Archive for April, 2013

Forty Seven Fifty Seven Fifty Eight One Hundred

Monday, April 29th, 2013

By David

Swimming New Zealand is forever boasting about the number of people involved in their sport. This is how their website trumpets the popularity of swimming.

Swimming is New Zealand’s third most popular recreational activity with 34.8 percent e.g. 1,139,812 New Zealanders choosing swimming as their preferred activity (SPARC 2007/8 Active New Zealand Survey). New Zealanders swim for a variety of reasons including sport, recreation, and health benefits.

Two thoughts occurred to me when I first read that comment. I wonder what activities are more popular? Sex perhaps – certainly meets the recreation and health benefits test. Durex tells me New Zealanders are getting plenty, having sex an average 122 times a year. Unlike swimming we even outperform the Australians. They have sex only 106 times a year. So take note Bill Sweetenham. We have applied for Miskimmin to fund a first class air ticket for the national coach in what we’re good at to visit Australia with some drills that might help you and your nation. As an American expert on the subject reported, “You’ll definitely have more enjoyable sex if you don’t have to worry about getting fatigued or pulling something.” Anyone who struggles to find that funny is in need of serious help. Appropriately, those that live in the home of the Olympic movement, Greece, are the world’s leading sexual athletes. They average 164 repetitions a year. I suspect Peter Miskimmin’s heart would burst with pride if his organization could encourage New Zealanders to emulate this Hellenic level of athletic performance.

Sex was not on the Sport New Zealand participation list. Walking (64.1%) and gardening (43.1%) are the activities ranked ahead of swimming. Mind you, gardening in New Zealand can have its moments. For quite a few years my mother was the editor of the women’s pages of New Zealand’s popular farming newspaper, Straight Furrow. She received frequent articles from rural New Zealanders on subjects of interest to farming wives. My dear mother was a fairly liberal woman but did wonder what she was about to read when she opened one Wairarapa lady’s offering titled, “Propagation Can Be Fun”. My mother published the item but added “plant” to the title.

Of course, the problem with the prominent publication of the participation statement on the Swimming New Zealand website is that it gives the impression that 1,139,812 New Zealanders are participating in Swimming New Zealand’s core activity. And that’s simply not true. It’s spin verging on a lie. In 2012 there were 6200 registered competitive swimmers in New Zealand. That’s 1,133,612 less than the number that leads the Swimming New Zealand website.

For those of us who live in Auckland, the divide between those that visit a pool to bomb and play and those who swim to prepare for competition has been brought into some prominence. When Len Brown was running for Mayor of the new Auckland super city he promised to provide free swimming for young people sixteen years and under. Four weeks ago Mayor Len Brown delivered on that promise. The effect at the pool we use has been most interesting.

For those readers who have never been to the West Wave Pool in Henderson, it is a facility of two halves. The older portion was built in 1989 for the Commonwealth Games and is a good, but pretty standard, eight lane 50 meter pool, usually divided by a bulkhead into two 25 meter lap pools. As a competitive swim team all our swimming takes place in this area of the West Wave complex. Alongside the main pool are a 22 meter diving pool and two smaller learn-to-swim shallow pools. The new portion of the complex is less utilitarian, more interesting and pretty well exclusively devoted to recreation. There is a substantial, 25 meter wide wave pool, numerous spa pools, a sauna, a steam room, lots of fountains, a water-wall and an impressive waterslide. It may be a slight exaggeration but one half of West Wave is for play and recreation and the other half is for learn-to-swim, competition racing, training and other fitness activities, diving and water polo.

The effect of the policy to provide free swimming has starkly reflected the facility’s bricks and mortar. In the portion we use there appears to have been little change. The same number of people aqua-jog, swim for fitness, train to beat Camille Muffat, learn to swim, play water polo or join an aqua aerobics’ class. The recreational side however is incredible. In all the years, in all the pools I’ve worked in, I have never seen anything like it. Since the introduction of free swimming, every day the recreational pool’s capacity of 350 patrons is exceeded. Every day there are queues of swimmers, stretching through the foyer and out the doors, waiting to get in. No one could feel anything but colossal sympathy for the reception staff and lifeguards struggling to control the sea of humanity that uses the West Wave recreational pools these days.

