of 1000 meter medleys. I do remember thinking that she perfectly matched the build that Mike Regner, the East German National Coach who worked for me for several years, said that regime looked for in a potential champion swimmer.

Heidi and I went our separate ways when I left New Zealand to coach in the US Virgin Islands. She joined the biggest and best team in the district and for a few months was well coached. Her swimming made good progress. Her coach ordered her to swim a lot more butterfly than I had but he avoided the 1000 medleys – a quality that Heidi found endearing. Unfortunately for Heidi, another coach besides me was about to abandon her. Her good coach in Hawke’s Bay was offered a job in Auckland, and sensibly moved on to bigger and better things.

Heidi’s club appointed a new coach to lead the team. I don’t know his name so won’t need to lie to you about that. He was one of those Sergeant Major coaches. I can’t stand them. You must know what I mean; everyone in the pool on the stroke of five, no one allowed to miss an interval, twenty minutes of severe calisthenics before every swim, everything timed by two stop watches surgically attached to the owner’s neck.

If you meet Heidi today it will not surprise you to hear that she was not at all impressed by this parade of military authority. Her free spirit was not going to be ordered about by some legend in his own life time, tin pot tyrant. She asked her parents if she could leave and join a small rural club closer to home. The club had a very different coach whose style of coaching was very different from his colleague up the road, a quality much more to Heidi’s liking. Heidi will not agree with my next observation but I think this relaxed period in her swimming development came at just the right time; fun, but never likely to produce an Olympic Champion. At sixteen years old, the Olympic Champion dream was best put on hold anyway.

And then another coach abandoned Heidi. Her third coach also left the area. However, his legacy was important. Heidi was hooked on swimming. But was there anyone around who could convert that passion into results? Not in this part of rural New Zealand there wasn’t. The committee appointed another new person to coach their club. We’ll call him Sam. A couple of years went by and in that time Sam’s contribution to Heidi’s swimming included the following coaching gems.

  • I don’t think you should swim in out-of-district competitions. When you swim badly people know you are coached by me and it reflects badly on my reputation.
  • I don’t need a reason for asking you to do this training. Just do it.
  • At your age it’s probably about time you found something else to do.
  • You are not fast enough nor a good enough trainer to swim in the club’s competitive group. From Monday next week you will swim in the oldies keep fit lane.

For Heidi the frustration was unbearable. She knew she was good. Bit by bit, this “coach” who knew less about the sport of swimming than she did was stealing it away from her. Just as certainly as if he surgically removed her arms and legs he was killing her dream. Swimming New Zealand won’t let me on the pool deck at their National Championships because I dare to criticise their ridiculous organization. And yet they gladly provide Sam with a pass. Swimming New Zealand want swimmers to be safe? Then do something about Sam and those others who cause real damage. Jane is 100% right. It is such a waste. And it must happen everywhere.

What could Heidi do?

Well, what she did was call West Auckland Aquatics and we just love her sort of story. Just keep telling us we are no good. Go on, make our day. Heidi lives in Auckland now and in the past seven weeks has swum 79, 73, 69, 47, 70, 70 and 65 kilometres a week. We included her in our Auckland Championship’s relay team with Rhi, Jess and Jane. They beat the North Shore Club in a provincial relay championship for the first time in about six years. This athlete that was not good enough for Sam’s competitive squad was an Auckland Open Champion. Last Wednesday in the middle of a 70 kilometre week she swam a set of 5x100s from a push start. Her fastest was 1.03 and she averaged 1.05. Best of all on Thursday she managed not one 1000 medley but 4×1000 medley without comment. Last night her set of 10×200 averaged 2.22. The 20 year old Heidi has changed.

For a few months, Heidi’s career hung by a thread. Could she escape Swimming New Zealand’s disastrous guidance? Could she survive? Or was she going to be part of the 90% drop out rate that characterizes this Mike Byrne-led sport. I honestly think Swimming New Zealand don’t care. If Heidi disappears then Heidi just wasn’t up to it. The truth however is that when a Heidi disappears usually it’s because the environment Swimming New Zealand created is rotten to the core.