One does wonder what these people did before Len Brown said they could come to West Wave and swim for free. Two days ago a young woman was breastfeeding her child in the wave pool. An attentive lifeguard kindly suggested that she may be more comfortable using the chairs and tables beside the pool. Noticing that the woman looked very young – West Wave have a sixteen years old supervision policy – the lifeguard asked the mother’s age. She was fifteen.

I agree with Len Brown’s free swimming policy. With all its problems I think the Auckland Mayor is right. The liberal, aquatic animal in me supports the intention behind providing swimming for free. In time maybe we will see some of those who came to the pool to play, added to the numbers using the other half of the West Wave facility. I hope so. There has always been a part of me that dreams that a small child brought to the West Wave pool by her very young mother may one day be another Camille Muffat, Olympic Champion. Who knows?

Certainly it is fine for Sport New Zealand to include West Wave’s new patrons in their numbers of people swimming. It is not right for Swimming New Zealand to jump on that bandwagon. Only when the West Wave pool’s new patrons begin to use the services offered in the “main pool” will that be appropriate. And therein lies the challenge that Mayor Brown has delivered to those of us who use the other half of his swimming pool. Are we good enough to provide something of interest to those who first came to the pool, just because it was free? Can we provide a baby that was once breast fed in the West Wave recreational pool with the chance to explore her swimming talent? If we are anything at all, we should be able to do that. Time will tell.

This item has had a lot to do with numbers. But remember this – figures can’t lie but liars can figure. The truth of that is told in the title to this story.

Ye Shall Know Them By Their Fruits

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

By David

The Regions of New Zealand swimming recently adopted a new national constitution. Peter Miskimmin’s forces won a comprehensive victory. Swimming New Zealand was no longer a democratic federation where power was shared between the Head Office in Wellington and the Regions. It would be easy to become quite emotive about the form of government that Swimming New Zealand adopted. I will not do that. Instead I will return to my days at Victoria University where my BA degree included a major in Political Science. How would a political scientist describe the new Miskimmin Swimming New Zealand?

Well, first of all Swimming New Zealand is now “aristarchic”. That means it is controlled by a small group of individuals, with little intervention from most members of the organization. There are six types of “aristarchic” government. The new Swimming New Zealand is the form called “kratocracy”; meaning rule by the strong; a system of governance where the strong seize power through social manoeuvring or political cunning. Political scientists make one further distinction based on how those who have achieved power maintain their position. The new Miskimmin and Moller 2012 Constitution changed the organization from a “liberal democracy” to a “totalitarian democracy”; a system of government in which members, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of the government.

And finally political scientists look closely at an organization’s “pejorative” features. What that means is, regardless of the form of government, do the leaders of the organization indulge in any behaviour that may be just as important to sustaining their power as the formal structures of government.

In the case of the new Swimming New Zealand the rulers most certainly do. Miskimmin and Moller created a “phobiocracy”; meaning rule by fear. In particular the Miskimmin and Moller 2012 Constitution and Special General Meeting began a process of making the membership fear each other and fear those in power. The purpose of a “phobiocracy” is to have the ruled too afraid to resist those in power at Pelorus House, the Millennium Institute and the AMP Building. The regular use of threats has successfully created, in the membership of Swimming New Zealand, a fear of the consequences of noncompliance. Behave or be punished is everywhere in New Zealand swimming these days.

It is important to provide examples of what Miskimmin and Moller have done that led to these conclusions. It is especially important when the new Swimming New Zealand is a less democratic, harsher and harder place that it was before. We gave up a lot when we succumbed to Miskimmin and Moller. We gave up liberty and we gave up the freedom to steer our own course. People have literally died for what we discarded; for what we threw away. My father left body parts on a hill in Italy defending the values that the new Swimming New Zealand has taken. The Miskimmin and Moller Swimming New Zealand had better come up with some really stunning results. The price we paid them was exceptionally high.

It is important to understand that change does not require a host of examples. It takes only a few key alterations to redefine an organization. The world’s worst tyranny survived for twelve years on a document of only 219 words called the Enabling Act of 1933. And so, in the case of swimming, what are the constitutional manoeuvres that converted swimming into a wholly owned subsidiary of Sport New Zealand?

The rulers of most totalitarian democracies find it important to alienate a section of their population in order to show the majority what could happen to them if they step out of line. Over the years Jews, black people, communists and the followers of Islam have been isolated and reviled to keep those being ruled in line. I believe Moller understood that principle well when, at the Special General Meeting of Swimming New Zealand, held on the 28th July 2012, he “called for the Auckland Board and its Chief Executive to stand down, as they had requested Swimming New Zealand to do.” There is nothing “Nelson-Mandela-like” about Miskimmin and Moller. This was a time for reconciliation. Instead they chose revenge. This was an appeal to the worst in us all. Their message to everyone was clear.

  1. Although half a dozen Regions signed the request for the old SNZ Board to stand down, it was actually Brian Palmer and the Auckland Board that caused the turmoil and problems. Focus your blame, your censure and your scorn on them. Punish Palmer and Auckland. It will be good for the organization.
  2. Be careful. Censure will happen to you too if you question the authority of Swimming New Zealand. Anyone who challenges the divine right of the Swimming New Zealand Board to govern will be punished. Like Auckland future insurgents will be banished from the sport. Dissention and debate will not be tolerated in the new Swimming New Zealand.

In addition to manipulating the environment, Miskimmin and Moller prepared a constitutional structure that preserved central power and made it difficult for the membership to ever again express dissent or assume power. They did this by preparing just one “take-it-all-or-leave-it-all” motion for the special meeting to accept or reject. This is what it said [PDF file].

That Swimming New Zealand Incorporated accepts and adopts in full the report of the Independent Working Group for the Review of Swimming New Zealand dated June 2012, including the recommendations in it numbered 1-21 inclusive, Swimming New Zealand Incorporated repeals its existing constitution and adopts the attached new constitution dated July 2012.

The decision the regions faced was all or nothing; the Review, the Constitution, everything or nothing. There was no room for discussion; no room to select aspects of the Review or the Constitution that appealed or debate and reject those that the Regions did not like. Miskimmin and Moller knew the good people in the regions were most unlikely to reject everything they had done. The motion put to the meeting ensured that these people accepted everything; including their own passing.

And the new Constitution did prescribe the end of federalism; did witness the end of Regional power. The new constitution required each Region accept a new constitution as written by Swimming New Zealand. Rejecting the new Regional constituting would see the Region banished from the organization. Miskimmin and Moller did this by including three measures in the new Swimming New Zealand Constitution. As effective organs of government the Regions were no more. This is what the Swimming New Zealand Constitution said.

A Regional Association is an entity governing a region which adopts the form of Regional Association constitution prescribed by SNZ.

A Regional Association is an entity governing a region which is approved as a member of SNZ

The objects of a Regional Association must include: maintaining its membership of SNZ.

I have no time for the politics practiced by Miskimmin and Moller. The exercise of naked power that demanded the Auckland CEO and Auckland Board resign fills me with contempt. Palmer and the members of the Auckland Board are good people. Their only crime was to express concern at some very bad central management. If Miskimmin and Moller want to censure New Zealanders for holding an opinion they should go and live somewhere else.

I have nothing in common with the way Miskimmin and Moller manipulated good swimming people and stripped them of power. The federalism we practiced was not perfect but it was democratic, it was free and it accommodated the world class successes of Loader, Simcic, Hurring, Kent, Winter, Bray, Langrell, Moss, Kingsman and Jeffs. The Miskimmin model will not match those successes. I can only hope the Miskimmin and Moller enabling act of 2012 lasts less than twelve years.      

Asinus Asinum Fricat

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

By David

This Latin motto was sent to me by an old school mate who lives a few kilometres outside Rome. She tells me the term is frequently used to describe the chaos that haunts Italian politics. However based on our last Swimwatch story my friend believes Swimming New Zealand may be just as deserving. In English it means: One donkey scratches another donkey. When two donkeys are scratching each other two equally foolish people are lavishing praise on one another for their talents and achievements.

She may just be right. The power brokers of New Zealand sport are certainly full of the wonderful job they have done reforming swimming; of saving it from extinction. They proudly tell anyone who will listen about the skill and management savvy it took to turn swimming around.

But they have the same problem that afflicts every totalitarian regime. Society (in this case swimming) is so complex, so intricate that the centralized model favoured by Miskimmin to run New Zealand swimming is not capable of efficiently handling the variables involved. For as long as Miskimmin is in charge, New Zealand will always be beaten by the diverse free enterprise structures that control competitive swimming in the USA, France, Germany and Italy. Miskimmin’s Olympic hockey career was a disaster and his foray into swimming will fare no better.

Last week we discussed mistakes made by Miskimmin’s swimming bureaucracy. The effort they put into ruling and controling deflects attention away from efficient performance.

This week Swimming New Zealand has done no better. They distributed a letter to New Zealand’s best 12-14 year old swimmers. Summarised this is what the letter said.

An Invitation from Swimming New Zealand to attend the 2013 North Island Regional Age Group Camp

CONGRATULATIONS Joe Blogs, you have been selected by Swimming New Zealand to attend the 2013 North Island Regional Age Group Camp – a part of the Youth and Age National Development Program. These camps are an integral part of the Swimming New Zealand national development pathway.

Selections have been made based on Long Course XLR8 performances between 1st November 2012 to 3rd March 2013 with swimmers competing at either the New Zealand Junior Championships or the New Zealand National Age Group Championships. The top 16 female and top 16 male swimmers between the ages of 12-14 and living in the North Island (age as of 30th April 2013) have been selected off XLR8 points.

Camp Information:

Dates: 3rd – 5th May 2013

Location: Rotorua Accommodations: Kiwi Paka

Training Venue: Rotorua Aquatic Centre         

There will be a subsidy from Swimming New Zealand to help keep costs down. The user pays component for these camps will be $250 per swimmer

Once again CONGRATULATIONS on your selection!

Kind Regards,

Philip Rush

Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful opportunity? Young Swimming New Zealand members, from all over the North Island, were breathless with anticipation at being recognized by the national body for their skill and their effort. Miskimmin’s organization had identified and selected those individuals poised to represent New Zealand in the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games. In future years these swimmers would recollect that their careers began in 2013 when Miskimmin’s men tapped them on the shoulder and issued an invitation to attend the North Island Regional Age Group Camp in Rotorua.

But, remember this is Swimming New Zealand – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You don’t believe me?

Well, the 2013 Rotorua camp might sound pretty good but Miskimmin’s hired help didn’t even get that right. A week after their invitations were distributed Phillip Rush sent out a second letter withdrawing the offer. Evidently Swimming New Zealand discovered invitations had been sent to some young swimmers who were outside the age limit. Really, the Miskimmin menagerie couldn’t organize a piss up in a Speights’ Brewery.

However having made the mistake of sending out incorrect invitations there is no justification in turning a group of young New Zealanders into victims. But Miskimmin’s chosen ones got that wrong as well. In a few short days the message Swimming New Zealand sent our finest young swimmers morphed from “you have been selected by Swimming New Zealand” to we made a mistake and we don’t want you anymore; a cruel emotional roller coaster. Fortunately, the young do not forget errors like that and neither should they.

But there is good news. Any swimmer who was going to Rotorua and then was told to stay home, has had a fortunate escape. Can an organization that can’t distribute an invitation properly be trusted to look after or coach anyone? I wouldn’t trust that lot to coach my pet goldfish.

The lesson to be learned from this fiasco is to treat every communication from Swimming New Zealand with the utmost caution. If it comes from Swimming New Zealand or Sport New Zealand or High Performance Sport New Zealand then it is probably too good to be true.

The performance of those swimmers at the National Age Group Championships proves that home coaches know how to look after these swimmers. Home coaches brought these swimmers to the attention of Swimming New Zealand’s takers and users in the first place. If home coaches were good enough to bring these swimmers to the attention of Swimming New Zealand they are probably also going to be good enough to bring them to the attention of the world. Something Swimming New Zealand, with twenty years of access to New Zealand’s most talented swimmers, has never been able to do. Those young swimmers rejected by Swimming New Zealand would do well to look at the career of Olympic gold medallist Danyon Loader. He wisely spent his entire career with his home coach; an uncomplicated man called Duncan Laing.

None of this litany of blunders will change anything. Right now, Miskimmin, Villanueva, Renford, Layton and Sweetenhan, (yes, he is back at the Millennium Institute and must be costing Miskimmin a fortune. But then Miskimmin has still to learn that gold medals cannot be bought) are flushed with the newness of it all and the abundance of Miskimmin’s money. Right now is a time of, asinus asinum fricat. 

Good Governance

Monday, April 15th, 2013

By David

When a sport bombs at four Olympic Games in a row, normally their funding is cut to ribbons. But when Miskimmin outmaneuvered the Coalition of Regions and assumed parental rights over the sport of swimming, money didn’t matter anymore. Whatever the cost Miskimmin began a crusade to prove his way of running the sport is best. As much money as it takes will be spent to prove his point. This campaign is personal; deeply personal. This is all about demonstrating that Miskimmin and his throng of foreign imports and his mates from the Institute of Directors and his millions spent on the North Shore of Auckland are the way things should be done. None of us wanted Project Vanguard but when Miskimmin and Moller out-bullied the grass roots of the sport we got Project Vanguard and Miskimmin’s rule along with it. Miskimmin knows his reputation; his whole being, depends on swimming winning gold medals at the Rio Games. Miss that, and Miskimmin will have fed his government and the people of New Zealand the biggest and most expensive fairy tale ever.

Unfortunately for Miskimmin, things have not begun well. All the failings that were so evident in the Coulter, Byrne and Cameron era are apparent still and probably worse. I see the new CEO of Swimming New Zealand, Christian Renford, this week distributed an Australian document telling us how sports should be governed. It is not a good start. New Zealanders do not take kindly to being told what constitutes good governance by a sporting nation that happily resorted to under-arm bowling in order to win a cricket match.

The document actually makes interesting reading. It tells us quite a bit about Christian Renford. Beware New Zealand; Christian Renford could be just the sort of person to do well in the new Swimming New Zealand. His first public communication is a document promoting an Australian version of Project Vanguard. It’s all about centralizing power. Everything Miskimmin has done and the first word from Renford is a grab for naked power. What else would you call the following?

  1. A single national entity for all forms of the sport, with horizontal integration of sport disciplines.
  2. All parts must work in cohesion and adhere to a direction set by the national entity.
  3. A Nominations Committee that nominates Directors for vacancies
  4. Chair elected by the Board.
  5. The Board to appoint a minority number of Directors to obtain an appropriate skills mix.

Oh, there are also points about financial reporting, gender equality, compensation disclosure, strategic plans, annual accounts and the like. Nothing wrong with that; all good stuff. However, the bit that I found most interesting is in the introduction to the Australian Report. It says, “Sports will be required to demonstrate good leadership, governance and administration and sports will develop successful programs to achieve competitive results and to spend taxpayer funding effectively.”

And that is where Christian Renford has a huge problem. Let’s look at how his sport measured up in this week in terms of those goals. Remember this is not in the past decade or the past year or the past month. We are not going to talk about the Swimming New Zealand decision to secretly alter the minutes of an Annual Meeting or the occasion Miskimmin’s hired guns ordered the Swimming New Zealand Board to reverse a vote their boss didn’t like. This is just last week; Monday to Friday. How well did swimming perform in terms of good governance, good administration, successful results and spending our money effectively?

We will save the best of these, good governance, until last. But, first, what about this week’s good administration score. Several years ago I held several fairly senior management positions in the New Zealand meat industry. I was involved in dealing with some of New Zealand’s toughest and most uncompromising trade union representatives; men like Middlemass and Freeman. I recall having a cup of tea and discussing good management practice with Freeman. This tough, hardened trade unionist who had led and lived through a thousand strikes and lock-outs said something I’ve never forgotten. “David,” he said, “The logic of my case, the justice of my claim should always be sufficient to have the men come with me. If I have to order my workers to follow a path, I’ve failed.” Judged on that standard Swimming New Zealand failed this week. A regional constitution has been prepared. Rule 8.3(b) of the Swimming New Zealand Constitution requires the Regional Associations to adopt “the form of Regional Associations prescribed by SNZ” or cease to be a member of SNZ. In my view, by this action, Miskimmin, Moller and now Renford declared themselves bullies. According to one of the finest leaders of men I’ve known, Miskimmin, Moller and Renford failed the litmus test of good management. Incapable of relying on the justice of their cause they resorted to force. No wonder cricket is a mess.

But, let’s move on. What about “successful results” and spending our “money effectively”? It is difficult to imagine how successful results are going to flow from an organization that has no permanent Auckland coach for world class swimmers like Boyle and Stanley. It is even more difficult to imagine how an organisation that can’t put together a coherent advertisement for a new coach could possibly plan and execute a successful Olympic campaign. This week Swimming New Zealand published one of the most badly worded recruitment advertisements I’ve seen in a long time. Sections and paragraphs float in space with no connection to their neighbours. The content is vague and mostly meaningless. Is ‘Developmente’ Spanish for ‘development’? It’s not, but it looks as if it should be. I especially love the phrase “communicating in open, honest ways that promote trust and understanding, and builds relationships”. Remind me, is this the same SNZ that in three years has never spoken to West Auckland Aquatics? And then there is this gem, “Extensive experience as a swimming coach OR”. Does this mean that extensive experience as a swimming coach is optional? I see the new coach is expected to “Attend NZSTAC meetings”. What on God’s good earth is NZSTAC? I suspect it’s either NZSCAT (acronym of the organisation title) or NZSCTA (acronym used on the organisation logo) but it’s not NZSTAC. I see the new coach is going to provide a “single point of accountability, in line with the continuously shifting landscape of High Performance Swimming.” How some poor bugger is going to fix any sort of single point in a continuously shifting landscape is beyond me. The advertisement is full of such nonsense and contains no indication of the purpose of the appointment. A decent coach is going to be horrified by this advertisement; is going to run a mile. And so, has it been a week of progress in “developing a successful program? Not this week it hasn’t.

And finally, how has this week treated SNZ in the area of good governance? Perhaps it’s best left for you to decide. Here is what I know. For as long as I’ve been back in New Zealand, the North Shore Club has been a vocal supporter of most things Swimming New Zealand. I’ve been at meetings where the previous North Shore Chairman, Phil Mitchell, has vigorously argued the SNZ cause. And when he did, I found it difficult to escape the feeling that he viewed those of us with a different view, as intellectually challenged insurgents. It is a characteristic that Mitchell and the current North Shore Chairman, Malcolm Donaldson have in common. They both leave the impression that they and their North Shore Club know what is best for Auckland Swimming. We should, perhaps even must, revere them and their Club.

You can imagine my surprise then when I see, on the North Shore website, that the previous North Shore Club Secretary, Paul Cropp, is still a North Shore Board member. You see Cropp was the CEO of several finance companies that went belly up owing about 6000 investors about $400 million. Cropp’s involvement was the subject of a Serious Fraud Office investigation for a year or so. He has been on trial in the High Court for a couple of months and on Friday was found guilty of lending approximately $13.6 million to a related party in breach of the companies trust deeds; sometimes also referred to as “theft by a person in a special relationship”. While the Crown and the Court never alleged any act of personal dishonesty the Judge’s decision includes findings such as

  1. Mr Cropp must bear a considerable degree of responsibility, however, for the Credit Committee being misled in such a material way.
  2. In failing to advise his colleagues on the Credit Committee of the true situation, Mr Cropp assisted to perpetuate a myth.
  3. He permitted the Credit Committee to consider a loan application that he knew to be in substance a work of fiction.
  4. Thirdly, the whole loan application process was effectively a charade.  Mr Cropp deliberately did not tell them that Dominion had already made the advance.

Why on earth Phil Mitchell and Malcolm Donaldson allowed Cropp to remain as Secretary or even on the Board of the North Shore Club is beyond me. I accept Cropp has a quality highly prized in Miskimmin’s Swimming New Zealand. He is a member of the Institute of Directors. A quality he shares with just about every suit appointed to the organization these days. If you care about the company you keep it may be best to avoid membership of the Institute of Directors.

Oh, I can imagine the cries of innocent until proven guilty; entitled to his day in court, and the like. But really, when two North Shore Club Chairman have questioned the corporate behaviour of Swimming Auckland and the author of Swimwatch, their own organisation better be squeaky clean. Good governance required Mitchell and Donaldson ask Cropp to stand down during the SFO investigation and trial. They did not do that and, in my opinion, that has reflected badly on their judgement, on the North Shore Club and on swimming in general. It is not a good week for Swimming New Zealand when the club that is its staunchest ally has a Board member and previous Secretary convicted of financial misbehaviour. In my view, it is an even worse week for Swimming New Zealand when two Chairman of the organization’s flagship Club appear to do nothing about it. The disaster that is SNZ management rolls on. Certainly, Miskimmin, Moller, Renford and their mates have not had the best of weeks – not when it comes to good governance.

Imposed Ignorance

Friday, April 12th, 2013

By David

Home-schooling has never appealed to me. My mother taught in New Zealand’s public schools all her working life. I was educated in three state primary schools, four high schools and two universities. My daughter, Jane’s education was the product of two decile ten primary schools, one decile ten high school, a decile two high school and the same public American University that educated another product of the Lydiard system of training, Peter Snell. That all adds up to a pretty watertight public education pedigree.

However, while I might not have any affinity with the home-school movement I would certainly defend the right of home-schoolers to do their thing – liberty demands no less. There are 6517 home-schooled students in New Zealand. That’s a big number; equal to New Zealand’s two biggest high schools (Rangitoto College and Mt. Albert Grammar) and two of my high schools (Wairoa College and Thorpe High School, Wisconsin) all added together.

One of the 6,517 home-school students happens to be a senior member of the West Auckland Aquatic’s swim team. Abigail is seventeen. I’ve coached her for two years. Her work ethic is huge. In her last two Lydiard type build-ups of nine weeks and six weeks she has averaged 95 and 90 kilometres a week. In two years her best time for 200 meters breaststroke SC has improved from 3.04 to 2.48 and LC from 3.05 to 2.51.

And Abigail wants to enter the Swimming New Zealand’s Secondary School Championships. And Swimming New Zealand has decided it is in swimming’s best interests to deny Abigail and her 6,516 fellow students the opportunity to take part in their meet. This is what their Neanderthal rule says, “Students must be enrolled as bona fide students at the school of representation and study at least 80% of the programme.” As far as Swimming New Zealand is concerned Abigail and her fellow home-schoolers are non-students; they do not exist.

New Zealand was founded by Polynesian and European people who left their homes looking for a new start; searching for what became known as a “fair go”. But the suits that run swimming in New Zealand today could not be expected to understand the cultural importance of that term. Most of them are Miskimmin’s recent acquisitions; imported here on fat salaries and into positions of privilege. For them maintaining the status-quo, preserving their recently acquired positions of importance is what matters. Giving young New Zealanders, who choose to be educated outside the mainstream, an opportunity to compete; a chance to take part, is the last thing they’d do.

Well, there are some facts about the participation of home-school students that the foreign imports that now run Miskimmin’s sporting empire need to understand.

Many home-school students do not have the option of attending a public school. They live in areas of New Zealand that are so remote; so isolated, that daily travel to a school is not possible. Why Swimming New Zealand would want to make life even more difficult for these young people is beyond me. Their only crime is that their parents chose to farm inaccessible tracts of New Zealand. Tracts that if they were not farmed would not generate the national earnings necessary to pay for those in Swimming New Zealand who deny rural children the right to compete.

Along with the rest of us, home-school parents pay the taxes that fund the New Zealand school system and Swimming New Zealand. For whatever reasons, home-school parents chose not to use public schools for the academic education of their children. But that decision does not justify denying home-school students the right to dip into the public education system to support their children’s sporting ambition. Who on earth decided that participation in public schooling involved accepting the whole package? Why can’t students chose to be involved in just athletics or just music or just art?

As long as the home-school student has acceptable grades, pays any applicable fees and is accepted as a sport’s student by the high school of their choice, I can imagine no possible reason to exclude then from interschool sport. I can’t even imagine why Swimming New Zealand would get all out of shape if home-school students were entered as a separate team. Because their academic education takes place around a kitchen table, should not preclude them from joining their class room peers in a Hamilton swimming pool.

Swimming New Zealand has a responsibility to provide young people with the opportunity to participate; to be inclusive. I have no idea how the rule to exclude home-school students from inter-school sport ties in with the 2013 Swimming New Zealand’s Constitutional objectives of:

  1. Encouraging people to participate in the sport of competitive swimming.
  2. Identifying talent from all levels within and outside competitive sport.
  3. Provide pathways from regional to international sport.
  4. Promote sport for purposes beneficial to the community including the education of those involved in the sport.

Swimming New Zealand excel themselves in riding roughshod over their own constitution. For years they’ve been at it. If the rules don’t suit their personal agenda; if they want to do something that’s totally unconstitutional – then they just flout the rules. They do it anyway. And so it is in this case. Excluding Abigail and her mates from the Championship is unconstitutional.

Swimming New Zealand probably doesn’t appreciate the talent they ignore by snubbing 6517 home-schooled New Zealanders. The best example of what I mean comes from the United States. That country has over two million home-schooled students. It also has a far more inclusive policy towards their involvement in sport. Several of the swimmers on my Florida team were home-schooled but swam for a local high school in interschool sports. But the best example is an American football player called Tim Tebow. He was home-schooled but played football for his local high school, the Allen D Nease High School. He went on to play at the University of Florida, won the Heisman Trophy as the best university player in the country and now plays for the New York Jet’s. One of the nation’s best football players would have been lost to the sport if those that run Swimming New Zealand had been in charge. I wonder how many “flowers are born to blush unseen, and waste their sweetness on the desert air” because the occupants of Pelorus House are stupid.

Also in the United States a substantial number of court rulings have considered the question of home-school students participating in high school sport. Most courts have ruled that eligibility for a high school sports team is a privilege, not a right. I have no doubt New Zealand courts would reach the same conclusion. And so, Swimming New Zealand fear not. I am not about to file papers in the Henderson District Court to secure Abigail participation in the Secondary School Swimming Championships. However, Swimming New Zealand’s Constitution and the history of New Zealand for providing its citizens a “fair go” demands that you provide Abigail with access to this privilege. Your generosity would be good for your soul and for the sport.